Sunday, November 25, 2007

SS - Dispose of Disposables

One of the first changes we made was to get rid of, or in some cases drastically reduce the use of, disposables. Things like tissues, paper towels, disposable plates, cups and utensils, napkins, toilet paper, and plastic wrap have become so prevalent in our society that we don't even give them a second thought. But, really, when you think about it, every time you use one of these things it is like you are throwing your money into the dump. Not to mention the energy used to make them, over and over and over, and the pollution caused by their production and disposal. Here is the post that got me started on changing over to reusable alternatives. Do check it out!

Some of the quickest and easiest changes we made were switching paper napkins to cloth, using cloth rags instead of paper towels, and going without paper plates and cups. I already had cloth napkins sitting in my dining room going unused, so pulling them out and stashing the paper ones away (out of sight, out of mind) was easy. Ever since the kids were little, I have had a drawer of washcloths on hand in the kitchen for cleaning up spills and wiping faces. So, again the paper towels went under the sink and out of mind and now I reach exclusively for cloth when the messes occur. OK, dog poop in my yard or cat puke on the floor gets out the paper towels, but other than that it's a washcloth. Doing without the disposable plates was simple. I mean we already had the plates and cups and utensils made out of more durable materials, right? So, I do a few more dishes and bring the little kiddie plates to the park for the picnic.

The next two, menstrual pads and toilet cloth, really deserve a post all their own, but I will save that for another day. Years ago, I switched to cloth menstrual pads, homemade from old flannel baby blankets, and have never looked back. Maybe someday I will think about getting a Keeper or Diva Cup, but for now the pads work great. The switch to cloth in the bathroom has been great! We decided to go easy with it, so for now we are only using it for pee. That means my husband is basically off the hook! The girls and I have gotten good at remembering not to drop the cloth into the toilet bowl and the laundry involved has been a simple load a week. All I did was rip up an old sheet or two and stack them on top of the toilet paper holder, sans roll of paper. Hooked onto the TP holder is a mesh bag that the used cloths go into. There is no smell, since they dry out pretty quick here in the desert. Really, it couldn't be more simple. I did not even hem the cloth. You all know how I hate to hem.

Two things I have not gotten rid of are plastic storage/freezer bags and plastic wrap. Now, I do wash and reuse the bags many times, only throwing them away when they hold raw meat or they rip, and I am only using the plastic wrap I have until it is gone and then I plan to never buy it again. I don't have very good ideas about what to replace them with yet, so I welcome ideas!

Go forth and rip up some sheets!


Anonymous said...

i was able to get around using much plastic wrap at all just by recycling all my plastic containers in various sizes (ie:yogurt, sour cream, marg, etc) and using them for keeping food items fresh. I didn't entirely do without the wrap, but used it very infrequently. oh, and thanks for the post. with the move I've set some of this aside but would like to get back to living more conscientiously with regard to considering all the junk we waste. love ya

JKD said...

Biodegradable plastics are becoming more and more available every day. You may need to check out your local wholesale foodservice supplier or a natural foods co-op to find the latest products and then also request the products they do not have yet. Biodegradable plastic wrap-like products are on the verge of consumer market penetration:

I suspect the Bio Grade 100 product found on the second link above is plastic wrap but there is not enough information yet.

Replacing non-biodegradable disposable plastic products with a wash & re-use philosophy is questionable since water use is probably the most intensive, environmentally negative impact we can make. Biodegradable plastics are probably the best solution. A similar logic follows with paper products. Replacing paper with cloth that has to be washed is again questionable due to the use of fresh water to wash the cloth, the detergents used to clean the cloth, and the subsequent wastewater that goes down the drain.

Just buy Eco TP and plastic wrap and then compost it to grow some more!

Miranda said...

I agree that biodegradable plastic wrap would be a good solution for that problem. But the issue of the water to wash the bags I have now and the cloth napkins and such cannot have anywhere the total energy cost/water use/use of resources that using freshly manufactured disposables do. I use a very efficient front load washing machine, my own homemade laundry powder and I will be line drying when we move (against my HOA's now and little room to do it inside). If you look at the toilet paper alone, I am saving all the pollution that goes into the creation of the paper (bleach to make it white for example) and the trees that are cut down, and no energy had to be expended to get new paper to my house (I can walk to the store, but I mean the trip from the factory to the store). My fabric is from old sheets that we no longer use, not new fabric, and I plan to compost them at the end of their useful life.

It is complicated to try to break each option down into costs and benefits. I can't say with absolute certainty that my analysis is correct, but it sure seems like it to me. I'd like to see if anyone has done the math.

Thanks for the links, I'll check them out! BTW, are you my brother?