Our family has always tried to be conscious of our impact on the environment. We recycled, tried our best to say “no” to plastic bags, and saved plastic yogurt tubs for reuse when we have visitors to send them home with leftovers after a dinner party. You know, we tried.
Over Christmas break, the kids and I watched an episode of the Netflix series Broken. The episode was “Recycling Sham.” My kids are 7, 5 and 3. They will watch anything I am watching and totally get into it (They’re huge fans of HGTV and the Food Network). This episode was no exception. They were appalled with the fact that our trash/recycling was ending up in oceans across the planet. I was concerned that all the recycling I was thinking I was doing, may actually be in vein. So, as a family, we decided that we want to change our approach to being kinder to the earth. Our new year’s resolution as a family, was to reduce our waste and clean up the great outdoors!
Bye-bye Single Use!
Our first step was to examine our trash. How can we reduce what we throw away on a daily basis? Perhaps our most drastic, and difficult swap was taking the paper towel roll off of our kitchen counter. We invested in a basket (from TJMaxx, around $7.99) and actual towels. I tried out some white towels and quickly realized that was a bad idea, but found these dark gray kitchen towels with a waffle pattern (pictured above) from Target ($3.99/4 pack). They’re comparable to the size of a paper towel. I bought three packs, and they have been a welcome addition to our kitchen. We still keep a roll of paper towels under the sink in case of a messy emergency, but have only tapped into it once or twice since we made the swap. The towels are great, since we reuse them several times before dropping it in our towel laundry bin. We also purchased these smaller ones from Target for wiping down counters throughout the day. They’re about $10 for a pack of 4.
Napkins. After going all in with the paper towels, napkins were an easy swap. I stole the idea of using colorful bandanas as napkins from my husband’s Aunt Karen, who followed in her mother’s use of the bandanas when family came to visit. The colors are helpful (and fun for the kids!) because in the morning we grab a new napkin, note the color, and use the same one for each meal. After dinner, it gets put in the towel laundry bin. Any cloth napkins will do, but if you love the bandana idea, there are plenty of options on Amazon. I lucked out and found a basket of them at a yard sale!
Other single-use swaps
- Eliminate plastic wrap and plastic sandwich bags with bees wax wrap. Our favorite brand is Bee’s Wrap available on Amazon.com for about $16 for a variety of sizes
- Reusable produce bags are great for us since we have a weekly delivery of produce (and other pantry/fridge staples) from Imperfect Foods. The produce arrives in a box, mostly unpackaged. These bags help keep our fruit and veggies together and fresh in our fridge. We got a set of 9 on Amazon for $9.99
- Wool dryer balls were added to our swap, frankly because Amazon saw all the stuff we were buying and suggested it 🙂 We have come to realize that they do help our clothes dry faster, and we see no static cling with our garments. We purchased a XL pack of 6 for $16.95 on Amazon.
Bulk buying has always been our jam, including cleaning supplies in order to minimize our waste. My husband picks up Simple Green from Home Depot (he thought I’d like the lavender sent, but honestly it doesn’t smell anything like lavender). The gallon jug is about $10 and has lasted for almost 2 years! It’s a concentrate, so you mix with water. I love these glass spray bottles, but alas, they are glass and break. I have already broken one. We do also have up-cycled empty plastic spray bottles!
Our Bulk buying doesn’t end with just cleaning supplies. This goes for anything we buy on the regular. The less “every day” trash we can produce, the better!