Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Change the World Wednesday - Re-usable not disposable

This weeks Change the World Wednesday Challenge hosted by Reduce Footprints  isn't about recycling, but rather re-using  What we could use so we don't have to recycle or throw something away. 

Here's the info from the challenge post:
We've had a couple of tough challenges so let's switch gears and try something new. This challenge is suggested by our friend, Kris, who says, "... instead of finding new ways to use things that we would normally recycle the idea is to think about the disposable items you use and find a better solution. The idea is that it would be better for the environment and, in the long run, better for our bank accounts too. example: instead of using paper towels to clean up a spill, use a rag. Or..instead of using a paper napkin at dinner time, use a cloth napkin that can be washed and used again." So, here's the challenge:

This week, take a look at all the disposable items you use and find Eco-friendly alternatives. 

Or ...

If you've already gone from disposable to reusable, please share the changes you've made. read that right. Little ol' me suggest the challenge for this week. It's something that I didn't really think about until not too long ago. I've made some changes and I know I need to make more.  So here's a list of things that I've though of that I do.  Hopefully some of them will be new to you and hopefully you'll think of some I missed and leave a comment (or better yet..create your own blog post and link it to the official change and in my comments so I can visit and read your suggestions).

Without further we go:

1) I buy milk from Oberweis Dairy (which I've mentioned before), their milk comes in glass bottles which they would like you to return so they can reuse them.  No more dealing with plastic milk containers for me (well..except for my Husband's milk..but at least I can help out with the milk I drink).

2) Rags - I use rags to clean up spills in the kitchen, to clean with, etc.  I admit that I do still use paper towels but it's mostly to clean up when Myla has an accident in the house.  I try to use rags whenever possible.  Rags are usually cut up undershirts that Husband can no longer wear.  Keeps them from going into a landfill, keeps me from spending money on a rag/cleaning cloth.

3) Cottonballs - Instead of using cottonballs to remove eye-makeup, I made my own. I wanted a very soft fabric so I bought some. If you have a soft shirt or something similar that you can no longer wear, you could use that. I didn't have one.  I cut the fabric into squares. Some I sewed the edges, some I used a fabric glue to test, some I didn't do anything.  The sewing is nice but for me it's time consuming since I don't keep my sewing machine out.  The glue worked great but you'll have a hard edge, which doesn't bother me.  Not doing anything just means the ends fray.  I also doubled up the fabric so it was softer and more durable. I put a plastic container near my sink in the bathroom to put the dirty cloth pieces in. I put these in the wash (in a small laundry bag like you would use for stockings or bra's).  Once clean, I put them in my drawer in the bathroom and use them again.  I love not paying for cottonballs anymore and knowing that I'm not throwing away one or two cottonballs every night.  The fabric I bought either when it was on sale or with a coupon, I only got 1/4th a yard and it was only a couple dollars, roughly the cost of buying a bag of cottonballs.  I've been using these for several months now and love it.  I currently use cottonballs to remove fingernail polish (some I already had...I haven't bought more).  I plan to test using a fabric square to remove fingernail polish, not sure if it will wash off or not.  I'll have to keep you updated!  If I do go to fabric squares for fingernail polish..I plan to use a different color fabric so I don't use it for my face (even though the fingernail polish I use is free of harmful chemicals..I still wish to keep separate).  

4) Makeup brush cleaning - Up until a week ago, I used a kleenex to wipe my makeup brushes off after I used them each morning. I would re-use the kleenex several times, but was still using one.  Then I realized I could easily use something else.  I have no idea why I didn't think of this sooner.  Now I use a wash cloth. I just keep it with my makeup container so it only gets used for that purpose and I'll throw it into the laundry at the end of the week and get out a fresh one.

5) Cloth napkins - I admit that I'm currently not using cloth napkins but I plan to. I have fabric I plan to sew for this purpose, it's just a matter of getting off my lazy butt and doing it.

6) I rarely use paper plates and/or cups. I do have several packages because I got them when they were very very cheap and you just never know (although it's funny that I've never used any of them).  Since we have a pool we have my family over a couple times a summer for pool parties and I don't want to run into an issue with not having enough dishes.  As it is, I realized close to Christmas that I would run out of dishes for Christmas brunch with the family and when I was at the store I saw some plastic plates for kids.  They were pretty cheap, only $2 for 3 plates (they have dividers too!). I bought 2 sets (6 plates) because I knew I would have 6 nephews living in St. Louis by the end of this year.  They were perfect! My sisters weren't worried about the kids knocking my dishes on the floor and breaking them and I was happy not to use disposable plates.  

