We throw away so many things every day without thinking, just to get in the car, drive to the store, buy some more of them and repeat the process. This started to drive me nuts a few years ago when I was given a lovely collection of old-fashioned lady’s handkerchiefs. I realized the sheer volume of how many tissues I would go through during cold season by comparison, and how much my nose suffered. It actually became easier to keep a few handkerchiefs in my pocket or bag and throw them in with my regular laundry. I never have to worry about stocking boxes of tissues for the season when I have soft fresh handkerchiefs every time I fold the laundry.
To help you break out of similar wasteful cycles in your own home, I have compiled a list of ten things that can easily be replaced this month with reusable alternatives, or used directly in your home and garden.
1. Paper tissues
Of course I would start with this one. It’s easy and practical. Buy 10 handkerchiefs and you’re set for most anything. Spills at lunch, hay fever, even a heat wave. Paper tissues are abrasive, why do you think they add lotion to them? I have yet to get a raw nose from my cotton handkerchiefs.
2. Paper napkins
See #1. There is no reason to not make or invest in a few sets of cloth napkins. Paper napkins are nearly useless anyway when it comes to protecting your lap or cleaning a messy baby’s face. Cloth lasts for years and will save pantry space from the bulk packs of paper you buy now.
3. Toilet paper
Now we’re getting personal. You may not give up TP altogether, but you can dramatically reduce how much you use by installing a hand-held bidet in your bathroom. A simple addition to your toilet’s water supply means being clean without having to find uses for all those empty paper rolls. These are very common in Asia, but somehow we still find thin paper more appealing in the West.
4. Plastic Razors
There is no avoiding replacing a few razor blades per year, but with a well-made safety razor we can reduce the amount of hard plastic we toss. A little research on Amazon will give you good reviews and descriptions of the various safety razors for men and women. Many of the suppliers even ship with minimal packaging and provide some starter blades. For replacing only the thin metal blades, most major drug stores will still have your back. Don’t be afraid to invest in the best model you can afford. The well-made will last and be more comfortable to use.
5. Plastic produce bags
By now we are all carrying reusable shopping bags (right?) but those flimsy produce bags might still be haunting you. I have been to stores where they insisted I carry my veggies out in their plastic bags when I was perfectly happy to just pile them on top of everything else. My solution – save old sheets and t-shirts to make produce bags. The more threadbare the fabric the better. These are weighed before you pay, so lighter is best. Two rectangles sewn together on three sides is enough to get you started. Make larger bags for bulk rice, beans, and nuts.
6. Lint rollers
If you own an indoor pet, you probably have a few sticky rollers in your closet or by the door. It inevitably takes two or three sheets to get all of Fluff’s fur off your lap so they have become a regular on your shopping list. Next time, take five extra minutes to find a real lint brush – the bright red fuzzy kind – usually near the laundry aisle. I have had the same cheap-o brush for seven years. It even cleans fur off the furrrniture.
All the chic lifestyle blogs will tell you to ditch the wire hangers, that you are “better than that”, but really they are not so bad. If you already have them, some quick manipulation can make them suitable for any garment. If they are starting to rust or wear out, like they eventually do here in the humid tropics, take them apart with pliers and use them outside in the garden for trellises, hanging pots and bird feeders, or mending a fence. As you replace hangers, go for durable wood.
In this part of the world, I have to search for weeks before I find an unwanted container to add to the rooftop garden. With apps like Pinterest there is no reason for even the most posh household to toss empty coffee cans or milk jugs. Paint them, craft them, hang them, and light them. Even better, grow something on your window sill or balcony.
9. Cardboard boxes
Even if you intend to send them off with your recycling, they will serve better in the garden as havens for mycelium and worms. Don’t have a garden? Save on potting soil for your new balcony pots by filling them with cardboard first for a hugelkulture effect. There is no practice more sustainable than making soil.
10. Fruit peels
A lot of people are scared to add them to their compost or worm bin, but even if you do not have space for a big hot compost pile you do not have to toss your fruit peels. Ditch chemical cleaning supplies with your orange and lemon peels, or dry your apple and peach skins to make potpuorri.