Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Waste-Free Living

Waste-free living has been an intriguing topic to me of late. I am always looking for ways to reduce our waste, improve our health, and spend less money. Did you know, for instance, that the average American produces 7lbs of trash daily? Somewhere in Nevada people are producing a whopping 13lbs of waste per person per day. That is an incredible number! In our effort to avoid being a part of those abysmal statistics, for years we have been avoiding the use of disposable plates, napkins, and utensils on a regular basis. I don't keep paper towels in the house and haven't since I got married 3 years ago. Regular kitchen towels are perfectly capable of cleaning up spills, you know? Not only do these things cost you a lot of money over time and unnecessarily create the need for more landfills, but many of them are actually detrimental to your health. A recent study proved what many of us having been saying for years: plastics are dangerous to our health, and BPA isn't the only toxin in plastics we should be worried about.

 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, where you can find things like cute little birdy totes for smaller shopping trips and support small business owners in the process. 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.

Another area to consider is having "extras". But that's not waste,  you say! Or is it? Can you go out to your garage and find only the items you need and utilize often, in quantities you actually need? Or do you have 15 hammers and 8 rakes for a family of 4? Do you have box after box of clothes you don't wear, and kitchen appliances you haven't used since you bought them sitting out there collecting dust? Do you have a pile of broken items you promise you'll fix someday, but haven't touched since the 1990s? This, too, is a form of waste, and we ought to consider giving away those excess items to people who truly need them, and bless them in the process of making your own life easier (and it does make your life easier than you might think; how many times have you been frustrated searching through a mess of a garage for that one truly important item buried under a horrific stack of "junk"?).

In an effort to reduce our "extras" I have a box in my hall closet that contains all sorts of small kitchen items I don't need. Extra salt & pepper grinders, an olive dish, some cooking utensils we haven't used since we got married, glassware we never use. After moving home almost 4 months ago and getting reacquainted with my own kitchen, I'm slowly discovering extras I don't need. I'm saving them up in a box and will try to sell a few of the larger items in a garage sale (I hope), and give the others to Goodwill, or give them away on FreeCycle.


  1. Great post, Megan! I always love learning new thrifty & waste-free ideas…keep it coming! :-)

    We use paper plates & napkins every once in a while if the sink is full of unwashed dishes, but use metal utensils. Love the idea of reusable sandwich bags (the link sent me to the coffee filters though) and especially the feminine products. I hate wasting that much paper every month. We always keep our reusable grocery bags in the back end/seat of our, we don’t have any excuses. ;-)

    Read your other post & the recipe about homemade dryer balls but my Mom was wondering HOW they work…what makes them act like regular dryer sheets/balls?

  2. We have a little stash of paper plates and napkins that have been given to us in case of "emergency", and we do use them sometimes if we're sick and don't want to deal with keeping up with the dishes, or like when we were moving in and didn't have access to our dishes yet, having some disposables was a lifesaver! Also, at least when they're paper, they're not going to sit in a landfill for hundreds of years like some of these plastic things do!

    Sorry about that problem with the links! I'm not sure what happened. Before I posted this a bunch of the pictures were off; like the mason jars had turned into an image of the brown paper sacks I linked to. I thought I fixed them all, but I guess I missed one! I'll try to fix it.

    That is a good idea keeping your grocery bags in the car. I'm not sure why I haven't thought of that myself. ;)

    The dryer balls work to help your clothes to dry faster by 1) absorbing some of the moisture and 2) separating the clothes more, allowing more air to circulate throughout them faster. This is especially helpful for dryers that don't change spinning directions through the cycle, as clothes tend to clump together more when it only spins one way. People also claim that they reduce static, but I'm not sure I've noticed that myself.

  3. We also burn all our trash (except for cans) in our backyard, so we don't contribute much to the landfills that way. :-)

    Those are such cute sandwich bags! Mom and I are looking into sewing our own pads or buying some.

    Hmmm....our dryer spins well, but static would be what we try to keep down. I wonder what could be added to help with that?

  4. That's good burning whatever trash you can!

    Sewing your own pads is very easy and cost effective. But buying them is more fun in some ways 'cause you get to go onto sites like and look at all the fun fabric patterns people are using. :)

    Adding vinegar and/or borax to the wash cycle is supposed to be a good natural static reducer. I've never tried it myself though, because static is rarely a problem for me (also more natural fabrics tend to have less static than synthetics).

  5. I'm glad to find your site as we are Christians who are also concerned with stewardship :)

    I have made a couple of pads, but I really need to make some more! They are so much more comfortable.


  6. Welcome to my blog! I hope you find it helpful! :)

    They really are considerably more comfortable to wear, aren't they? I had honestly forgotten to mention that perk; I've been using them so long it doesn't cross my mind anymore how horrid disposable pads are!