2020 was supposed to be a year of new discoveries and a clean slate. After all, we did make a big deal at the fact it was the start of a new decade. With the changes we’ve been dealt so far it’s almost a foggy memory of any New Years resolutions you may have made.
Since I’ve had LOTS of time to self reflect these past couple of months there has been one resolution I’ve been able to slowly incorporate into my everyday activities: Decreasing My Waste.
Even if you’re not completely sold on ending plastic (trust me, there are people who are just too set in their ways) the least you can think of is the cost effectiveness of decreasing your waste. Instead of buying single use items every month or so, you can invest in a product that can be used hundreds of times over and over again, essentially eliminating the extra cost of single use products altogether.
It’s near impossible to NEVER use plastic or plastic based products and I’m 100% aware that may be my reality for awhile. However, the old saying, little progress is better than no progress, rings true in the sentiment of doing your part in preserving our home. I’ve done my fair share of giving up completely when I didn’t get something 100% correct, but when it comes to decreasing the amount of trash and waste, even the little things will make a big impact. As I continue to explore different avenues to swap out single use products, I’ve found 5 everyday items that can easily be replaced with its multi use counterparts.
- Rags and cloth napkins = Paper towels
Paper towels were the #1 item I wanted to stop using when I decided to work my way into decreasing the amount of trash I produce. I would go through maybe 1-2 rolls per month because I’d use it for all sorts of jobs. I always felt guilty throwing away each towel because I knew it wasn’t going anywhere except into a landfill. I completely stopped buying paper towels and started using rags for cleaning and washable cloth napkins for meals. Rags consisted of old leggings I cut up and my napkins were bought online. It’s been at least 6 months and I don’t miss paper towels AT ALL. In fact, sometimes I feel like this is a life hack because before it was a pain having to make a trip to a store just to buy paper towels when I was running low but now it’s not even an issue anymore.
- Washable soap sponges and bar soaps = Loofas and body wash
Loofas and body wash were a little tricky. Since it deals with my body hygiene I was a bit hesitant to tackle the idea of getting rid of some shower staples. However, the number of bottled body wash I’d go through needed to stop. I know I could recycle the plastic, but recycling plastic only goes so far. After my last loofa I bought a soap saver from Eco Bags. It basically is a small cloth bag that you place your bar of soap in to use as your body wash. It took some getting used to, but once it gets sudsy enough it works like a charm. My bar soaps are a little trickier to come by considering I always look for one with zero packaging but local health stores like Sprouts and Whole Foods always have them in stock (my favorite is the peppermint soap from Sprouts). A huge set back some people have is how gross bar soaps can get if it’s not properly stored. I get it, the ease of a bottle is way more convenient, but hear me out. A soap bar can be safely stored so long as it sits atop a soap dish. I personally like soap dishes that drain out so it can dry too. Once you get past the mental barrier of soap bars it really is one of the easiest swaps you can make.
- Beeswax paper = Plastic wrap
I wasn’t too sure about beeswax paper at first. I wasn’t sure of its longevity and how often I’d even use it but I needed a plastic wrap alternative. I don’t normally buy plastic wrap to begin with, but I still needed something I could quickly wrap leftovers and small bites in without using single use items. Beeswax paper was easier to come across than I thought. I found a pack at my local Marshalls, so I was pretty stoked I didn’t have to go online for it. The first time you use it it’s going to be a little off, but not impossible to use. It has a sticky side to it (which admittedly will leave a bit of residue on your hands when handling it) so you can wrap your food. The pack I bought came in an assortment of sizes too. Once I’m done using it I wash it well and let it air dry until my next use. It has come in handy so many times with cans, sandwiches, leftovers, lunches, etc. And best of all, it hasn’t weathered yet. It’s been several months and it works just as well as it did when I first bought it.
- Refillable water jug = Water bottles
I used to have a water dispenser on my fridge as well as a Brita. However, even though it eliminated the need for single use water bottles, I still was using water filters and tossing them once I needed to change them out. I then tried buying lots of single gallon waters thinking I wouldn’t go through them quickly but not only was it extremely expensive, it increased the amount of plastic I was using too. I was at a crossroads because my alternative was buying a water subscription to have giant jugs brought to me, but that costs even more than the waters. Don’t ask me why it took me so long to discover ceramic water dispensers, but once I did it changed my life! The water dispenser isn’t electric so it won’t eat away at your electricity bill and depending on the size you get, it takes up very little space. I bought my dispenser online and the water jug (5 lbs) was bought at a local store (p.s: places like Wal Mart sell water jugs for dispensers). My dispenser also came with a nice bamboo stand so cups could sit under the spout instead of having the dispenser hang over the edge of my counter. Now whenever my jug needs refilling (about every 1-2 weeks) I just go to a nearby gas station that has a water refill spot and do it there. Usually water is at most 30 cents per gallon so I save bucko bucks without the added plastic. It’s probably one of the best swaps I’ve ever done.
- Reusable bags = Single use plastic bags
I think this is a no brainer, at least in California. Now that you have to pay to bag your items, using reusable bags is a natural next step. All you really need to do is collect all of your plastic bags you have and voila! Bring them on your next grocery trip and don’t worry about paying for bags anymore or adding plastic waste. Due to safety precautions, some grocery stores don’t allow you to bring your bags into stores anymore, so I load my cart without bags at checkout and bag my groceries at my car. A word of caution: You may be tempted by the bougie look of those knit grocery bags you see on Instagram, but let’s not confuse vanity for conservation. Don’t feel weird using your Target plastic bag at a grocery store or feel like you have to have super neat and uniform bags to justify you using a multi use product. As you can see, I have bags from many different stores and I used them all the time, regardless of which store I’m visiting. It’s all about reusing plastic bags you already have to eliminate the need for a new one.
I won’t pretend that I’ve completely stopped using single use products. Some things I have yet to find cost effective alternatives, but the little steps make a big difference. The best thing to do is incorporate what you can and strive to incorporate more swaps as you become more comfortable. What single use products have you stopped using or what single use products do you want to find an alternative for?