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End the Throwaway Culture: Easy Eco Swaps

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Garbage Dump

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Cut down on waste—and save money—by switching to reusable products.

Lose five pounds today! Sounds great, except… that’s the amount of trash you’re taking out. Today. Yesterday. And will do tomorrow. Well, 4.40 pounds, to be exact. According to the EPA, Americans generate 254 million tons of trash a year, a little less than five pounds per person, per day, and that figure did not include industrial trash, which is also piling up. If these numbers are as alarming to you as they are to me, you might be inspired to think about ways to cut down on what you’re putting into the waste stream. For this week’s Healthy Habit, I went in search of everyday products that are reusable. Instead of “one and done,” these products are built to stay out of the rubbish bin.

Eating Out

For casual meals, bring a utensil kit instead of using plastic utensils. Keep Wild Co. has a cute kit that features stainless steel utensils, a reusable steel straw with cleaner, organic cloth napkin and dishwasher-safe chopsticks, all packed into a small tote made from recycled surf-contest banners.

Plastic straws have been called a “gateway plastic” that can help us modify our waste habits. So start by bringing a stainless steel straw like Ever Eco’s, available at Anthropologie, with you to restaurants. It comes with a tiny brush for cleaning.

Pack sandwiches in a waxed eco wrap, rather than plastic. Bee Akamai has the cutest prints and photo images on its wraps. For example, it gives a nod to the groovy 1970s with a mushroom print; has an homage to Hawaii with a shave ice and rainbow print; and kids will flip for the unicorn design.

Home Kitchen

Avoiding paper is an easy win to not only help the planet, but to save money in the long run. Organic cloth napkins can be found from many vendors, such as A Greener Kitchen. UnPaper towels from The Ecotopia fit on a standard paper towel dispenser and come in custom fabric to match your kitchen décor. They snap off one at a time and are machine washed, ready to go for the next spill.  

Instead of tossing K-Cups out by the boatload, pack your own little eco cups for K-Cup compatible coffee brewers with a dishwasher safe single serve coffee filter. Bed Bath and Beyond offers them. Also, using loose tea in a diffuser saves on tea bags (and the little paper tags), while using a French press for coffee is a way to avoid paper coffee filters.

Instead of constantly replacing stinky or torn-up sponges, try a longer-lasting product, such as a silicone dish scrubber. Beeswax food storage wrap keeps food in the fridge fresh and is completely reusable.   

Grocery Shopping

By now you’re probably already bringing your bags to the grocery store. Up your game with reusable bread bags and produce bags.

Personal Care

Fluffy cotton is soft, true, but it’s also disposable. Remove makeup without resorting to cotton pads by using flannel facial rounds.

Getting more personal, the brand Glad Rags has a variety of products we might not have thought of as reusable before, including feminine pads, and menstrual cups. And hey, some companies and Etsy-sellers offer reusable toilet paper, too. It exists. Duly noted. But that is where I’m drawing the line.

How do you plan to reduce the amount of household waste you produce in coming months? Tell us in the comments section below.


Kathryn Drury Wagner

Kathryn Drury Wagner is a writer and editor based in Savannah. She is the author of Hawaii’s Strangest, Ickiest, Wildest Book Ever!.


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