Convenience over the health of the earth? Seems to be the status quo for most mainstream companies out there, as we are bombarded with advertisements touting single use or disposable products – from mops to hand towels to bottled water to plain old plastic bags – all of which help contribute 200 million tons of trash to American landfills each year. And while there are plenty of products and manufacturers guilty of feeding the desire for disposables, I wanted to focus on three of the biggest offenders (in my eyes) and offer up some alternatives.
The Holy Grail of single-use trash creation, if you ask me. While the mop/sweeper handle is reused, every single time you sweep or mop the floor you are supposed to use a Swiffer disposable piece of fabric that is either dry or dunked in a cleaning solution and comes packaged in a plastic box. Convenient? Yep. Necessary? Nope. Believe it or not, folks used to use…gasp…a broom to sweep their floor! And even when they stopped doing that, they used their non-disposable vacuum cleaner to pick up the dust! As for mopping those floors, well, everyone used to use a “real” mop and a bucket of soap, leaving nothing to be thrown away once they would be done cleaning the house. However, that way of cleaning has pretty much gone the way of the dodo in exchange for convenience – but there is something in between the two that is both convenient AND better for the environment. I use the Omop from Method to mop my hardwood floors. It has a lightweight handle just like a Swiffer product, except on the business end is a reusable, washable microfiber cloth that lasts forever (I have had mine for 3 years now).
I didn’t even know about this product until a friend of mine told me about it. Kleenex has introduced…wait for it…single-use disposable towels for use IN YOUR OWN BATHROOM. Stating that “Your Hands Are Only As Clean As The Towel Used To Dry Them”, Kleenex must think that you use your hand towels to clean the inside of the toilet bowl with before hanging them for you to dry your hands on. If this utterly useless product ever took off like the Swiffer mops did, we could have an eco-nightmare on our hands at local landfills. Hopefully it never will and they will stop making them, and people will realize that regular old washable towels work just fine.
Paper towels in the kitchen have become as ubiquitous as toilet paper in a bathroom, but it wasn’t always this way. For cleaning up quick messes or wiping down countertops, paper towels became the “go-to” item in the house… leaving behind a trail of trash that really adds up. And while I did keep a roll in the house for cleaning up after the cat, I did switch to cotton wash cloths as a replacement for everything paper towels used to do in my house. I keep a drawer full of them at the ready, and I throw them in the washing machine with everything else. I am now paper towel free, and just donated the spindle they used to sit in to Goodwill. Washable clothes or rags saves money, eliminates trash, and do a better job at cleaning than paper could ever do.
Our society has become one of convenience over quality or future impact, and I hope we can realize the damage we are doing before it is too late. It’s time to stop our throw-away lives once and for all and eliminate these type of disposables once and for all.
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