17 Easy Eco-Alternatives To Everyday Disposables.

February 11, 2010 20 Comments

How much stuff do you throw away each day after a use or two? Each week? Each month? Now multiply that times the billions of people on earth and you can see how that single, seemingly tiny item can really add up to quite a mess. In 2008, Americans alone created 250 million tons of trash and recycled and/or composted 83 million tons of it – the equivalent of a 33.2% recycling rate. Solid waste generation has increased from 3.66 to 4.50 pounds per person per day between 1980 and 2008 – we are, in fact, going backwards. Wasn’t the digital revolution supposed to ween us off a huge amount of this waste? It doesn’t seem to be working. Luckily, there are a bunch of very simple things you can do at home, starting today, to ween yourself off of disposables in your own life. Each one of these is simple, cheap, and very effective at reducing the amount of trash you contribute to the waste stream. Give a few of them a shot this week!

- Instead of single use ballpoint pens, buy refillable pens.

- Instead of disposable razors and/or razor cartridges, try a straight razor…or just stop shaving your face like yours truly.

- Instead of a paper coffee cup, get yourself a reusable coffee mug or thermos.

- Instead of regular batteries, buy rechargeable ones and a charger. I haven’t bought (or disposed of) a new battery in years.

- Instead of buying bottled water, get your own reusable bottle and never pay for plastic bottles again.

- Instead of disposable diapers, look into using unbleached cloth ones.

- Instead of using plastic wrap at home, get yourself some resealable glass containers.

- Instead of plastic straws, get your own glass one at GlassDharma.

- Instead of single-use sponges, buy some washable sponges. I put mine in with the laundry.

- Instead of virgin plastic garbage bags, find ones made from recycled plastic.

- Instead of plastic utensils on a picnic, bring your metal ones from home.

- Instead of paper towels, buy some dish rags and keep them handy in a drawer. I haven’t bought a roll of paper towels for 2 months ever since my cat died. The only reason I bought them was to clean up after him.

- Instead of tissues, try out a handkerchief!

- Instead of paper or plastic, bring your own bag when you go shopping.

- Instead of using the produce bags, just put the produce in your cart. You’re gonna wash it before you eat it anyway!

- Instead of using plastic bags for bulk purchases, bring your own reusable container. The store will weigh it for you to get the tare weight (the weight of the empty container) before you use it.

- Instead of using paper coffee filters that get thrown away, get yourself a gold filter that you can wash each day.

So…what’s missing from the list? What do you do at home or in your life that the rest of us should try to implement as well? Let us all know in the comments!

Featured photo by Shutterstock

About the Author:

After a varied past of being a test driver for automotive television programs, a Hollywood studio lackey, and an online media sales director, David is now the publisher and editor of The Good Human. In his spare time he rides motorcycles, drinks good beer, and builds stuff in the garage. You can follow him on Twitter at @thegoodhuman or G+ at Google
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Comments (20)

  1. Great list! I’d add cloth napkins instead of paper ones. And for the women out there, a Diva Cup and/or GladRags instead of the throw-away alternatives.

  2. surviving and thriving on pennies says:

    LOVE IT!!!! Gonna pass this one on for sure!

  3. Elizabeth says:

    Or instead of having an electric coffee maker, get a French press – no electricity, no filters!

    Good list!

  4. David says:

    I LOVE french press coffee – the problem is, at least for me, is that I work from home and drink an entire pot in the morning. It wouldn’t stay hot enough for me! :)

  5. Sally says:

    About the sponges in the kitchen…. I knit dish cloths out of organic cotton yarn and keep some for myself and give the rest away as handmade gifts throughout the year.

    And I have two french press coffee pots, one at work and one at home because I drink a lot too.

  6. Jenn says:

    Dont dispose peels, egg shells and coffee grinds, Compost!

    Make your own cleaning products, beauty care products and meals.

    And I bought my husband a stainless steel go cup that had a press built in. kept it nice and hot!

  7. nan fischer says:

    Ditto on the razor. ;)

    Never heard of washable sponges, will check that out in SF next week. I do rinse them out really well and put white vinegar on them. They tend to fall apart before ever needing to be tossed for being dirty.