7) Food storage - I admit that we do use ziploc bags, but not many.  Most are used to freeze meat (and I'm open to suggestions for alternatives).  I then wash them out and re-use them. I bought some ziploc bags early summer last year when they were cheap and I have yet to even open those packages since we are still using the same ones.   Most food storage in the pantry is done with tupperware.  Husband and I store left overs in tupperware.  We also take our lunches to work every day and use tupperware.  I've had a box of sandwich bags in my pantry since before we moved into our current house, almost 4 years ago. 

8) We don't buy plastic water bottles.  Instead, I have 4 different bottles.  One is always at work for use at my desk.  One is actually specifically for running (it's attached to a strap for holding it in my hand).  The other two are used for everything else.  Here's a fun fact if you didn't know it already.  While you can't take liquids through the security checkpoint at an airport, you can take empty bottles.  When we travel I pack two empty water bottles, I leave the lids off and in an easy place to get so when I go through security there aren't any questions.  Once I pass security, I fill them up with water at a drinking fountain. Not only is it cheaper than buying bottled water at an airport, I'm not using disposable containers. 

9) Plastic Bags - I rarely use them.  I keep two reusable bags that fold up nice and small (and light!) in my purse. I use these everywhere we go.  If I'm not buying much, only a couple of items, half the time I'll carry them out of the store or put in my purse.   I always have re-usable bags for the grocery store.  I also use my produce bags from everything...from produce to bulk items like nuts and seeds (I bought some bags specifically because it's a small weave and can handle the bulk items).   I do use a plastic bag in the kitchen garbage can, but it's bio-degradable. I don't use plastic in the other trash cans, I just empty them out into the kitchen one each week.   I'm open to suggestions on what to use instead of a plastic bag in the kitchen. Right now not using a bag or a paper bag aren't an option (paper would get wet and rip....the outside trashcans we have are from the previous home owners and full of holes..not to mention the abundance of deer in the subdivision)

2/17/11 - update regarding plastic bags.  I mentioned I use my product bags for bulk bin items.  Well, I forgot to mention that I also don't use tags to mark the item.  The tags the stores provide for you to write down the bulk number aren't normally recyclable.  Instead, the bags I use have different colored tags on them.  So I take my grocery list/envelope and on the opposite side I write down the color..the item..and the bulk #.  Then I put these items last and when the cashier gets to them, I hand over my handwritten list.'s the little things like this that make me happy. 

10) (added on 02/17/11) One thing I forgot about, because I keep forgetting to do it, is bringing my own Tupperware when I go out to eat.   Most restaurants still use non-recyclable containers and it's rare for me to eat everything on my plate. So I'm always taking the food home and I cringe every time (we go out to eat usually once over a weekend).  For awhile I was really good about putting tupperware in my purse when we left the house and I would use that for anything I wanted to take home. I've been relaxed in that though, haven't remember in months.   In fact, what prompted me to remember is that a friend commented on my facebook post yesterday about this challenge and asked if I had ever done that.  Thanks to CTWW - I got somebody else thinking about it and a reminder that I needed to get better at it myself!  So...fingers crossed I remember to do this more frequently.

I'm sure a lot of you already practice some of the same things I do, but I really hope you do other things that I didn't list. I would love to know what I'm over-looking and what I could do differently.  

Oh..and as a continuation of last week. I posted all this on my facebook page too.   I was also tempted to buy some snacks from the vending machine at work, I'm craving chips, but reading the CTWW post on Reduce Footprints reminded me of the month-long challenge to not eat unhealthy snacks. So I won't be buying any. 


  1. Oooh, I like your list. I'm especially interested in the cloth squares instead of cotton balls. Can I ask ... what kind of cloth did you use (cotton?) and do you feel that it would work well for skin toner? I use witch hazel as skin toner but it's like water. Anyway, I really like that idea.

    Sometimes I think living green is about balance ... I, like you, bought a box of plastic freezer bags about 5 years ago and I wash them and reuse them. Sometimes, in a freezer, nothing works better. My opinion is that it's not always about completely eliminating something but maximizing the use and trying to keep it out of landfills.

    Thanks for sharing your ideas! :-)

  2. Hi (again) - I just came across a post which I wanted to share with you. The author makes her own baby wipe spray and uses flannel wipes. Her spray seems like it would be something good for adults as a skin toner/moisturizer. Here's the link:

    Take Care!

