Saturday, October 01, 2011

Save Our Planet Saturday: Go Paperless

When I'm talking to people about being more green, I'm often asked what are some things they could do in their own lives and homes.  Most of the time, I'll talk about recycling, composting, or not wasting water.  But one inexpensive way to lessen your contribution to the landfills is to switch to using cloth.  If you (and your family) are used to paper towels and napkins in your home, this might be a grueling change that will take a while to get used to, but consider an upside to this:  you get to go shopping!

Instead of paper towels, you can substitute them with bar cloths or microfiber towels that can be found online or at your big box stores.  Grab a large pack or two, keep a handful under the sinks in your home, and you'll always have a towel handy for easy clean-ups by any member of your family.  I've also seen these "unpaper" towels listed on etsy that are more attractive to have available when you have guests visiting.

Paper napkins may be a little tougher to eliminate from your grocery list, but imagine how great the challenge would be to find and acquire enough reusable cloth napkins to use on a daily basis for every meal.  You can purchase traditional plain Jane napkins to keep the hunt simple and easy.  But you can always add variety to your collection. I read about these very cool napkins by People Towels from a Good Girl Gone Green blog post.  The eco-chic napkins made with 100% certified organic Fair Trade cotton have different words and designs on them, any and all appealing to everyone's taste.  You can also find a wide range of handmade kiddo napkins that young ones wouldn't mind finding in their lunch boxes.  If you want to take another step to being more green, pack your own cloth napkins to use at work or when you eat out.  Yes, you may get some curious looks, but perhaps you'll end up influencing someone else to follow in your footsteps without you even saying a word.

Speaking of eating at work, how about ditching those paper or plastic sacks and purchasing a reusable tote instead?  Etsy shops offer many different types of handmade lunch bags that will make even your most skeptical coworker green with envy. You can use these totes for picnics to the park or to a soccer game, and they're easy to clean and compact to store away.  If you have school age children, perhaps they will opt for a bag in their favorite character design as opposed to having a plastic or metal lunch box.  Don't forget to include their cloth napkins with their lunch.

Flu and cold season is upon us, and with the seasons changing comes lots of tissue paper purchases.  Consider switching to handkerchiefs instead.  Maybe your shopping hunt will turn up some cool looking hankies for all the members of the household.  On my last garage sale trip, I saw these unused vintage looking handkerchiefs that were part of the family's collection from decades ago.  They were selling them for 10 cents each.  I don't know why I didn't grab them right then, but 5 minutes later, I went back to see if they were still there, and sure enough, they were gone.  Maybe you'll have better luck than I did on your next adventure to a garage or estate sale or to the thrift store.

These are just a few small examples of changes you can make in your home that won't make you feel like you're sacrificing too much of what you have been used to.  If you have diaper-age babes in your family, you can choose to say good bye to disposable diapers and hello to cloth diapers.  After having had 2 children, we have finally made the switch with our newest addition.  I'm not going to sugar coat the truth, so I'll tell it straight to you:  it's yucky, it's icky, and yes, at times, inconvenient, but is the change worth the money we're saving every month?  Heck yeah, by about a 3 to 1 difference.  Think about all those 'sposies that we have kept from going to the landfill that will take forever to decompose?!  It's a great feeling knowing that we're doing our part in helping Earth stay a little greener longer!

And if you're really up to the challenge, you can always stop using toilet paper.  I'm not sure the potty trained members in our family are ready for that yet, but we are about to stop using baby wipes and go cloth all the way with our little one. 

How many of these little changes can you take on this week?  I bet you'll find it easier than you think.  Who knows - it may end up being fun, too.


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