  8. GreenMum says:

    Ditto on the diva cup & luna pads! Plus washable nappy wipes from an old towel as well as cloth diapers. I also collect unclaimed paper from the work printer to print on the reverse side when I need to, or let my kids draw on it. As well as not using bags at the veggie shops (I use one of their boxes and group the produce by type) and composting what I can. You can also save old bones, celery leaves etc to make stock with. I did hear of someone using reusable (cloth) toilet paper, but that is a step beyond my comfort zone personally!

  9. Tiana says:

    Big yes on the Diva Cup, AKA Mooncup, AKA The Kkeeper. Girls, look them up! I haven’t paid for feminine hygiene products for four years, nor have I contributed to landfill with such things, for the same time. Love, Love, Love this non-disposable product.

  10. Cynthia says:

    I bought organic cotton produce bags at Reuseablebags.com when I bought my KleenKanteens so I can keep my produce together and protect it from bruising yet still protect the environment.

    I also invested in GladRags so no more disposable feminine products with thier bio-waste going into a landfill.

    I use the mountain of paper the school sends home marketing through my kindergartener and a few of her art projects (shh) to line the compost bucket so it’s easier to clean.

  11. susanna eve says:

    Bulk Barn where I live, has a policy that you are not allowed to use anything except their plastic bags, can’t even bring your own plastic bags to refill. I am planning on using theirs the next time I go there and then just bringing them back to refill, I don’t think they will be able to tell then. Rechargeable batteries do eventually quit and we keep just a few regular ones around for emergency power failures. Most of our gadgets plug in now for recharging. We used to buy recycled plastic garbage bags but they are now longer available anywhere here:( Have been using menstrual reusables for 20 years.
    For anybody nervous about glass straws, We bought some stainless steel ones. For produce items like mushrooms that are difficult to handle without a bag, I have small waterproof bags and mesh bags that I take with me to the store.

  12. susanna eve says:

    Bulk Barn where I live, has a policy that you are not allowed to use anything except their plastic bags, can’t even bring your own plastic bags to refill. I am planning on using theirs the next time I go there and then just bringing them back to refill, I don’t think they will be able to tell then. Rechargeable batteries do eventually quit and we keep just a few regular ones around for emergency power failures. Most of our gadgets plug in now for recharging. We used to buy recycled plastic garbage bags but they are now longer available anywhere here:( Have been using menstrual reusables for 20 years.
    For anybody nervous about glass straws, We bought some stainless steel ones. For produce items like mushrooms that are difficult to handle without a bag, I have small waterproof bags and mesh bags that I take with me to the store.

  13. Thx for this great list of tips. Dish rags are great and save so many paper towels (and trees!) from being trashed. Keep spreading the word!

  14. Dave Werkley says:

    Great list!
    The best way to increase you mileage and cut down on greenhouse gases is to leave your car at home. Carpool with a friend, walk, ride a bike. You don’t have to buy a new hybrid car to save gas. Just leave the one you have at home.

  15. Michele says:

    Knitting dish cloths with hemp works wonderfully!

  16. Benjamin K says:

    Agreed to all! Diapers are key. I think about 10% of all landfills are diaper products. Cloth diapers, cloth butt wipes, cloth spit up rags …

    To the French Press comment, try wrapping a thick kitchen towel around the whole pot starting when you first pour in the hot water. I find that it keeps a large pot of French Press hot for hours.

    Another thought to the list … GROW YOUR OWN VEGETABLES/HERBS, avoiding the plastics, fossil fuels, paperwork, etc. involving shipping food to a market.

  17. Robert Getz says:

    What about donating your old toys, and games to companies that will clean and re-use or recondition them for children in emergencies, floods etc., instead of placing them in landfills. I am on a fire department, and have given children involved in fires a gently used cuddler. They love the idea that someone cared enough about them to give up their toys.
    Re-use Styrofoam cups from the gas stations (if you buy them for a soda),for coffee to go, or even re-use them as “peanuts for packing”, instead of buying a new one each time.You can get a refill price, instead of being charged full at most convenient stores.

  18. Melissa says:

    There are also stainless steel straws….less dangerous than glass.

    As for the French Press, make the coffee, pour in a carafe to stay warm.

  19. Kim says:

    Kill bacteria on kitchen sponges by microwaving on high for 2 min. or put them on the top rack of the dishwasher. Also, instead of buying freezer bags, you can wash & re-use milk bags (in Canada). They’re thicker, and tie nicely with a twist-tie.

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