One of the hardest habits to break in the American culture is the throwaway habit. Our stores sell disposable products so cheaply, and in so many varieties, that it’s hard to resist. Convenience is the usual culprit.  It’s too easy to just grab paper (or styrofoam) plates, cups, napkins, lunch bags, sandwich bags, trash bags, eating utensils, paper towels, baby wipes, diapers, dryer sheets, etc. to “save us time” or for “easy clean-up.” And now we’re starting to see that the new buzzwords on these products are ‘recycled’ or ‘eco-friendly’.

Some of these things we just don’t need, and some of them we can do without if we change our habits a bit. Not buying them will not only help your budget, but it takes some pressure off of your local landfill because less waste will be generated. If you do feel the need to continue using disposable products, then buying stuff made from recycled materials is the next best thing.

Here’s a couple of ways that we get around buying disposables:

We take old towels, cloth diapers, or washcloths from the thrift store and use them for any and all clean-up projects. The cloths rinse out easily and can be used throughout the day (depending on the mess), and we just wash them in our washer in cold water when dirty. We don’t buy paper towels except for maybe long road trips (and a roll lasts us forever).

Linen napkins or handkerchiefs (bandannas) are what we use instead of paper napkins. We usually stock up at yard sales or thrift stores, and we’ve got a whole drawer of them at any given time.

Our kids wear cloth diapers with a soak-proof wool wrap, and instead of baby wipes, we used a baby washcloth, gentle soap, and warm water to clean them. We also do infant potty training, so we try to get them out of diapers as soon as they can do it. Washing diapers does use a lot of water, but I still feel strongly in favor of reducing and reusing, so it makes sense for us.

We use canvas bags for shopping, and we generally get enough produce bags through shopping that we don’t need to buy plastic bags. We use all of the supermarket-style bags that we get for lining wastebaskets, and we keep using the same ones, just emptying the content into our trash bin.

We don’t use dryer sheets at all (never seemed to see the need for them) and we dry on a clothes-line when it’s nice outside.

Each of us has at least one stainless steel water bottle, so we never buy bottled water. We have a filter on our tap, and before that we used to get 5 gallon carboys of local spring water for our dispenser.

For food storage, we have a bunch of ‘rubbermaid’ or ‘tupperware’ containers, along with quart-sized yogurt containers. We save bread bags and bulk-buying bags and reuse them. When we do buy ziploc bags, such as when we freeze fresh fruit, we just wash and reuse them until they’re beat.

We all need to find our own green groove, so don’t feel pressured to give up something you really need. It’s the things we don’t really need that account for a lot of the waste, and if we don’t need it, then why buy it?

What do you have to lose?


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