Most of us who are 40 and younger grew up with disposable paper items. Because that’s all we knew, they became the norm. However, a generation or two ago, disposable items were less common.
If you’d like to take an easy step to go green and save money in the process, the first place to make changes is in buying disposable items.
Disposable Kitchen Items
Start in the kitchen first. How many disposable items do you see? Do you have paper napkins? Paper towels? Paper plates and cups? Plastic silverware?
While I grew up using paper napkins and towels, we only used paper plates when we were on a picnic. I was surprised to learn that many families use these at every meal rather than real plates so they have fewer dishes to do. In fact, the Duggars of TLC’s Nineteen Kids and Counting use paper plates for every single meal. While I understand that 19 kids can generate a lot of dishes, just think how much waste they generate by using paper plates for every meal.
Yes, you have to do dishes when you use reusable plates, but the savings is enormous. Run the dishwasher or have your children help with the dishes. Another option is to have the parent serve everyone straight from the pan to the plate. This many not be the most socially acceptable thing to do, but you save on having to wash serving platters and utensils.
If you’d like to make the switch from paper napkins, consider going to cloth napkins. You can often by these cheap at garage sales. Or you can make them yourself. If you’re not handy, consider hiring someone who is to make them for you. You may find seasonal cloth napkins at a discounted price after the holiday. Buy these each season, and soon you’ll have plenty of napkins for every season of the year.
Paper towels are the most challenging disposable product for me to get rid of because I like to use them to blot bacon and to spread oil in a pan when baking instead of using aerosol cooking spray. To get around this, I’ve started putting my bacon on a rack to drip after it’s cooked, and I bought a reusable spray bottle to put my oil in. For the other uses you might have for paper towel like cleaning up spills, consider repurposing old kitchen towels for easy access.
Disposable bathroom products are essential, right? There’s toilet paper and women’s feminine hygiene products. And don’t forget the newest trend, disposable paper towel for your hands.
Contrary to popular belief, these disposable products are not essential. There is a growing trend for “family cloth” which is reusable cloth to replace toilet paper. This is often too big of a leap for most people, but those who use family cloth say it’s more comfortable than using toilet paper. I confess, though, this is probably the last area where I’d try to make a greener choice and use reusable products.
There’s also a growing market for reusable feminine hygiene items including cloth menstrual pads and reusable cups. The savings here can really add up. One cup can last up to 10 years. When you consider how many boxes of tampons you’d have to buy for 10 years, you’ll easily be saving hundreds of dollars by using a reusable product.
As a side note, leaking showers and faucets are also not good for the environment or the wallet. Look for leaks and if you have one, try to fix it. It is amazing how much drop drop the water wasted can add up. Shower repairs and sink faucet repairs can save a lot of money once they stop leaking.
Diapers and Wipes
Disposable diapers and wipes are very popular among today’s parents, but cloth diapers have improved greatly in the last decade and are now almost as convenient as disposable ones. I exclusively cloth diapered my son from 6 weeks old to nearly 3 years. I estimate we easily saved $500 during this time. Once I got used to using cloth, they were not a hardship.
If you’re looking to go green and save some green, look no further than the disposable items in your home.
What disposable items have you swapped out for reusable ones?