30 Days Towards Sustainability
Day 5: Abandon Disposables!
I guess this is the "bad pun" day. Disposables, of
course, are designed to be abandoned, and that
indeed is the problem. We are a throw-away society
and that is a measure of our poor stewardship of
Replace paper products with durables.
No paper towel can clean as well as a cloth towel.
In my kitchen I have a big wicker basket of cloth
towels and napkins. I also have a second basket
for the towels and napkins for when they have been
used. When I am cooking, I make sure I have
several cloth towels handy. I often tuck one into
my belt so I can wipe or dry my hands on it as
necessary. If I am simply mopping up a bit of
water, I hang the towel over the side of the
wicker basket so it can dry and be used again
without washing first. If the cloth rag is wet,
and needs a washing before it can be used again, I
also hang it on the side of the basket to dry, so
I don't end up with a smelly basket of moldy
cloths. Flea markets and garage sales are great
places to find towels and cloth napkins. Here's a
link to a site with info about making your own
Make your own cloth napkins!
Remember: six MILLION trees are murdered every
year to make tissues for people to blow their
noses with. Carry a cloth handkerchief instead! If
you have the sniffles, carry two or three
So many parents have told me that cloth diapers
are superior to disposable diapers that even
though I myself have no children, I do not
hesitate to recommend them. First of all,
manufacturing disposable diapers is not an
environmentally friendly process, and second of
all, neither is the popular method of disposal
(wrapping in black plastic and burying them in the
ground). And third, children wearing cloth diapers
usually are toilet trained several months in
advance of the disposable wearing kids. Every
parent I've ever known has welcomed the day a
child is toilet trained with more enthusiasm than
the Parisians welcoming the Allied troops during
World War II. Here are some links where you can
find everything that you need to know about cloth
Plates, Cups, Utensils
If your church has a dinner and habitually uses
paper plates and cups, bring your own plate, cup,
utensils, and then take them home afterwards and
wash them. Instead of using foam cups for coffee
at work, bring your own coffee cup from home. Note
that a quiet example is often more productive than
a stern lecture. Us United Statesians throw away
25 BILLION polystyrene cups every year!
Re-use Gift Wrappings
Growing up in southwest Oklahoma in the 1950s and
1960s, our family routinely recycled bows,
ribbons, and a lot of wrapping paper from year to
year. When asked about that, my mother would say,
"We only used those bows once, it would be foolish
to throw them away." Actually, some of those bows
had been used in our family for several years. But
if you pack them away carefully, they are just
fine the following year.
Re-fill Water Bottles.
If you buy water in plastic bottles, refill the
bottles. Not only do you recycle a useful product,
you save money. You can refill the bottles with
filtered water. A second alternative is to NOT buy
water in plastic disposable bottles and instead
carry water in permanent containers. These can be
filled with tap water or with filtered water. Note
that even the most expensive bottled waters are
usually just tap water that has been filtered.
Ditch the Store-bought Sponges.
Store-bought sponges quickly become breeding
grounds for bacteria. If you use a used sponge to
(e.g.) Clean a counter-top, generally you are just
smearing around even more bacteria to new breeding
grounds. Using a dish rag or permanent scrub brush
is a much healthier option - healthy for you and
your family, and healthy for the environment.
Avoid Plastic Bags.
Buy several cloth totes and take them with you
when you go shopping.
Even glass is considered disposable these days.
Many people actually throw away glass jars after
consuming the food that was inside. I did that one
time. I was about 12 years old. I threw a pickle
jar into the trash at my grandparent's house. My
grandfather Glen Waldrop pulled it out of the
trash, looked at me and said, "Bobby Max, you
already paid for that glass jar, why would you
want to throw it away?" Indeed.
Sure, glass can be recycled, and if you won't use
the jar again, then it should go to the recycling
bin. But a better idea is to re-use the glass jar.
A lot of my drinking glasses were once food jars.
I use glass jars to store dehydrated foods,
smaller amounts of items I buy in bulk (like
certified organic whole wheat flour), and cold
water in the refrigerator.
I am sure there are many other ideas out there
about replacements for disposable items in our