Anybody else tired of being at home yet? *Raises both hands and feet.* At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, stores were constantly running out of paper and cleaning products, and I was so thankful that my family had already been taking steps to eliminate these items from our home. Honestly, I’m horrible at grocery lists and would always forget to add these things when they needed to be restocked. Then, I was always appalled at how expensive things like paper towels and menstrual products were. So I decided to find products that were more sustainable for my family that I didn’t have to constantly restock or work into my weekly budget. The (mostly unintended) bonus is that these products are much better for the Earth and healthier for my family!
1. Paper Towels
We quickly replaced paper towels in our home because this was the top thing I always forgot to restock at the grocery store! We started by repurposing burp cloths as napkins. This worked great because my kids had moved on from spit up to spills and these were much more effective as spill cleaners. We kept a basket of clean ones on the table to be used at meals. When they started looking dingy and stained, we invested in some dark colored kitchen rags to use as napkins. The burp cloths have graduated to cleaning rags and we’re still using them now, 3 years after they had outgrown the original use as burp cloths.
2. Toilet Paper
Hear me out. I don’t really use toilet paper anymore. I have been evangelical about our bidet even pre-coronavirus, but when toilet paper was scarce, I became even more passionate about my love for this booty-cleaning device! Our bidet is so effective, that you are totally clean after using it, and just need to use a little toilet paper or cloth wipes (my favorite) to dry off. As an added perk, it’s perfect for keeping so fresh (and so clean clean) during your period. We bought the Tushy bidet because their ads are hilarious, it’s really simple, and the price is fair, but I’m sure any bidet of that type would be great!
Easy, peasy! We have a few different types that we keep at home and use for smoothies, shakes, evening adult beverages, and everything in between. I even have buildable silicone ones that I keep in my purse for when we’re out and about. This is probably one of the easiest ways to start reducing plastics waste. The key is to stock different sizes so you aren’t stuck with a giant straw in a tiny cup, or vice versa. You’ll also need a skinny straw cleaning brush.
4. Paper Plates
You probably have regular plates at your house, right? We do too. We just made the choice to use the plates we actually have, even though that means they aren’t disposable. We use the dishwasher for all of our plates, bowls, cups, and utensils and probably run it 1-2 times per week. I hand wash all of our cookware and the kids’ plastic plates. It works for us! Paper plates were also one of the grocery store items I always forgot to restock, so we went through trying this out in phases before deciding we didn’t need them anymore.
5. Plastic Bags and Storage Containers
One of the biggest ways we’ve reduced our plastics waste is by switching to reusable food storage. No more Ziplocs in our house! We like Lunchskins paper snack bags for situations where disposable is better (like if you’re out and don’t want to carry around empty containers. If you prefer something reusable, The Replay snack stack containers are affordable and really great quality! I also switched all of our plastic food storage containers to glass so they will last longer, and we can put them in the dishwasher.
If you live inside the city limits, you likely have recycling containers at your house! My suggestion is to look at your waste management system’s website and get educated on what can and cannot go in there. You would be surprised what is accepted for recycling. We have been utilizing grocery pickup, and it bothers me how many plastic bags we have collected from that. I learned that we can recycle them as long as they’re all stuffed into another bag and tied at the top. Game changer! Also, HEB has containers at their store where you can recycle grocery bags. Another thing I learned was that greasy pizza boxes can go in our organics bin. I never would have guessed that!
7. Cleaning Products
Switching to a cleaning concentrate, instead of individual bottles of cleaner for each task, has been one of the easiest changes we’ve made! I use the same concentrate for laundry detergent, dish soap, foaming hand soap, glass cleaner, all-purpose spray, bathroom spray, and mop solution! It is non-toxic and unscented, both of which are really important to me. I use Branch Basics, but I know there are lots of products out there that tick all these same boxes. This has helped eliminate all the plastic waste from throwing away bottles of old cleaners. You just add the correct amount of solution, top with water, and get to cleaning!
8. Cotton Rounds
One thing quarantine-life brought to me was a skincare routine. I was so stressed and getting breakouts like I was a teenager again! One of the steps in my routine is to use toner after washing my face at night. They recommended using cotton rounds, but I found soft, washable face pads on Amazon. This is an easy switch if you’re used to using cotton rounds!
9. Menstrual Products
Alright, stick with me here! Let’s normalize periods, okay? If you choose to contain your flow, you have options! I was a tampon user forever. But tampons are expensive and annoying, especially when you run out right when you need them the most! Plus, the plastic applicators make so much waste. Enter: the menstrual cup. I started with the most widely available one on the market at the time, the Diva Cup. I have since switched to a slightly different shape/size that works better for my body, but I have never looked back! I recommend starting with the Put A Cup In It Quiz. Then do some research on the cups they recommend for you. You’ll have to be comfortable getting a little familiar with your anatomy to answer the questions thoroughly. I also recommend investing in either a few washable pads, or a couple pairs of period underwear. Wearing these at the beginning of my period helps me be extra confident that I won’t leak onto my clothes if I don’t empty my cup in time. Some folks can go up to 12 hours without emptying their cup, and some need to empty more frequently. It all depends on your flow and anatomy. I will admit, this switch is daunting and has a learning curve, for sure, but what better time than the present to try new things?
10. Soap, Shampoo, Conditioner, and Body Wash
One of the most recent places I’ve been trying to eliminate waste is in my shower. In there, I keep bottles of shampoo, conditioner, face wash, face exfoliating scrub, and body wash. That’s a lot of bottles, and doesn’t even include my husband’s. Our first switch was from body wash to bar soap, and that has been going well! When I run out of shampoo and conditioner, I am planning to restock with bars for those too. I’m not sure how to eliminate the face bottles, but I can definitely rinse those out and recycle them if I can’t find an alternative.
Remember that switching to more sustainable, reduced-waste products does not mean that you have to be all or nothing. These are all switches that I have made gradually, over a long period of time. I also try to upcycle things I already have at home before I buy something new. For a while, my refrigerator reminded me of my East Texas grandmother’s with leftovers all in repurposed butter or yogurt containers so I had no idea what was what! Start with one thing, and go from there. Small changes add up to a big impact!