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I could you bore you today with tons of statistics about trash. I could tell you how it’s clogging up the landfills and making once beautiful areas look…trashy. But, I’m not a boring kind of person. I don’t really care for statistics either. They bore me. And the truth is, most of the time they’re not correct – you have to be careful about exactly WHO sponsored that research.

Today I want to talk to you about disposing of your disposable lifestyle – whether it’s because you want to turn “green” or just because you want to be frugal.

For me, the reasoning behind using reusable products is mostly an issue of money. I like buying something ONCE and having it around for a long, long time. I hate buying things that I know have to be replaced after one use. Blech. It makes me nauseated. But for me it’s a BIG plus that I know I’m helping the environment. :-)

Our family is moving to a more sustainable lifestyle  by choosing to use reusable items instead of disposable items. We’re still making the switchover, but I’m tickled pink with our progress.

 

Image by LizMarie_AK

Here’s something that might take you by surprise (cough!) – cloth napkins cost more than paper napkins. Most reusable items cost more…but guess what? You only have to buy them one time…they pay for themselves rather quickly.

Yes, you have the added expense of the water and electricity for washing some items…but that amount is pretty minimal if you’re washing them with other things. For example, I wash my cloth napkins with my other towels, so they don’t have their own cost of laundering. Dry your items on a clothes line or use a drying rack to cut your expenses even further.

Oh, and I must warn you…you’ll get labeled as gross. People will tell you that you’re nasty. I’ve heard that I’m really nasty because I use handkerchiefs and cloth diapers. Blah, blah, blah. All I can say is “Honey, it’s a good thing you weren’t born before 1950.” Disposable items are fairly new. And I’m quite certain that using cloth diapers isn’t very dangerous. ;-)

 

Image by How Can I Recycle This

So, let’s take a look at a few items that you might consider switching to. Please try not to start using them all immediately – tackle one thing at a time. They do take a bit of an investment at first, but I promise they’ll pay off…and you’ll feel quite pleased with yourself. And you’ll laugh when they call you gross as you take your money to the bank. ;-)

  1. Reusable bags instead of plastic bags
  2. Rechargeable batteries instead of single use (haven’t gone here yet, but I HATE batteries )
  3. Get rid of the plastic utensils and stick with the REAL THING
  4. Cloth napkins instead of paper napkins
  5. Cloth diapers instead of disposables
  6. Huck towels instead of paper towels
  7. Handkerchiefs instead of tissues
  8. Mama Cloth instead of disposable pads
  9. Water bottle instead of bottled water
  10. Reuse gift bags instead of using wrapping paper
  11. Ditch disposable razors (I’m starting to work on this one)

This is really only the tip of the iceberg…but hopefully it gives you a place to start. If you’re already doing all these, great! Leave some items below that others might also consider switching to. :-)

Note from Kate: If you get really brave, you can try family cloth.  I have been interested in that for over two years, but my husband might kill me.  I believe Barry might kill Stacy too.  But I’m still intrigued….

Have you made any of the switches on this list?  What are you tackling now or next?


This is the writings of:

Stacy is a stay-at-home mom to her first child, Annie (2). After an "awakening" in March, her family switched to a more natural, whole foods diet. She likes to blog about how to live on less than you make and how to eat good food while doing it. Living totally debt free, she and her husband share their passion by teaching others how to save money. At Stacy Makes Cents, you'll find information on how to save money in the kitchen, how to have fun with your kids, and how to be thrifty in all areas of life. Make sure to follow her on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with her daily antics.

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44 Comments

  1. I made the switch from paper towels and Kleenex two years ago. It cost about $25 for towels and handkerchiefs. I throw them in vinegar water or bleach and put them in the tub for hand washing.

    I do the same for “monthly ” cloths. Let them soak, rinse, place in wash. I keep feminine products for times outside my home.

    Am now switching to family cloths as well. Will probably hand was and dry these as well since I only take my clothes to the laundry once every two weeks (I hand wash and dry all my undies and most shirts. Pants, towels and bee clothes go yo the washer). It’s all about saving money!

