We’re all trying to do a little bit better for the environment these days, as we should be. It’s one of the reasons I have always advocated the use of cloth diapers so much. But diapers are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to reducing waste with reusable products. These days you can replace just about any disposable product with an eco-friendly reusable alternative. Here are just a few ways you can do your part in protecting our planet.
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When you have kids, there is no getting around the fact that you have extra laundry. That can mean going through bottles of detergent faster. Most detergent comes in horrible plastic containers that can only sometimes be recycled. You could make your own detergent, but if you aren’t comfortable with the at-home science project, don’t want to worry about whether your clothes are actually getting clean, or you just don’t have the time, then you may want to check out another alternative.
Eco Nuts uses an all-natural berry that gently cleans clothes, and they are certified organic. They can be used 10 times before they don’t have any cleaning power left and they have a shelf life of 2 years, not that we expect them to last that long. To get the most out of your Eco Nuts, be sure to store them somewhere dry! They are all natural, and I had a box mold once because it got wet, and I hadn’t noticed. Just think of all the plastic you’re saving by using these! For a natural boost, you can add a bit of vinegar to the wash occasionally.
If you use fabric softener, you may be interested in using some wool dryer balls instead. We never really used fabric softener because I’m allergic, but if you enjoy the scent, some people use essential oils on their dryer balls to get that benefit.
Prepared moms should always have a straw on hand to give their kids. But straws are some of the most harmful plastic waste found in the ocean. There are a few alternatives available to the disposable straw, including going without. The zoo we frequent doesn’t even offer disposable straws with beverages because of how harmful they are to wildlife. But straws make life so much easier when you’re out and about.
The most popular alternative is a stainless steel straw. But because you can’t see through them it can be difficult to know for sure that they’re clean. Another nice alternative is acrylic straws. These are dishwasher safe, BPA free, and best of all you can see through them. Unfortunately, they are still plastic so they can break somewhat easily and they have a shorter shelf life than the stainless steel. Additionally, silicone straws come in fun colors, which could make them a fun alternative for kids.
Whichever type you go for make sure to get a straw brush as well so you can scrub inside.
You’re supposed to change your toothbrush every 3 months. That adds up to a whole lot of wasted plastic when you’ve got a family. But it doesn’t have to! You can extend the life of your toothbrush right off the bat by sanitizing it with hydrogen peroxide.
However, buying electric toothbrushes is another alternative. The plastic they’re made of is durable and they can last you for a few years. In the end, though, you’ll have waste from batteries and eventually the toothbrushes themselves, too. Instead, you can get bamboo toothbrushes. The handles are biodegradable, but in most cases the bristles aren’t. The only toothbrush that is 100% biodegradable uses pig hair from China for the bristles, and thus you can’t be sure they’re ethically farmed.
With no perfect option, you have to decide which you’re most comfortable with.
Do you remember taking a brown paper bag to school every day for your lunch? What a waste of trees! And what was inside? Plastic bags filled with food, or other disposable containers.
Thankfully this generation of kids has so many better options than we did. Go for a cloth bag to hold your kid’s lunch instead of the old brown sack. A nice insulated lunch tote doesn’t have to break the bank these days, either!
Keep the food inside contained with reusable sandwich and snack bags. You’re looking at saving anywhere between 1,000 and 5,000 bags from ending up in landfills every year for a family of four. The ones from Chico Bags are made from recycled materials and come in a bunch of different colors to make them fun for kids. We have a couple reusable snack pouches from Planet Wise in cute patterns, as well as clear ones, but if you have a kid who loves licensed things, Bumkins has patterns from superheroes to Disney.
So you’re ready to make the move to reusable lunch bags and sandwich/snack bags, but maybe you’re wondering about the squishy foods. What do you do with the applesauce and yogurt? How about baby food on the go? There’s a solution for that too – reusable food pouches.
Squooshi comes to mind first. They’re made by an eco-friendly family who were looking for a solution to this very problem. On the bottom is a heavy duty zipper for easy filling and the top is an easy to use squeeze powered cap. Kids can eat straight from the pouches, saving on mess and dishes. Unfortunately, they are made from plastic, but they are BPA-free, PVC-free, Lead-free, Phthalate-free, and puncture resistant, so they will last a lot longer than those individually packaged applesauce containers.
You may already know this but we’re huge fans of cloth diapers in our family. They’re great for the economy and the wallet. As a bonus, soft fabric is against sensitive baby skin, and modern cloth diapers are both leak-resistant and breathable, while being super cute, too! But what about those wipes?
For one baby you might go through as many as 6,000 wipes every year! These end up taking up a lot of space in landfills when they don’t have to. Reusable baby wipes are a fantastic alternative. You can buy them at a number of different places online or you can make your own. Our favorites are from Grovia, though we’ve used cut up old shirts, and even cheap baby washcloths.
You can also find numerous recipes for 100% natural and organic wipe solutions to put on them, or buy a premade one. We forego the wipe solution these days, but did use one back in the newborn days. They may be a little bit more effort than the disposable variety, but you will feel so good using them alongside your cloth diapers you’ll wonder why you didn’t start sooner.
Ok, hear me out here. Who says reusable wipes can only be for babies? You can use your baby wipes yourself or you can use reusable cloth toilet “paper” (aka Family Cloth). There are a few people selling toilet paper alternatives on Etsy. They can roll up just like a roll of toilet paper, and once again they can come with wild patterns on them to make them fun for kids. You will have to keep a container or wet bag near the toilet for used ones to go in, and make sure you’re cleaning them regularly. These might be a bit of a tough sell for your family, but you don’t have to use them exclusively. Even if you use them intermittently with the disposable toilet paper, you’ll feel better for it.
We’ve really only just touched on the vast world of reusable products. These were a few that really stood out as parents who are trying to live a sustainable life. Reducing waste with reusable products doesn’t have to be a chore. With a little bit of research, you can find great alternatives to the products you use every day that will save the environment for generations to come.