I have found that the more I minimalize, the more I become aware of not only my purchases, but also what I throw away on a weekly basis. In striving to have less, I have also realized my desire to buy less and use less. The amount of trash that we accumulate is appalling. I want to be a good steward of this earth we call home.
My solution has been two fold. The first is simple: don’t buy things we don’t need. I say it’s simple, and the concept truly is, but the implementation has been a big learning curve! The more I have eased my way into this lifestyle, the more I have noticed the things around me that I thought I needed but really don’t. An example of this is the boxes and boxes of hair products I was able to give away once I focused on getting my hair healthy to the point that it didn’t NEED all the hair products anymore.
My second solution is to stop using disposable products! It has been amazing to realize how much of our consumerism is based off of convenience…just use it once and then toss it! We cut way down on our spending and our tossing when we slowly switched to using non-disposable items. Finding other solutions can be hard and overwhelming at first; we are so use to disposable. But if you look, you will find a solution to pretty much everything that you throw away! I will help you out by walking through the items we have gotten rid of and the solutions we came up with and now use:
- Paper Napkins: Instead of using paper napkins, switch to cloth napkins! You don’t have to wash them every meal (unless they get really messed up of course). Just have some way of knowing whos is whos whether that’s initials or a different color napkin per person, or another creative solution you come up with!
- Paper Towels: Just keep a cloth rag handy to wipe up spills or what not. When they get dirty, throw them in the laundry basket to be washed.
- Ziplock Bags: We use both snack size glass containers and cloth zipper baggies in place of disposable ziplock bags.
- Plastic Straws: For Christmas, we bought stainless steel straws. Our kids love them and they are so simple to wash out as long as you don’t let them sit for too long before cleaning them!
- Diapers: We love cloth diapering. Diapers were one of the first things we switched from disposable to reusable. We have cloth diapered since our first child. I was hesitant at first as it seemed like a daunting task, but once we got a routine down, it has been quite simple!
- Wet Wipes: You can purchase reusable wet wipes or make your own! I am not a seamstress by any stretch of the imagination, but this was something even I as able to do! I bought a pack of flat fold cloth diapers and cut them into wet wipe size pieces of cloth. I then did a zigzag stitch in fun colors around all sides to keep them from unraveling. We still use them on our third child and they are holding up great! For being out and about, I use a wet/dry bag to store them in.
- Women’s Personal Hygiene Products: Ladies, we spend so much money in this area! But we don’t have to. There are some great products out there that can keep us from constantly buying new pads and tampons! I love the menstrual cup! If you have never heard of them and you are female, you simply must check them out! I also love cloth pads for lighter days. I’m so happy to never have to think about running out of/buying more pads!
- Nursing Pads: Speaking of pads…if you are a nursing mother, you can buy reusable cloth pads. You just throw them in the wash and use again!
- Razors: I have switched from using disposable razors to using a small, battery operated razor. You do have to change out the batteries, but mine tend to last a good six months before they die! A plus is that I never get razor burn or knicks anymore.
- Kleenex: We use to go through a lot of kleenex, especially in the winter months. A few months ago, we switched to using handkerchiefs. We all have two in our own color so as not to get them mixed up. I have greatly appreciated the lack of tissue filling up our trash cans!
- Plastic Water Bottles:We bought Life Factory glass water bottles in different colors for each member of our family. They come in kid friendly sizes as well as larger sizes and we carry them everywhere we go. We use them at home as well instead of glasses (or plastic cups)
- Plastic Trash Bags: I must admit, switching from plastic trash bags to no trash bags might be a “level 2” when it comes to switching from disposable. We have started a compost pile, we recycle, and, with cutting down on so much disposable items, have found that we really don’t produce much trash. What we do produce is typically dry and non-messy and we just stick it straight in the trash can sans bag.
- Plastic Grocery Bags: While switching to reusable cotton or canvas grocery bags may not save you money (since plastic bags are free) it DOES save the planet. I also use mesh reusable produce bags. Many stores will give you $0.10 for each cloth bag off your purchase.
- Dryer Sheets: Not only are dryer sheets one of the most toxic things in your home, but they can also be easily replaced with dryer balls. I use wool dryer balls that I made myself, but you can also purchase them.
- Cleaning Products: You can replace both household cleaning products and personal cleaning products with Norwex microfiber clothes! They work great both for home surfaces and your skin.
I suggest you start with one or two things on this list that look accomplishable to you. We certainly didn’t change everything over night! It has been a gradual process. My guess is that you will notice how much less time and money you spend on continuously buying the disposable item that you will want to slowly switch over your other items too! It’s true that there is an up front cost to all of these items, but when you do the calculations on what you aren’t buying anymore, you will realize that you make up the cost in no time!
This list is the items I have found that we throw away often. Our list is still a work in progress and we continue to switch over to non-disposable. Your list may be different. Pay attention to your trash can and ask yourself these questions over the course of a few weeks:
-What are the items that fill it?
-What do you tend to throw away often (and therefore purchase often).
-What one time purchase could you make that would eliminate ever having to buy that item again?
Your wallet and the planet thank you.