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  2. I love this list! Thanks so much Stacy and Kate! It is a little hilarious though because my family has switched over to all of the above over the last 3 years – including family cloth. I got a few reusable bags from a great site called reuseit.com and my favorite thing about the bags is that they tuck into a small pocket like 2 inches across that is sewn into the inside of the bag. This makes them fit in my purse rather than ending up forgotten in my car when I go to the farmers market or the grocery store. I’m thinking about trying to make a pattern from one and seeing how it goes because you won’t use them if they are not handy. As for the family cloth, I convinced my husband to try it for a month. I promised him that we would re-evaluate in one month and if he hated it we would go back to TP. Since we already cloth diaper, I just made a small wetbag for a step trashcan in the bathroom and had plenty of flannel wipes made up for the diapers in a basket on the back of the toilet. Easy peasy. Honestly, we both prefer it and we don’t have any extra laundry to do. Another quick note, if you have a Sam’s Club or Costco membership they often have 100% cotton rags in the automotive department for super cheap that can replace all paper towels easily in the home or I used a pack of microfiber auto towels that I cut into thirds and sewed around the edges. They clean great and we haven’t missed paper towels once. Ok, that is my 3 cents :-). Thanks again for the post!

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    • You can share your $.03 here any time! :-) You’re doing a fabulous job…..you’re an inspiration to others.

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    • When I first started, I used disposables with them at first until I got the hang of it. It’s really not very hard at all – and I enjoyed them MUCH better than the disposables. I have a few posts about how they work and how to wash them if you need that information.
      Good luck! And let me warn you – butt fluff is addictive! ;-)

      Reply

    • To respond to the question about easing in to cloth diapering- you might try just using them at home and in the daytime at first- those are the easiest times and then when you get used to that then try going all the way.

      We do all the things mentioned on the list (except I am not familiar with “huck” towels- we simply use rags, cloth napkins or kitchen towels in place of paper towels.

      Along with using real silver ware instead of plastic we also have picnicing real plates and cups to use instead of paper or styrafoam.

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  3. Nice! I just discovered your blog and I love it. I do all of the above except #11 which I am going to look at now. I did not know there was an alternative. However I was blessed with slow growing hair and shave like once a month in summer and never in winter.

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  4. We do most of these things, but I’ll be looking at the links for a couple of them that we either haven’t done or I’m not consistent about. We do use family cloth though! We started using it to save money, but my husband and I both wouldn’t go back to toilet paper for anything. My husband even asks if we can take family cloth with us on vacations! It just works so much better!

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  5. We’re almost there! I still have personal hangups about handkerchiefs, and because my baby likes to grab the sewing machine presser foot, I haven’t made enough cloth pads yet.
    One caution for you– I bought rechargeable batteries once. $20 for the charger, 4 AA’s, and 4 AAA’s. Each set lasted through one full charge, and then about four more of rapidly decreasing charge length, and then didn’t work any more. The rechargeable technology just isn’t very good yet. Maybe in a decade I can try it again, but for now, throwing away the charger was a comparable amount of waste as throwing away the batteries I could have used. So we’re back to saving money (!) by using regular batteries.

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  6. Kel, I have a few friends that use rechargeable batteries for their Wii and they love them….but so far, I’ve not taken the big plunge. :-) The reasoning you gave me is why. I know when they first came out, they were TERRIBLE, but hopefully they’ll just continue to get better and better. :-)

    Reply

    • We’ve had great luck with the Sanyo Eneloop rechargeable batteries. I’ve used them in many different things and they last a long time and recharge just fine. I haven’t switched to them for everything because I like to have some regular batteries for emergencies (during a power outage, rechargeable batteries may not be that useful if they’re not charged).

      I’ve switched to everything else on the list too. Though I prefer the Diva Cup to cloth pads, I did use the pads post-partum. I don’t use huck towels, I just cut up old t-shirts into rags and use those instead of paper towels. If something gross needs to be cleaned up, I just throw the rag out. If I’m just cleaning up a spill or wiping down the counters, I throw the rag in the wash with the towels.

      My 2 yr old son prefers hankies to tissues. He had a cold a few weeks ago and continues to have an occasional runny nose. We are at my parents’ house quite frequently and they would offer to wipe his nose with a tissue and he would say, “No, mommy wipe me nose with hankie.”

      Two things I would add to the list: cloth wipes (easy to use alongside cloth diapers) and toothbrushes. With toothbrushes, you just replace the head instead of the whole thing just like replacing the blade on your razor. I’ve been doing this for at least 15 years now. You can find these types of toothbrushes in most health food stores or on Amazon. The brand I use is Terradent.

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      • Beth, you make an excellent point about batteries. We should all keep the regular ones on hand in case of emergencies. We always have batteries in our GOODY bags. :-) Can’t charge stuff if you have no electricity!

