If we return to the true meaning of the word ‘frugal’, it’s about being sparing in the use of precious resources. This is especially true when it comes to everyday items whose repeated use impacts on the environment. So, here are 8 tips to minimize everyday disposables, as we continue our #FrugalFebruary series.
This is a guest post, written by Cheryl Magyar from Handcrafted Travellers
8 Tips to Minimize Everyday Disposables
Everywhere we look we can find areas to minimize in our lives.
From the kitchen to the closet, most of us have enough stuff to keep us going for a year or longer without having to buy anything new (food and toilet paper aside), so why do we keep accumulating?
If we take a good look around our homes and start to analyse our clutter, it may appear that our stuff is, or was at one time, more ‘wants’ than ‘needs’. We frequently fall, all too easily, for impulse purchases and keep things in our store for that one day when we may need it. In any case, everyday disposables are partly to blame for the random clutter in our homes.
We are, often unknowingly, creating an ecological mess for the sake of using disposable plastic, a material that breaks fairly easily and will definitely outlast our lifetime. Most plastics purchased today will still be here 450 to 1,000 years later, ultimately ending up in bits and pieces in our rivers, lakes and oceans.
So, limiting, or even eliminating plastic is a serious factor to consider whether you are furnishing your home, creating a sustainable capsule wardrobe or simply going about day to day life.
If everyday disposables have your eco-conscience in a quandary, imagine how you could make the green switch to using longer lasting, quality products, many of which are recyclable.
8 areas where you can minimize everyday disposables
1. Bottled water – it comes in plastic, but if it came in a glass bottle would you be buying, and willing to carry, the same amount every week, or is it a convenience to sip every time you get thirsty? Truth be told, water fountains have gone out of fashion, yet we should all have access to clean drinking water, so where can we get it? Well, most of us still have access to water via the tap and it is only a matter of habit to carry our own water bottles made from glass or stainless steel. If you are out and about, chances are you can go without, until you get home, that is.
2. Plastic sandwich bags – they are reusable up to a point, but how many of us actually take the time and have the patience to wash and dry a flimsy bag? Food has been carried since the beginning of lunch and with human ingenuity it should not be such a difficult decision in modern times. Wrapping our meals in leaves is not the only green option. Stainless steel containers come in a plethora of shapes and sizes and a glass jar is perfect for carrying a salad to work in a pinch, just remember to put the dressing on the bottom and turn it upside down to coat the greens before eating your sustainably packaged meal.
3. Plastic cutlery – yes, plastic finds a way of showcasing its disposability again, yet in the realm of cutlery there are so many alternatives. Set an example and bring your own metal forks, knives and spoons when you know you will be dining out in a place that uses disposable stuff. Nowadays there are biodegradable and compostable utensils made from a variety of materials: bamboo, millet, corn and wheat. These are novel disposables, so it is wise to use them with limitations, keeping in mind that whatever you can use for longer is best.
4. Paper towels – great for a quick, hygienic clean-up and in many instances are not such a bad thing to have for accidental spills in the kitchen, so long as you do not take advantage of their presence. A true eco-alternative is reusable cloth, perhaps hemp, linen or organic cotton. You can buy them at the store, and if you have a sewing machine or simply have some DIY energy, thread and needles, then you can make your own cloth napkins and wipes at home. Stored on the counter or tucked away in a drawer they will never be too far away, just remember to wash/dry them as you use them. As a bonus, you can match the colour of the cloth to the interior of your home, becoming more than practical item, they can add an element of design as well.
5. Tissues – of the Kleenex, blow-your-nose, wipe-your-makeup kind. The convenience of small packages should set off alarm bells if you are wanting to minimize your impact on material production. Packaging waste will always be with us to some extent. In the meantime, however, would you consider blowing your nose with a fabric handkerchief?
6. Cosmetics – while not everyday disposables on their own, they do contribute to much cotton and chemical waste if the products you are using come from questionable origins. Try making your own facial cloths or consider the experience of living life with less makeup to reduce your demand. If you aren’t ready to give it up completely, make it a commitment instead to search for ethical brands that use only ecologically certified ingredients, such as mineral pigments. You could also use coconut oil liberally as a makeup remover and moisturizer.
7. Shopping bags – in some places you have to pay for plastic bags if you forgot your own. Again, it all comes down to creating good habits. Have a set of cloth bags and choose different weights of fabric for each sack, so that you can carry ten kilos of potatoes from the market or have one small and light enough to fit in your pocket.
8. Coffee and tea – we all drink it because, like water, it is essential to life! But it does create waste one way or another. If you stick to making it at home, you are already ahead of the game – you can use a stainless-steel strainer for loose leaf tea or slow brew your coffee. Whatever you do, avoid those non-recyclable coffee pods. When you do go out for a treat, take your own mug wherever possible, refuse plastic straws and never take more than you need.
Challenge the notion that plastic is the only option – it always has an alternative! It may have a higher initial cost, but the environmental benefits or reusable items quickly outweigh the convenience of a one-time use object any day.
About the writer:
Cheryl Magyar is an eco-minimalist. She lives out of a backpack and currently resides in the Romanian countryside with her husband and daughter – together they are Handcrafted Travellers. Subscribe to their newsletter here.