4 Disposable Things to Stop Throwing Away

Happy Earth Day! Today we should all remember why it's so important to protect our natural environment. In keeping with that theme, I wanted to share some of my recent discoveries that can help us to protect our environment by keeping a lot of unnecessary waste out of landfills. And they'll probably help you save some money, too!

There are some items we all use on a regular basis that we assume have to be thrown away. Here are four household items that I was throwing away every day too, until I discovered these awesome reusable alternatives. Once you try them, you'll never go back!

1. Produce Bulk Bags

The average American uses between 300-700 plastic bags in one year. That is a lot of plastic, but I have a feeling that figure doesn't even include the bags we all pack our produce in while we're shopping. You know the ones. You want to buy 4 apples, so you grab one of those clear plastic bags off one of the rolls scattered around the produce section. Then you fill another one with bananas, and another with carrots, and so on. If you use five per week, that's 260 plastic bags already, NOT including the grocery bags they get packed in after you check out! I always bring my reusable shopping bags to get groceries, but I was still using plastic produce bags in stores, until I purchased a set of reusable produce bags. I have this set of bags from Flip & Tumble, and I'm really pleased with them. When you start shopping with reusable bags, remember to tell the cashier the tare weight of your bags so they aren't factored into the weight of your items. The tare weight per bag from my set is .4 oz. For bulk items like nuts or rice, I bring clean mason jars!

2. Cotton Balls/Rounds

I was in the habit of using cotton rounds twice daily with facial toner. A short blog post by my friend led me to realize that there were reusable alternatives available. These reusable cotton rounds are made out of organic bamboo and cotton fleece, and they're just what I needed. I got in touch with the seller on Etsy , and she was very accommodating and pleasant to work with! I purchased 20 reusable organic rounds for less than $12, including shipping. I've been using them for about three months now and actually prefer them to the disposable ones.

These are my reusable cotton rounds.

The cotton rounds I used before always shredded into bits of cotton, or stretched and thinned out before I was done using them. These keep their shape, and are easy to wash. I toss them in a delicates bag and throw them in with the regular laundry. There are a few things I wouldn't want to use these for, such as nail polish remover, but they've helped me to eliminate another disposable item from my routine, which I love.

3. Plastic Wrap

This stuff seems like something that's hard to live without. If you're like me, you use it every time you have leftovers, or you have cut cheese or vegetables you want to keep fresh. It's hard to imagine how people ever got along without plastic wrap! Unfortunately, it's really wasteful, and it's not exactly cheap! I've discovered an alternative that keeps food fresh. It's a bees-wax coated cloth, that holds shape when folded around a piece of food or over a bowl, and it's washable! The two brands of beeswax wrap products that I've found are Abeego and Bee's Wrap. If you're feeling ambitious, you can even try making your own beeswax cloth wraps at home. Here's a great tutorial. The wax wraps can help you eliminate plastic sandwich bags and aluminum foil from your kitchen, too!

4. Paper Towels

Paper towels are ubiquitous in most households. We use them as napkins, to wipe up messes, for household cleaning, and so much more. Americans use over 13 billion pounds of paper towels EVERY YEAR! That's a lot of trees cut down, a lot of waste in landfills, and a lot of dollars spent! After purchasing a pack of paper towels earlier this year, I was overwhelmed by guilt,  so I decided that they would be the last paper towels I ever bought. Since I ran out earlier this month, I haven't missed having paper towels on hand. For spills and cleaning, there are plenty of eco-friendly sponges available. I also read a lot about using flour sack towels to replace other functions of paper towels. They're a perfect replacement for paper napkins, and they can also be used to absorb moisture in refrigerator crisper drawers, and even for draining grease when you're cooking. 

These are the towels that I purchased and so far they've been great. They're pretty big, so you could easily cut them into smaller sizes, as this blogger suggests. I might tackle that task when I'm more comfortable using the sewing machine I recently inherited! I'm relieved to not be burdened by the guilt I felt every time I purchased a pack of paper towels, and happy with the replacements I found.

Ready to eliminate even more disposable items from your home? Try replacing your dryer sheets with wool dryer balls, replacing your toilet paper with family cloth, and making your own disinfecting wipes and cloth mopping pads! The Earth will thank you. Happy Earth Day!

Further reading
http://zerowastehome.blogspot.com/
http://www.thekitchn.com/ditch-the-plastic-10-reusable-produce-bags-174099
http://earth911.com/news/2012/01/19/10-things-you-didnt-know-you-could-buy-reusable/8