I am trying to get into the habit of bringing my reusable grocery bags on shopping trips, which are not only eco-friendly, but fun, too! Did you know those horrid plastic sacks they give out everywhere take well over 100 years to decompose? Sit in the Walmart parking lot for 30 minutes and watch the amount of bags that come out of there in a mere half hour. Remember that that is happening in millions of locations across the country as you sit and watch. And it happens all day, every day, without exception. It's horrific. And we each need to do our part to change that. We should be treating the world God created better than that. As an alternative to these horrible plastic bags, you can get plain bags like those to the left and have some fun decorating them yourself, leave them plain, or check out the many shops on Etsy.com, where you can find things like cute little birdy totes for smaller shopping trips and support small business owners in the process. Etsy.com even offers a search method where you can find nearby sellers, if you're particularly interested in supporting local small businesses, as well. You can also get Reusable Produce Bags to completely eliminate plastic from your shopping excursions, but don't forget to check out Etsy again, for reusable produce bags in fun colors!
Also consider reusable sandwich bags, if you do a lot of lunches on the go, or if you just don't want to deal with reusing, at least switch to the the good old Brown Paper Bags, which you can recycle or compost.
Feminine protection is another area to consider switching to reusable items in. I keep a supply of reusable feminine protection (cloth pads/liners and a menstrual cup), which are of course, waste-free, eco-friendly, highly cost-effective, and safer for your health (no risk of TSS, etc). It's another area you can have some fun with, while doing something better for yourself and the environment -- these make your period just a teensy bit of fun. You can also make your own, if you're willing and able.
If you are blessed to have small children, a great way to reduce waste is by using cloth diapers instead of disposables. There are all kinds of places that sell them online, or you may be fortunate enough to live in a place that has a cloth diaper store, like Happybottomus, one of which I noticed recently in Overland Park, KS.
You can also reduce waste by giving up disposable food storage. Yes, I am suggesting doing away those handy plastic storage containers. Instead opt for reusable and safe (for your own health and the environment) glass storage. An easy to find and fairly inexpensive option for this is wide mouthed canning jars. You can get a whole case of them fairly inexpensively. If, however, you have the money and prefer a more "traditional" look, you can get things like Pyrex 6021224 Storage 10-Piece Set, Clear with Blue Lids. The lids are plastic, but that's still a big step in the right direction. If you really have the money, consider the really nice Kinetic Go Green GlassLock 1332 17-Ounce Square Glass Food-Storage Containers with Locking Lids, Set of 3 which has a glass lid as well as bottom.
Do you brew your own coffee? Consider purchasing one of these reusable cloth coffee filters, which will save you money, protect your health, and further reduce waste. Look for one made with unbleached and/or organic cotton. And on the topic of coffee, if you visit coffee shops, consider bringing your own mug from home to reduce your waste. Many coffee shops even offer small discounts on their coffee when you bring your own cup.
And if you're a regular tea drinker, consider buying your tea in bulk and reusable tea bags, too. The paper tea bags often contain the chemical epichlorohydrin, which is a dangerous chemical used as an insecticide and to manufacture plastics. When combined with hot water in steeping it forms a new chemical called 3-MCPD which is even more toxic and has been linked to cancer. This chemical is also found in most coffee filters, as it strengthens the paper when wet. Some tea bag manufacturers do claim that they don't use epichlorohydrin though, so if you're curious about your favorite brand, call the company up and ask.
What about all those great tools for cleaning, like the Swiffer mop and ReadyMop? Good news! You don't have to give them up. Just change the way you use them. Keep your wonderful Swiffer (I know I love mine!) and simply refill the bottle of cleaning liquid with a mixture of water and vinegar (adding some essential oils is nice, too, and one of my favorites is lemon for that fresh clean scent we all know and love!). This will protect your families health, and also reduce your waste because you're reusing the bottle constantly instead of buying a replacement each time it's emptied and tossing the old one. Also instead of those nifty disposable pads that you buy for them, stick a microfiber cloth on it, instead! They work even better than the disposable pads. Keep a few on hand that are designated mop clothes and simply toss them in the wash instead of the garbage when you're done.
We've talked in the past about making safe, economical, eco-friendly personal and home care products, and I've mentioned my homemade dryer balls. This is yet another way to improve your health and reduce your waste (by eliminating the use of the toxic sheets, and reducing dry time for your laundry which reduces energy consumption!). There is something very satisfying about tossing in a handful of wool balls with a load of wet laundry instead of a stinky dryer sheet. If you're not inclined to make your own (a project I enjoyed!), you can always buy some.