In an effort both to live a greener lifestyle and save some money, I began making some small changes at my house. At first it seemed daunting and undoable, especially with a busy schedule and two young children, but after a few weeks and with some thought, we have cut down a lot on paper and plastic and we really don't miss these items like I thought we would. One of the biggest wastes is single-use plastic, such as water bottles, Ziploc bags and plastic wrap. Over half of the plastic we produce is for single use purposes and it is estimated that as much as 91% is not recycled. Much of it ends up in our oceans. So armed with that stat alone, we started our switch.
Here are 5 things you can eliminate (or greatly reduce) in your home:
1. Paper towels: So, paper towels may not seem like an environmental issue. I mean, they are paper so they break down right? Nope. In the United States alone, 13 billion pounds of paper towels are used each year. Paper towels aren’t recyclable in the traditional sense. Paper towels are often made from recycled paper pulp – a non-recyclable product. Then, they are often dirty or wet when we are done with them, which degrades them further and makes them non-recyclable. The amount of non-recyclable paper trash that ends up in our landfills, oceans and environment could be reduced by the billions. There are few times such a small change can have such a measurable impact. So what can you do instead? Grab those old stained Ts that you were about to throw out and cut them into rags. These are perfect to clean your house. Use dish towels to dry your hands. Wash everything in hot water when you are done with them.
2. Plastic wrap and Ziploc bags: These plastics are not recyclebale so they end up in landfills or oceans. Think about all the times you may have used plastic to cover a dish or wrap a half chopped onion. There are better and more eco-friendly ways to store and seal food. If you have leftovers, use glass food containers that have lids. Don't have the lid? Look into beeswax wraps. They are reusable and keep your food fresh. There are also some great reusable storage bags on the market that are made of silicone.
3. Paper napkins: I used to love buying cute paper napkins, but switching to cloth napkins has been easy. Although there is an initial investment, you don't have to worry about running out as long as you have a set or two that are clean. You can buy a large set on Amazon and my tip is to buy a darker color or a fun pattern, so you don't have to worry as much about pre-treating stains! Not only will this save you money in the long run and it is better environmentally, it also makes meals seem special.
4. Single-use water bottles: We always had a case of water bottles tucked away for company, but we found ourselves grabbing a bottle out of convenience more often than not. So we stopped buying water, period. Invest in a water filter and a good water bottle for on-the-go needs. You will save tons of money and help out the environment at the same time.
5. Dryer sheets: Softeners work by coating your clothes with a thin layer of potentially toxic chemicals, such as quaternary ammonium salts. These can cause skin irritation, respiratory problems and headaches. Instead of dryer sheets, try wool dryer balls instead. They are a laundry room game changer. You can add a couple drops of essential oils to the balls if you want your clothes to smell nice!
Photo from here, with thanks.