  3. Small Footprints - thanks for stopping by so early! I have read about making baby wipes and spray and it's something I plan to try when I have a kid. I never thought about using it on me though, that's a really good idea though. I'll have to give it a try once I finish my current bottle of face lotion.

    I didn't use flannel..but that's a good choice! It would be very soft. In fact, I did buy some flannel for the purpose of using it instead of cotton balls, but haven't yet. I can't remember what cloth I used. I think terry cloth. It's soft..that's all I know. lol! I think I walked around feeling fabric for soft ones. I didn't use flannel at first because I was afraid the fibers would come loose, but then came across some discounted pretty well and couldn't resist buying. Figure I would find a use for it.

    I use the squares for skin toner and it works well. I sometimes feel like I use more than needed because it gets soaked in, but it's not enough that I've really noticed it (IE..finishing the bottle faster than normal).

    Thanks for making me feel better about using ziploc bags. lol! Sometimes I start to feel guilty about using stuff like that, but it's so convenient and I know I re-use it several times before throwing it away. I think you are right, sometimes it's just about balance.

  4. Love your blog...cute puppy pic at the top :)
    I still use the plastic bags and just wash them too. I actually saw that idea on Oprah, which was kind of surprising to me. I'm not used to getting great sustainable living tips watching that show. lol. Anyway, you have a great blog and I look forward to reading your future posts.

  5. Great challenge! It's easy to get complacent once you've replaced a certain number of things, and this challenge has got me thinking about toilet paper, cotton swabs, and the few other disposables I still use. I have some cotton flannel scraps lying around, which I could easily use for removing makeup or putting on toner. Let me see if my sewing machine still works!

    I still use freezer bags for some things, but I haven't bought any new for a long time. I also freeze things in reused yogurt or margarine tubs when I can.

  6. What a fantastic list! I'm posting mine up on Monday and I too love the little squares of fabric for removing make up. I made home made baby wipes for Little miss Green and your idea is much the same; I'd just not thought to translate it into 'grown up'. Thanks for the inspiration and great post!

    Mrs Green

  7. Mountain Mama - Thanks so much! I love taking pictures of our dog, Myla, she has such a cute face. It sounds like a lot of us are still using plastic bags, but at least most of us re-use them.

    noteasytobegreen - I hope you like using the flannel scraps in place of cotton balls. Fingers crossed. I've saved yogurt and other containers too...but so far haven't used any to freeze food in, we use other plastic containers though. I mostly keep some handy for when people want to take leftovers home...because I don't want them back. lol

    Rae - Thanks! I can't wait to see your list. I plan to make my own baby wipes too! Glad to hear from somebody that the really do work. I'm worried that I'll slack and end up buying because it will be easier as a working Mom. But then..I think that if I can "make" a lot of the wipes before the baby comes, I'll keep up with it.

  8. I wanted to make a comment about #10 on your list. Taking your own container is a great idea and, of course, preferable to all other options!! For those times that one forgets, however, ask the server if they can give you something that isn't Styrofoam. We have found that they almost always accommodate us and typically they give us something which is Eco-friendly (go figure ... why not use the "green" version at all times). Sometimes their alternative is a plastic container with a lid but ... it's reusable and, in my opinion, better than Styrofoam which never biodegrades.

  9. Small Footprints - that's a wonderful idea! I never even thought about that. I'm going to pass it on to my friend and also plan on asking next time I'm out, and without my own container.

  10. I totally love your bring-your-own-takeout-container idea! We already keep a few cloth shopping bags on the hook by the door; I'll just toss a couple of containers in too (probably the hummis containers from Costco).

    We also have stainless steel travel mugs (50 cents at a thrift store) which we use for takeout coffee everywhere.

    One good thing about around here is that nonbiodegradable takeout containers are rare (might be illegal in King Cty ... I forget...) however reuse is always better!

  11. I hope you remember to bring your own containers more than I do! I'm's just taking awhile to get in the habit. How lucky that most containers are biodegradable! I wish that was the case here in St. Louis. Unfortunately, 9 times out of 10 it's Styrofoam.

  12. For the kitchen trash. I use a trash can liner and then a paper bag. I take the bag to the outdoor trash can and leave the liner inside. It lasts at least a month, before I have to change it. The people who collect used items for the different charities leave a bag for their collection and it fits as a kitchen trash liner. If you can't put paper bags outside, could you use a leaf bag the same way? Semi permanent, and put paper trash bags inside or the leaf bag, changing it only once in a while?