For a couple of years I have been trying to kick the habit of disposable everything. It scares me to see how much of what people buy ends up thrown away after one use. I have made a lot of progress, or I should say my family has, as we are all living with the changes we have made. We aren't perfect, as you will see, but we are always striving to increase our commitment to lessening our impact on the Earth in places where we can.
Here is a short list of some of the things we have done:
1. Cloth diapers: I have used cloth diapers on all 3 of my kids. I use old fashioned pre-folds with pins and nylon pants. My oldest child is 16 years older than the next child, so I did not keep her diapering supplies, but the diapers and the pants I bought for the boys have been going strong after 4 years of constant use. Do I use them at all times? No, I usually use disposables when going out and at night. Also, if someone is going to be babysitting. Still, every diaper saved from a landfill is a good thing. Every diaper reused is a great thing financially.
2. Diaper wipes: There are a lot of recipes out there for making your own wipes. I have a philosophy of KISS (keep it simple sucka!). If I can get away without using a lot of things in a recipe or project, I will. So I start with trying the least involved approach and complicate it as needed! For diaper wipes, I purchased several bundles of cheap white washcloths at Target. When I do a diaper change, I simply use warm water on it. The cloths get the kids really clean, even after a poopy blowout. The kids are clean smelling and almost never have had diaper rash. When they have, it has cleared up in a day with only a little vaseline, no fancy ointment or paste needed. I think this is because their skin is clean, nothing left on them after wiping, as far as soaps or lotions go. I throw these in the diaper pail and not a stain is on them after 4 years. Plus, they are warm, which feels so good and eliminates the need for a wipe warmer.
3. Coffee filters: My sis-in-love encouraged me to try a reusable filter. It took a couple of tries to find one that fit my coffee maker. I also had to get used to the idea that it leaves a darker color at the bottom of the pot and an oily sheen on top of the coffee. However, this is minimal and I think the flavor is enhanced. Coffee grounds still go into the compost.
4. Dog training pads: We have a tiny toy poodle. We live in a snowy part of the country. I would have to shovel part of the yard for him and dress him to go out. I can't do this! So I pad trained him (no different than a cat being litter box trained really.) Instead of the dog pads, I sewed 2 old diapers together. I lay them on an old plastic storage bin's lid so nothing can leak through. Nothing ever does leak through, but, better safe than sorry! He has a bucket in the basement for used pads and once a week I wash a load of them. I dry them on a laundry rack. Easy-peasy!
5. Cotton balls: I don't wear nail polish so I don't have to worry about removing it. This hack won't work for that. We use cotton pads for witch hazel/alcohol as an astringent and for removing make up. I had some odd fleece scraps from a project. We started using them as pads and they work great! Just let em dry, throw in the hamper and wash with the clothes. I have a front loader, so I don't have to worry about them getting stuck, if you have a top loader, you might want to throw them in a mesh bag.
6. Paper napkins and paper towels: We use cloth napkins and have lots of them! I used a sheet from a garage sale to make a ton of them and keep them in a basket for easy reaching. We have an awesome rag collection as well. I started my last roll of paper towels 8 months ago and still have at least 1/3 left! I don't keep them out, so it isn't an easy grab for people, which helped the transition.
7. Sponges: I use kitchen dishcloths for clean stuff and rags for things that would ruin my dish cloths. I buy dark colored ones so they don't get dingy looking! I use mesh onion bags for scouring. They work great and don't scratch, but be sure to cut off the tags on the ends, because they may scratch! I just put it over my dishcloth when I use it. For tough crusty stuff, a little baking soda usually is all the extra help that's needed.
8. Microwave popcorn, juice boxes, individually wrapped snacks: Kettle corn made on the stove is so much better than microwave anyway! Packing a drink from home in a drink bottle or kept in a mason jar in a cooler is really just as easy as having drink boxes and capri suns that squirt everywhere! It is also easy to throw a handful of pretzels into a baggie or tupperware.
9. Saran wrap, baggies, tupperware: I haven't eliminated these, but I have changed my approach to them. I am a baggie/wrap washer first of all. It is not gross or hard, you wash them just like a dish and drape it to dry. Pot handles and my utensil crock work well for drying. I try not to use baggies or wrap if a glass jar or tupperware will work. I am trying to increase my stash of glass containers (mostly just pickle jars and the like) to replace the need for tupperware. Reusing carry-out plastic containers until they wear out works well too. I use my large yogurt containers for freezing and they hold a great amount.
These are some of the ways that we are reducing our waste and consumerism. It didn't happen over night. I advise anyone wanting to change their habits to start with one that seems easiest to do. If you live with other people, explain why you are doing it, even to children. Be a cheerleader and compliment them on their achievements in changing their habits. Let me know if you have kicked any of your disposable habits too!