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Ever worry about how much trash you make and the impact it has on the world around us? In this post, we’ll explore various reusable options that can help you reduce your footprint, even if you have small kids.
NOTE: I first wrote this post before we moved out to our off-grid property. Now that we’ve moved there, I’ve done a slightly more detailed list of the totally normal ways we reduce waste every day. Open this post in a new tab to peruse when you’re done with this one.
As we’re prepping to move to our property (Big Muddy Rock as named by our two year-old), one aspect of our life we’ve been very conscious of is how much in our daily lives we just THROW AWAY.
Specifically, we’re wondering if we can get by without paying for trash service, and simply take our recyclable items to local drop-off sites.
I’ve seen some really cool examples of people who live “zero waste” lives. Watching and reading about what other people do has gotten me pretty excited about seeing exactly how much we can reduce in our day-to-day. Even though we aren’t out there yet, we are putting these principles into effect in a variety of ways and wanted to share some our favorite waste-reducing products with you!
1. Reusable Shopping Bags and Totes
This might be an obvious one, but it always bears repeating. Going shopping without them just feels wasteful and sad now. Not to mention plastic bags pretty much suck at carrying anything of substance (lookin’ at you, canned goods).
I use normal sized shopping bags like ones you can grab at your local supermarket (Kroger had some great insulated ones that I’m still using with minimal wear after 6-7 years) but I’ve always wanted to try out one of these:
I also have some that my sister-in-law made that get me compliments every time I go to the store (seriously!). They are so much stronger and hold so much more than regular old plastic bags!
What about produce bags? I think everyone tends to forget about the plastic bags you consume when you get a bunch of fruits and veggies at the supermarket, and they account for a LOT of waste. If you’re not up for making your own, grab a lovely set of mesh bags to use instead!
Anyone who has followed this blog even a little knows that I’m a huge cloth diaper fan. We’ve used cloth on our son since he was 3 weeks old, and even used cloth all the way through potty training.
We were huge fans of prefold diapers for how inexpensive and effective they are. You can read more about them and get a complete shopping list here.
But what about during potty training? I’ve had pretty good success using swim diapers as cloth trainers.
These Blueberry swim diapers have been some of my favorites because they have snaps on both sides! Why do swim diapers even come with snaps on only one side? Have they TRIED to take a wet diaper off of a wet baby? It’s impossible.
These are great for poop accidents since the snaps on both sides minimize mess. No dragging it down one leg! Plus, our kid has no problem taking them on and off
3. Cloth Napkins and Kitchen Towels
This is an obvious next step from cloth diapers and trainers, except everyone I know generally reacts to my cloth napkins by saying, “Oh wow, you guys sure are fancy!” Nothing makes you feel like a fancy adult quite like using cloth napkins. And while you’re at it, get some appropriate kitchen towels.
You’ll reduce waste from paper towels and look fancy at the same time. You can thank me later.
**And yes, there are dozens of “un-paper towels” out there on Etsy that are super adorable. But if you’re like me, you’re a little cheap and a little lazy. I’m probably never going to take the time to re-wrap un-paper towels around a roll. I’m just going to stick to keeping my napkins and towels lazily in a cute basket or in a drawer.
Here’s an item you may not have thought about. Think about how many toothbrushes you go through in a year. If you change yours out every 2-3 months, you’re sending 4-6 gross, chewed up plastic sticks to landfills every year. And while you might be thinking, “Hey, they aren’t that big,” multiply that by every tooth-brushing person. That’s about 50 MILLION POUNDS OF TOOTHBRUSHES SENT TO LANDFILLS EACH YEAR.
So we’ve decided to try out bamboo toothbrushes to reduce our plastic use. There are some other “green” options out there, but I like bamboo because the handles are biodegradable and compostable. The brushing experience has been about the same as using a plastic toothbrush, and when you’re done with them, you can use them as plant markers, craft sticks, paint stirrers, to play in the sandbox, and much more!
My son loves the colors on the WooBamboo toothbrushes and actually likes to brush with them!
I like these and the Brush With Bamboo toothbrushes for the sustainable packaging and the thorough clean feeling I get whenever I brush with them.
Lastly, here’s an oddball item you may not have considered. If you want strong, good flavored coffee without a lot of fuss this is the gadget for you! We had a drip machine for the first few years we were married but the coffee never tasted great, plus you need to buy filters. Wanting something better, I used a French Press for a while. The coffee was okay, but I didn’t like the flavor as much and couldn’t quite make enough for the both of us and how much we wanted to drink. Enter the percolator:
We have this smaller one that makes 8 cups and that works fine for daily needs. This is a bonus for us since we’ll have propane for cooking and can percolate coffee easily off grid (plus, it’s more rugged than a French press and is great for camping). An electric drip machine would just eat up power and taste subpar anyway.
Forget buying filters…and don’t even get me started on K-Cups. Just…ugh.
Will our family be EXACTLY zero waste? Hard to say. I recognize that there are a lot of variables in everyone’s daily routines and family needs that can impact exactly HOW much you can cut down, but it’s always worth giving it a try. Even little changes can add up to a big impact over a lifetime.
If you haven’t already, make sure you head over to the updated post about totally normal ways you can reduce your everyday waste here. While we haven’t made it all the way to Zero Waste YET, we have made it so we only take a bag or less out each week. Head over to read it here.
Wondering more? Check out our homestead progress and find out more about our cordwood homestead project here. You should also join us on Facebook and Instagram. I’m always pinning lots of great ideas on Pinterest too! Thanks for reading!