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  7. I am pleased to say that we do most of these things on this list. YAY! :)

    YES – Reusable bags instead of plastic bags
    YES – Rechargeable batteries instead of single use (haven’t gone here yet, but I HATE batteries )
    YES – Get rid of the plastic utensils and stick with the REAL THING
    YES – Cloth napkins instead of paper napkins
    (no kids yet, but planning on this) – Cloth diapers instead of disposables
    YES (we just use kitchen towels) – Huck towels instead of paper towels
    NO (we use toilet paper for tissues) – Handkerchiefs instead of tissues
    NO – Mama Cloth instead of disposable pads
    YES – Water bottle instead of bottled water
    YES – Reuse gift bags instead of using wrapping paper
    YES – Ditch disposable razors (I’m starting to work on this one)

    Reply

  8. I switched my feminine hygiene products 6 months ago and I wouldn’t go back. As a broke student, I would sometime struggle to find the 10$ in my budget to buy tampons and pads but not anymore. My Diva cup cost 50$ and my reusable pads 20$.

    I am in the process of finding good cloth napkin. I don’t even use paper napkin but my guests sometimes complain that I don’t have anything they can use. Living in a small remote region, I can’t seem to find 100% linen or coton cloth napkin.. there are only polyester option. Is there a online store that ships to Canada that sells good organic coton or bamboo linen?

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  9. You forgot one of the easiest switches (at least, for me…) – use a menstrual cup! Seriously one of the easiest things I’ve done as it makes my life WAY easier than tampons. It doesn’t hurt if you take it out early (like if you overestimate what your flow will be and aren’t comfortable with leaving the tampon in for long enough to get it full), it’s reusable, and I can go up to 12 or more hours before it leaks! Which, for me, since I fly helicopters (and will soon be deployed and needing more time between potty breaks…helicopters don’t have bathrooms in them like big planes do…unless you want to pee in a bottle in front of the guys you’re with…plus you can’t change a pad or tampon!) and really NEED to be able to go 8 hours or more between changing things! Plus, if you’re really grossed out about changing the cup (I will admit, I have…ahem…spilled it once…and that was gross…but I still use it!) you can change it in the shower. That way no one sees you and you can get it clean in a place where you can’t make a mess!

    Reply

    • For me, that sorta falls under Mama Cloth – but you’re right…I didn’t mention it specifically. :-) It is a good option for those out there who like tampons. I can’t stand the thought of putting something up in there. LOL I never used tampons for that reason….but it’s a great choice and very cost effective.

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  10. One other thing – if you aren’t ready to go for family cloth but still want to help the environment, there is a brand of 100% recycled toilet paper that you can use. Not sure if there are others, but I use Marcal Small Steps. They make 100% recycled napkins and paper towels too. And I assure you, their product is comparable to any other regular toilet brand in softness (not the super-soft floating on a cloud brands, but to a regular Angel Soft TP). It costs a few pennies more to buy but at least you’re not cutting down new trees to wipe your unmentionables with.

    Reply

  11. We’ve using cloth napkins, water bottles for anytime we go in the car so the kiddos don’t ask for a drink while we are on the road, reusable batteries, empty jars for crayons or screws, etc. The only thing we haven’t tried is the huck towels. However, we do use old rags or tshirts for towels.

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  12. These are great tips!

    I reuse shopping bags and don’t use paper towels or kleenex, but will look into adapting the other items.

    Thank you!

    Reply

  13. We do most of these things but the thing that has been the most “life changing” or rather noticeable to others it using real dishes, all the time. I bought some of that great stonewear from the 70′s that can go in the oven (and microwave but we don’t use it) from the Goodwill and use it all the time. Paper/styrofome plates drive me crazy!
    great list!

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  14. Great list Stacy! We even switched over to using plastic plates for get togethers. I have a huge stack of them. I plan on next time having a bucket labeled “food” and a bucket labeled “plates” so they will already be scrapped. They hardly take any time to wash.

    Kate, I bought way too many cloth wipes so I keep some under the sink for me, then just stick them with the diapers. Mark uses toilet paper :D.

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  15. This is great! An associate shared this with me this morning on Facebook. Impressive.

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  16. We actually do everything except #5 (no kids yet) and #8 (DH is so grossed out by it… I’m still trying to win him over). We do have reusable 2- and 3-gallon water dispensers that we refill each week, but this is b/c our really old house has lead pipes and I’m concerned about the water quality. We take reusable water bottles with us so we don’t have to buy bottles when we’re out and about. I’m amazed at how much less trash these simple steps generate, too!

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  17. Cloth is a very slippery slope! I started using some cloth diapers last year just to “supplement.” Before I knew it I was fully cloth-diapering two boys and had switched to cloth wipes and feminine products as well. Then one day we were out of toilet paper, so I grabbed one of the cloth wipes, used it, and threw it in the diaper pail. I was like “Wait a minute…” and never looked back. Why waste your money when it’s just that easy?

    Reply

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