Ways to Become More Environmentally Conscious
We are told that we need to be more environmentally conscious, but some habits are hard to break. Or are they? Here I share seven environmentally friendly ways we have reduced waste in our home over and some surprising results.
It’s Been a Journey
No good or real change happens quickly. This is definitely true for our household. I’ve always thought of myself as considerate but never a tree hugger or environmentalist. However, as we have moved further and further into this life of homesteading, it has kind of creeped up on me. I’ve been referred to as ‘crunchy’ and I am not offended.
Most of the changes we have made were initially for personal physical benefit. Seeing the cumulative effect now, though, I realize the benefits are actually more financial and environment than I realized.
The quick list:
- cloth napkins to replace paper
- wash cloths and tea towels to replace paper towels
- washable mop head to replace throw away head
- cloth or reusable shopping bags to replace plastic
- wool balls to replace dryer sheets
- cotton face pads to replace disposable ones
- washable doggy diapers for when dog is in heat
Use Cloth Napkins Instead of Paper
Early in our married life, we made the switch from paper napkins to cloth napkins. I think the main reason at the time was simply that it felt more luxurious. We were college students with very few ‘fine’ things in our life, but cloth napkins was something that I decided was worth the splurge.
We didn’t start off with more than probably four or six. But by adding a couple at a time adds up over time. Before you know it, you can go several days without having to wash them. Messy foods like tacos or boiled shrimp are much better handled with a a cloth napkin. I do recommend not purchasing white or light colors if you plan to seriously use them.
I’ve also found that I prefer natural fibers over synthetic blends. They tend to be more absorbent and over time, they become quite soft.
Replace Paper Towels with Wash Cloths/ Tea Towels
Making a small investment into tea towels and wash cloths for my kitchen allowed me to stop purchasing paper towels. This was probably the biggest and most difficult transition we made. I grew up in a large family with paper towels readily available and we used them for everything from cleaning up spills to cleaning windows to covering food items that we were warming in the microwave.
So there was an adjustment period for us. We did eventually become a more natural feeling. What probably helped the most is seeing the difference in our grocery bill. It is amazing to think of how many items we purchase weekly that just go directly into the trash can.
Replace that Throw Away Mop Head with a Washable One
We actually have two different types of mops with heads that can be washed between uses. One is great for hardwood and laminate floors. The system is called Bona and it comes with a duster head and mop head. Both attach with a velcro and can be thrown in the washer. The mop head is not submerged, but rather used with a spray on solution. There are several different solutions available for hardwoods, laminate or tile floors. To be completely honest, we purchased the system initially for a rental house. We were attempting to help direct the tenant in how to care for the floors and had heard good things about Bona products. Since that time, though, I have tried to transition to more natural cleaning products, but I still like the mop and washable mop head.
The second system that we use often is the O’Cedar mop and bucket. The head of the mop pops off and can be washed as well. Additional mop heads can be purchased for a back up, but they are quite durable. The bucket that comes with this system is a great and sturdy hands free spinning device.
Replace Throw Away Plastic Shopping Bags with Reusable Ones
The concept of bringing shopping bags to the grocery store was a difficult one for me to remember initially. It’s just hard to make the shift when stores still offer the traditional bags for free. Spending time living in a culture where there was no option to have free throw away bags finally made that transition to a permanent practice. Just as with cloth napkins, slowly purchasing and acquiring bags over time, made the investment a little easier to absorb. It doesn’t take long to end up with far more bags than you’ll ever need. One trick to work on is establishing a routine of emptying the bags once you return home and immediately putting them back in your car or near your door so that you have them with you the next time you are shopping.
Use Wool Dryer Balls Instead of Throw Away Dryer Sheets
This was another difficult adjustment for me, or at least mentally. I used to LOVE the fresh smell of dryer sheets, especially the Snuggle brand sheets. I also didn’t believe it was possible for a couple of fuzzy balls in my dryer to eliminate static cling. I was wrong though and happy to admit it. I believe the wool balls do just as good a job as the Snuggle sheets. I initially ordered mine from a pricey network marketing company and paid a pretty penny for them. I have since found nice sets of wool balls on Amazon for about 1/5 of the price I paid for that initial set of three.
I use my as is, but if you do what to have some scent, you can add a few drops of your favorite essential oils to them. I’ve tried adding lavender and enjoyed it. However, I am also very happy to use them plain.
Try Washable Cotton Face Pads
Transitioning to cotton face pads has been a recent move for us. Both Michael and I use them on a daily basis so I was not sure how he would like them. But the price was reasonable, so I thought I would just give it a try. We both like them and they wash up well. We just keep them in a class container. Once we have used them, we put them into a mesh bag for washing. We easily recouped our cost after a couple of months of not having to purchase the disposable pads.
Use Washable Doggy Diapers Instead of Disposable
We have a two year old female Labrador retriever that keeps us on our toes. We decided that since she is an inside dog, we would try doggy diapers with her. We knew others who had tried the disposable type, but decided to look for a one time purchase and invest in washable ones. We found these on Amazon that we have loved. Provided I remember to take them off before releasing her out the back door, they work perfectly.
Benefits Continue to Surprise
While all of these actions are environmentally friendly, in that we are reducing our household waste, we have also seen some other sweet benefits.
- financial savings – For most of the items listed here, the cost for swapping out washable/reusable items, was basically recover in the matter of a few months. Now, we save approximately $20-30 per month on average by not spending money on throw away items
- reduced waste removal cost – We not only are saving money by not having to purchase them, we are also not having to pay for waste removal of those items.
- fewer toxins – Most of the items we formerly used were paper. I didn’t realize it at the time but there were a good many toxins in those items. We are benefiting now from less exposure on a daily basis.
- efficiency – Not only are paper products more costly over time, they are also less efficient. When cleaning up a spill, you can handle the entire job with one cloth verses multiple paper towels. Plus, I am no longer spending time shopping for them.
I am always looking for new ways to cut down on waste and save money, so hit me with your tried and true actions!