Reducing Use of Disposable Products
Disposable products have permeated our society. It seems like every time I turn around, I find another new disposable product. I mean, disposable toilet brushes? Who would ever have dreamed?
Almost everyone can stand to reduce the use of wasteful disposable products. Doing so not only gives the environment a boost, but it helps save money, as well.
First, think through all of the disposable products that you use in your life. Here is a partial list of disposable products I found on a recent trip to the local “mega” store to get you started.
-Paper plates, cups
-Single-use razor blades
-Baby food jars
-Cleaning cloths of all sorts
Which of these disposable products do you use? Now consider – for each disposable product you use, can you use a re-usable product instead? And will substituting that re-usable product be lighter on the planet, and also save you money? Not all re-usable products pay off in the long run, but most do. Let’s look at a few of the items listed above in closer detail.
Paper napkins and paper towels. The alternative is, of course, cloth napkins and towels. Generally speaking, using cloth napkins and towels is very do-able, and will definitely save you money! And, though I don’t know of any studies proving it, it stands to reason that it’s lighter on the planet, even after factoring in the washing. Our family has been using cloth napkins and towels for a while now, and we really don’t miss the paper versions. We do still have a package of paper napkins in the kitchen, but we haven’t had occasion to use them! (If you’re interested in cloth napkins, I do hope to add them to my inventory in the near future, or you can find them at any number of area stores. Just make sure you get ones made from cotton or linen – not poly or other man-made fabrics, which are not absorbent.)
Paper plates and cups, Plastic flatware. I don’t think I need to argue the point that using real plates, cups, and silverware is a better choice. And I will admit that the disposable versions have their place. (Like when you have visitors for lunch on your first day with a new baby!) But there are ways to use them more responsibly. For example, when I was growing up, we had large family gatherings at holidays, and my grandmother didn’t want to be running her dishwasher around the clock. So she purchased a package of disposable plastic cups and a big Sharpie, and had each person label their cup. This way, cups did not need to be washed as often, but they weren’t thrown out after every use, either. It was a nice compromise!
Facial Tissues. Somehow, in the past several decades, we’ve gone from handkerchiefs to Kleenix without much thought. Most people my age have never even used a handkerchief! However, there’s nothing better when you’re sick than using cloth on your runny nose. You don’t get that red, dry soreness that you get from the paper tissues. It’s sheer luxury! (If you’d like handkerchiefs, they can be found in most men’s departments, or you may buy them from Wallypop in the not-too-distant future.)
Toilet Paper. Now this one will really stretch some people! But flushable toilet paper is NOT the only option… Many people, myself included, happily use cloth toilet “paper.” It’s actually much softer, it feels almost sinful. And depending on what type of cloth you use, it’s much easier to get all clean. You know how they’re advertising that TP that has ridges for better cleaning? Well, fabric’s all about ridges, baby! And for those of you who prefer to wet your TP before wiping, well, fabric won’t get all soggy and fall apart like paper does! (You can find more information about our cloth wipes here.)
Diapers. Do I really need to sell you on cloth diapers? There are so many articles scattered around the internet on why Cloth is a better choice, including several that I have written, that I’m not going to try to duplicate them here. Cloth diapers are more economical, they are better for the environment, and they’re much better for babies, too!
Baby Food Jars. To reduce use of throwaway jars, you can easily reduce your use of commercial baby food. Making baby food is so easy (and fast!) that there’s really no reason not to do it! Even the worst cook can make baby food. Steam some veggies or fruits until well cooked, then mash up! How easy can you get?? Commercial baby food does have its uses, though. When on a week-long trip, we supplemented homemade food with store-bought little jars of sweet potato, blueberries, and other treats. They’re handy to keep in the car in case of emergency or unexpected trip. Instead of just tossing those jars out, though, consider whether you or anyone else you know can use them. When my nephew was eating baby food, my sister in law saved a large number of her baby food jars for our family – we use them in Randy’s shop to store nails, screws, bolts, nuts, and other small items that we want to keep together. We probably have 3 dozen jars in there. If you want to get really fancy, you can nail the lids to the underside of a shelf, then screw the jars on and off as you need to access the contents.
Cleaning Cloths. How did we become a society that can’t stomach the idea of spraying cleaner on a rag, then washing the rag when done? There are wood polishing cloths, glass cleaning cloths, bleach cloths, kitchen cleaning cloths, bathroom cleaning cloths, car cleaning cloths, even disposable facial cleaning cloths. The obvious alternative here is to get a rag, get some cleaner, and go at it the old-fashioned way! Definitely cheaper, and actually better on the environment, too. Not only because you’re not throwing away the cloths, but because you will use less cleaning products in the process. Buy your cleaning products in bulk and use old towels or T-shirts as rags and the impact is even greater.
Baby Bibs. I’ve never been too sure of the reasons behind this product. You have enough room in the diaper bag for the disposable bib, but just not enough room to take it home? You just can’t stomach the idea of taking a dirty bib home and washing it? The obvious alternative here is fabric bibs, which are widely available.
So you see, finding acceptable substitutes for disposable products is often not difficult. Start with just one or two products, and move on from there – good luck!