One of the things I am currently working on is reducing the amount of waste my family creates. I have decided it is completely irresponsible as a citizen of this earth to send my family's waste to a landfill, to become someone else's problem (namely, our children and our grand-children).
One of the many wonderful benefits of being kinder to the Earth, is that it often saves us money as well!
As our lives become busier and busier, companies monopolize on that, and sell us products that make our lives easier and more convenient. More often than not, those items are disposable. Ironically, by spending money on these things, you actually have to work MORE in order to pay for them, which means we have LESS time, and thus creates more of a dependency on disposable, convenient products!! Clearly, the convenience factor is a fallacy, designed to make us poorer and big companies richer, as I am beginning to see more and more as I move through this process.
I first started this exercise in order to find ways to trim our budget. As a single-income family, we needed to live within our means, so I was trying to think of various ways to cut back. I started making a list of all of the things we bought, and then subsequently threw away. The list looked something like this:
I then sat down and calculated how much we were spending on this stuff. I can't remember the exact figure, but it was somewhere in the neighbourhood of $250.00/month. That works out to $3000.00 per year!! To think of what better things we had to spend that money on!! Not to mention I was ashamed of throwing these things "away". (Remembering that when we throw things "away", they really don't go "away", they go to a place).
I began to realize that although I believed these things were "necessities", it was actually the big companies that were making me feel that way. Commercials for Pampers and Huggies abound - any GOOD mother would keep her baby dry and happy in a disposable! Bounty, the quicker picker-upper! Cottony-soft toilet paper! Have a happy period with Always! Be a goddess when you use Venus razors! Swiffer gives cleaning a whole new meaning! Who are we kidding? By making our lives "easier", we were making these companies richer.
DIAPERS AND WIPES: One of the first changes I made was switching to cloth diapers and wipes. I could hardly wait to dispose of the disposables! I can't begin to tell you how good it felt to lovingly put a cloth diaper on my baby's bum for the first time. To lovingly wash those diapers, rather than throw them away with disgust. Oddly, it made me feel closer to my baby, and a little tiny bit closer to our planet. Once I did that, there was no turning back - I knew I was on the right path!
PADS AND TAMPONS: Now that I was using cloth diapers, it seemed kind of strange to continue using disposable pads and tampons for myself. After all, they were made by the same companies that make the diapers, and contain the same toxins, and are also filling up our landfills. I decided to purchase a Diva Cup. I also started reading up on cloth pads - and much to my surprise, thousands of women were already using them! What the heck did I think people did before disposable ones were invented?? So I searched around on the internet, and found numerous free patterns for sewing cloth pads. I decided to go ahead and try to make one - and not surprisingly, I loved it!
I made it out of flannel, and it was so much softer and nicer than plastic and paper. Go figure. I plan on making several more of these. What's better is that they're actually free when you make them out of old clothes and towels you have around the house. It's the ultimate in recycling!
SWIFFER CLOTHS AND PAPER TOWELS: For cleaning, I stopped purchasing swiffer cloths, and only use paper towels in the most extreme cases - like for cleaning up cat messes! Although I suppose I could use newspaper or something instead... hmmm... looks like another change is coming! For everything else I use rags and microfibre cloths. In any case, we buy the President's Choice Green paper towels (made of post-consumer recycled paper), and then compost it when we've used it, so it is not ending up in a landfill. However, it is still consumption, and still supports a disposable mind-set. I'll have to re-examine this one!
KLEENEX: This one is tricky, and something we are still using. I have allergies, and probably blow my nose a hundred times a day. I know that I am giving the facial tissue companies a lot of our hard-earned money. My husband says no way is he using a hankie. I'm thinking that since I am the one who goes through most of the kleenex, it would probably make a huge difference if I started using hankies myself. Change begins with ourselves, so by setting an example, maybe others will think it's not so "weird".
TOILET PAPER: Yes, we still use it. However, I am not entirely opposed to not using it. After all, I'm using nice, soft cloth wipes on my baby's bum. Why give myself any less respect? Even if the rest of my family refuses, I suppose there is no reason I can't do it. I'm not quite there yet, but perhaps in the near future... Again, we use President's Choice Green toilet paper... but could we do without it?
RAZORS: I stopped using disposable razors, which I have used every day of my life for 20 years. To think of all the razors I sent to a landfill. Oh well, I can't undo the past, but I can change the future. I switched to a permanent razor, where I only change the blade, and I only change it about once every 2 weeks. Better still, I find myself wondering if I need one at all. Is there a better alternative? Waxing? Nothing at all?
Q-TIPS: Really, come on. Why do we use these? To dig wax out of our ears that's actually supposed to be there? Can we wash them with a wash cloth like we do any other body part? Do you suppose the fact that they exist makes us think they are a necessity? We used our last Q-tip this week, and it will not be going on the list.
NAPKINS: We didn't use them much anyway, but one in awhile I would get them out. We got some perfectly lovely cloth napkins as wedding gifts that were sitting, unused, in a drawer. I decided to get them out and use them! It makes me feel special to sit down at dinner with my cloth napkin every night. :)
BATTERIES: Anyone with children ought to own shares in Duracell. Sometimes I wonder if the battery companies are sponsoring the toy companies who make battery-operated toys! I have put my foot down, and will only use rechargeable batteries. But wait. Again, is there a better alternative? How about avoiding battery-operated things to begin with? Is this a necessity or another get-a-company-rich scheme?
I can see that I've come a long way, but I know there is still more I could do in this area! Our goal is to have no garbage going to a landfill. We are currently down to one small, kitchen-sized garbage bag every two weeks. Babysteps!