Waste Less, Green More at Home for Earth Day

Today, April 22, 2020, marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Millions around the world are mobilizing to address the climate crisis. In addition to supporting policies to reduce carbon emissions, we can take small actions at home to live more sustainably. Unsustainable food and waste systems are a major contributor to climate change. Today, we will plant seeds using reclaimed materials to take a small action for the climate. This project uses an old egg carton, used coffee grounds, and vegetable scraps– materials that would ordinarily be part of the 2.5 million tons of trash produced by New York City annually.

From an individual starting a seed tray, to a 2,200-acre reclaimed lands project like Freshkills Park, we can make the Earth greener and cleaner one seed at a time.

Seed trays can be made out of many waste items, but egg cartons work especially well because of their perfect little compartments. This activity uses a planting soil mixed with coffee grounds. Coffee is a natural fertilizer, chock full of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus. Not a coffee drinker? Tea leaves also provide nutrients to plants. Spread tea leaves (take them out of the bag first) in a thin layer on top of the soil. If you don’t have packaged seeds on hand, harvest seeds from tomatoes, peppers, melons, or squash. All seeds are different, so research specifics about your seed before planting.

UpStream at Home

Suggested Materials:

Egg Carton


Potting Soil

Coffee Grounds (optional)


What You’ll Do:

  1. Begin by Preparing the egg carton, separating the top and bottom.  If using styrofoam, the top can act as the waterproof tray.  If using cardboard, you will need a waterproof tray.
  2. If your egg carton is made of foam or plastic, punch small holes (about 5, laid out like a domino) at the bottom of each cup.  This will allow for water drainage and absorption. If using a cardboard egg carton, this step is optional.
  3. Cut the egg tray in thirds, creating three trays with 4 cups each.
  4. Fill each cup about halfway with potting mix, if using coffee grounds a 50/50 ratio is ideal.
  5. Plant the seeds. Remember, seeds have different criteria. Follow the seed prep instructions or look up information about the seeds online to determine the number of seeds per cup and seed depth.  Cover the seeds with a thin layer of potting soil.
  6. Place the seed cups on top of a waterproof tray. Use the egg carton lid if it is made of plastic or foam.  If it is made of cardboard, use a waterproof tray.
  7. Water the seeds. For the first watering, water from the top until each cup is well saturated. After the first watering, pour water directly into the waterproof tray so water can be absorbed from the bottom of the seed cups.
  8. Place seed cups in the sun.  Find out what kind of sun your plants prefer and do your best to place accordingly.  If you don’t have ideal conditions, place seeds 6” under a fluorescent light.

Upcycle your Stream time with STEAM!

Climate action begins at home. Share your thoughts, reactions or questions about Earth Day, Reclaimed lands, or starting your own “patch of green.”

Share your seed tray! Post on social media using #FreshkillsUpstream #WasteFreeWednesday

Tune in Friday to learn about Freshkills Park’s potential for climate change mitigation.

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