I’m not big on New Year resolutions, but one of my intentions for 2019 is to continue making small changes in my daily life to walk more gently on the earth, and especially to reduce my use of single-use plastic.
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Reusable grocery bags
After literally years of leaving my reusable shopping bags either at home or in my car, I am finally remembering to bring them into stores with me almost all the time. I use the kind grocery stores usually sell for a dollar or sometimes give away, and I find they work well for me. Not only are they green, but they’re stronger than plastic grocery bags, so I don’t have to worry about a bag being sliced open by the sharp edge of some cellophane packaging or splitting from too much weight. They also sit in my trunk without flopping all over and spilling their contents. If you’d prefer another type, though, there are many bags available for purchase, such as foldable bags in cute designs, or bags that are actually collapsible boxes.
Along with plastic grocery bags, I’ve ditched plastic ziplock bags for the most part. I still use them for frozen foods, but when packing lunches or snacks I use either Sistema boxes (yes, they’re plastic, but they last for years. Much better than plastic bags or disposable plastic containers) or Lunchskins paper sandwich bags. These bags seal with a peel-and-stick strip and are perfect for sandwiches and dry snacks. I’ve noticed that Reynolds has started making paper sandwich bags, too, but I’m a sucker for the cute pictures on the Lunchskins ones.
I also use reusable water bottles. After trying a bunch of different brands over the years, I found that I really love Sip by S’well stainless steel bottles. They don’t have straws or any other fiddly parts that get lost or are hard to clean. Just a bottle and a cap. They come in cute prints, they last for years, and they are double-walled, so they keep your cold drinks cold and hot drinks hot. They can be a bit pricey, but I usually buy them on sale. I’ve also gotten some knock-offs from Aldi, so keep your eyes peeled at back-to-school season!
Making Laundry Cleaner and Greener
I’m planning to ditch plastic jugs of laundry detergent in 2019. Homemade laundry soap is really easy to make, and the recipe is even easy to remember. It’s just one bar of soap, one cup of borax, and one cup of washing soda. You can probably find borax and washing soda in the laundry aisle of your local supermarket, Walmart, or Target. Or you can order it from Amazon. Grate the soap with a box grater, and then stir the grated soap, the borax, and the washing soda together. If you want, you can add a few drops of essential oil for fragrance. Store the mixture in an airtight container, and use 2-4 TBS (1/8 – 1/4 cup) per load. I’ve never had a problem with it dissolving in cold water, but if you do, you can just dissolve it in a cup or two of hot water and toss that mixture into the washing machine before filling it up with cold. (Or pour it into the liquid detergent dispenser if your machine has one of those). It’s safe for HE machines, too.
I’ve started using bar soap in the shower to avoid using plastic bottles of shower gel. This also solves the problem of having an inch of soap left in the bottom of the bottle that you can’t get to with the pump. Don’t you hate that? I suspect that manufacturers purposely make the pump tubes too short so we’ll buy a new bottle sooner.
Did you know that shampoo and conditioner also come in bars? I just bought a handmade conditioner bar on Etsy, and there are also a ton on Amazon. Once I finish my current bottle of shampoo, I’ll replace that with a bar, too.
You know what else is plastic and in my bathroom? My toothbrush. I just ordered a pack of bamboo toothbrushes, and I’m going to try to convince my whole family to switch.
I’m not perfect, and I know there’s plenty more I can do to help the environment. But using less plastic, especially single-use disposable plastic, is one step, and it’s not hard to do. If you have other suggestions for using less disposable plastic around the house, please let me know in the comments!