Back when I first became a stay-at-home mom and we had three kids in diapers, I found myself doing whatever it took to stretch my budget. Some of those things were smart and thrifty. Some of them were just cheap and not good for the planet.
A lot has changed since my early days of frugal living. I find myself looking at the big picture of what’s best for not only my wallet, but for the health of my family and the planet. This shift in mindset means I’m using fewer disposable products.
So what things am I doing differently?
I’m using less paper towel.
Last year I made a pledge to live a greener life, and that meant that I also made a pledge to use fewer paper towels. We still keep a roll of paper towels on hand for cooking bacon in the microwave or for cleaning up really gross messes (like dog barf). But for the most part, we’ve made the switch to using dishcloths, old towels, and rags for our messes. I just toss them in the wash when I’m done and put them back in the kitchen drawer for reuse.
We’re producing less trash and I enjoy saving money by not buying paper towels.
I’m using less plastic.
I’ve long been a fan of using reusable food storage containers over disposable zip-top baggies for snacks and leftovers. In the early days of my marriage, we amassed a great quantity of plastic food storage containers that replaced the need for disposable plastic bags.
But now, after years of repeated rounds in the microwave and dishwasher the plastic food storage isn’t holding up. So not only are these products not doing me any good as storage, they’re probably leaching nasty chemicals into my food, too.
I’ve slowly been making the switch to glass mason jars and Pyrex food storage containers, and my next purchase will be to add some stainless steel snack containers for the kids to take to school. I get to use more sustainable products to store food, help the planet, and save money, too.
I’m using reusable shopping bags.
About six years ago, I stumbled across Esse Resuable Bags and I was hooked! Their carry-all totes are such a cute way to remember to bring all the reusable bags you need for your shopping trip that I rarely forget to bring mine anymore. The bags have lasted all those years through wash after wash and with only a few minor repairs.
On those rare occasions I don’t have a reusable shopping bag with me, I’ll try to go without any bag at all. If a plastic bag does enter my life, it gets reused many, many times – from hauling wet swimsuits to lining a bathroom trash can, and if possible, it gets recycled.
I’m avoiding single, use disposable products.
I find that it is often cheaper to buy things in bulk, and it also really reduces the amount of waste created. We don’t do individually-wrapped snack foods. We don’t do K-cups in our house. We make our own homemade seasoning mixes instead of buying individual seasoning packets. We try to bring our own reusable cups and bottles for coffee and water instead of buying disposable ones.
We rarely use paper plates, cups or plastic cutlery, preferring to wash dishes and silverware instead.
I’m paying attention to packaging.
One of the simplest ways to use fewer disposable products is to keep them from entering your home at the start. I’ve really started to pay attention to packaging and try to purchase products that have very little or no packaging. If the products are packaged, I try to seek out packaging that’s recyclable.
I’ve found that this strategy has helped us eat more wholesome foods, and reduced waste in the landfill, too.
This is just the beginning.
My plan to use fewer disposable products is just getting started. There’s so much more I can do.
Some areas that I need to work on include:
Using rechargeable batteries instead of disposables. We have so many gadgets. This is an area in which we could do a lot better.
Using less plastic bags for freezer storage and marinating meat. This will be tough one, as I find my vacuum sealer to be quite useful. Perhaps, I just need to work harder on reusing bags that haven’t been used for meat.
Changing the way I shave. Right now, I’m still using disposable razors from a giant stockpile I amassed for pennies back in my heavy couponing days. That stockpile is nearly gone, so I’ll be investigating more earth-friendly options like replaceable razor blades, or maybe even going electric.
Using more eco-friendly sponges. I’ve been buying sponges and tossing them, but I know it would be better if I used cotton dishcloths or perhaps tried these new compostable Twist scrub sponges.
Using fewer disposable products means I’m able to save money by reducing repeat purchases. It means I’m spending less on my trash bill. And it means I’m able to be kinder to the planet.
Your turn: What are some disposable products you’ve stopped using? What areas do you need to work on?
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