I’ve missed the last two weeks of challenges from Reduce Footprints. I couldn’t miss another and this week’s challenge is a good one as it ties in to the yearly challenge of Plastic-free July.
If you missed the last two weeks of challenges you can still join in. It’s never too late to tackle greening an area of your life. Gray water Is the one I need to work on the most. I am good about reusing water left by guests in glasses half drunk but collecting the water from dishes or showers is a bit harder. The other challenge, discovering nature, isn’t hard at all, there is so much to enjoy in nature.
This week we tackle single use or disposable items:
If you’ve already eliminated ALL single-use and disposable items, please reduce other waste. For example, plan meals this week so that no food is wasted. Before tossing an item out, try reusing it or offer it on Freecycle. The goal is to achieve zero waste this week.
We live in a disposable society.
It’s easier to throw things out than to fix them.
We even give it a name – we call it recycling.
– Neil LaBute
Do I use single use plastic or any other single use items? The answer is no, unless you count toilet paper. Are we really so busy we can’t wash a few dishes for the planet? Many people think disposable is convenient, but when you factor in the time you spend purchasing these items you could have washed the dishes.
Dishes, Pans and serving utensils
Are you planning a large get-together and need more dishes than you have for your family?
- Consider borrowing what you will need from friends and family
- Ask guest to bring their own place settings
- Search Freecycle for dishes and serving utensils and keep them boxed up for those special occasions when they will be needed
- Flea markets tend to have lots of dishes available. I found a woman who sold individual place settings for a dollar each and purchased four for holidays.
The typical disposable plastic fork or spoon is made from petroleum and estimates are that it can take somewhere between 10 and 100 years to decompose. And of course when it is decomposing it’s releasing toxic substances into the soil and groundwater. (source)
Paper towels and napkins
Disposable napkins are flimsy in addition to being wasteful. Any one who has, or had, small children knows it takes quite a few paper napkins to clean up a spill. Cloth napkins are so easy to come by or make. I have made napkins from the following;
- old sheets and worn pillow cases
- t-shirts (along with jersey sheets this fabric won’t fray so it’s perfect for those who don’t sew)
- Dresses and men’s dress shirts
- a child’s favorite piece of clothing they have outgrown
- If you want really simple, head to the bathroom for wash cloths. When done simply wash and replace
I recently made over 100 napkins for $.50 to give to my adult children (two of the fabrics are pictured above). The young children love cloth napkins as they feel special and enjoy picking out which napkin design they want to use for that meal. My son and his wife held a large gathering and set out the varied fabrics I had made into napkins for them. Guests commented on how nice it was not to have paper.
Plastic or vinyl table cloths
Sure it’s nice to have a table cloth on the picnic table that sits outdoors in all kinds of weather but there are alternatives to disposable tablecloths. Here are some Ideas I have used:
- A pretty quilt
- A throw blanket
- Curtain panels (I usually have a set for winter and one for summer so one is clean and ready to use)
- Pillow cases as a placemat instead of a table cloth
- Towels. These are thick enough to catch most spills before they end up in your lap a Beach towel is perfect because of it’s larger size.
Your traditional plastic tablecloth might be toxic to guests (source)
What about glassware
I don’t know about you, but I hate drinking out of plastic and those paper or Styrofoam cups are even worse. Before your next get-together search your home for items you can repurpose as drinking cups, better yet start collecting a few containers now to be prepared. The following work exceptionally well and will be greatly appreciated, (plus if you have an assortment guests will know which glass is theirs and you won’t have a bunch of plastic cups sitting around half full because your guests forgot which was theirs and got another one)
- Mason jars
- Glass containers from Peanut butter, salsa etc
- I have a snapple bottle a guest brought and was going to throw in the trash along with a Starbucks cappuccino bottle. These are grabbed first by guests because they have lids which keep the bugs out.
- If you still purchase single use containers of yogurt instead of tossing these they can be used for young children who don’t need a large cup and won’t break.
- If you are really talented, collect beer and or wine bottles and cut them to make decorative cups. You can search online for the directions on how to cut glass.
- When all else fails, who says what you drink out of needs to be a glass? Drag out your coffee cups.
At a time when money is tighter than ever and the amount of trash we produce as a society it’s time to rethink disposables.
Are you willing to give up disposables? Will you be joining myself and numerous others for Plastic-Free july?