Photo by Kate Ter Haar
A few weeks ago in my Garbage Inventory, I realized how little paper waste our family creates. I have been working to eliminate paper products from our home in many different areas and replace them with reusable items.
I think for those just getting started with going green, this is one of the easiest steps you could take, once you make one small change to not use paper, you will start thinking about how you can make changes in other areas too.
So, here are some of the ways I have eliminated paper waste in our household.
In the Kitchen:
- Hand towels and kitchen washcloths – somewhat obvious, and something that most people use in some form anyway. Use them to dry your hands, or dishes after washing, wipe down counters and the table, light cleaning, etc. Just the normal stuff that you might otherwise have used a paper towel for.
- Washcloths – instead of using paper towels to wipe off Kaelyn after she eats, or clean or wipe down her high chair I now use baby washcloths. I bought 2 packs of 12, so I have 24 washcloths and either use one throughout the day, or grab a new one whenever it gets too gross to keep on using.
- Bar Mop Cloths– I use towels like these that I got from Meijer for most cleaning type of jobs in the kitchen that I would have used a paper towel for. They are for messy cleaning, like wiping a spill up off the floor. Because they are white, I can bleach them if they get too dirty. And I think they actually do a better job than a paper towel would anyway.
- Cloth napkins – We used to use paper towels for napkins, but we had cloth napkins that we received as wedding presents that we never used. So I pulled those out and we use those instead of wasting paper towels as napkins.
- Dishcloths – this isn’t something that you would necessarily use paper for, but I use cotton knitted (either by me or by my mother-in-law) dishcloths for washing dishes. I have read so many disgusting things about sponges and the bacteria that live in them that I refuse to use them or have them in our house.
- Microfiber Cleaning Cloths– I use microfiber cloths that I got in the automotive section at Target (thicker and cheaper than the ones you find in the cleaning section) for most of my cleaning around the house. They are great for dusting without any harmful cleaners. They scrub and clean without scratching surfaces and they are lint-free and super absorbent
- Rags – I have a wide variety of rags that I use for cleaning as well. I use old t-shirts and socks, old hand towels, thin white cloths that I got from Sam’s, Gerber Prefold Cloth Diapers, etc. I just think you can never have too many rags for cleaning – then you will never run out and have to grap for a paper towel because they are all dirty.
- Swiffer mops – I use Gerber Prefold Cloth Diapers that I cut down and hemmed to fit onto the Swiffer for light cleaning and mopping. I call it my Greener Swiffer. The diapers are so great for this because they are thicker and more absorbent in the middle, which is the part that does the actual mopping, and they are thinner on the outside, so they fit well into the Swiffer notches. I either spray the floor with my vinegar and water cleaner before mopping, or use it dry for more “dusting”/picking up dog hair type of jobs. Better for the environment, and MUCH cheaper than buying Swiffer replacement cloths!
With all of the different types of cloths above, when they are dirty and ready to be washed, I just throw them down our stairs into a laundry hamper by the washer and dryer. I try to wash cloths and rags about once a week, and have built up a large enough stash that I don’t run out before I’ve had time to do the wash.
Diapers and Wipes
- Cloth Diapers – we use cloth diapers on both Kaelyn and Brenden. (Although I do have to confess that K wears a disosable for naps and bedtime – she got used to them when we went through a period where we were not using cloth.)
- Cloth Wipes – I use cheap Gerber baby washcloths as well as some homemade flannel wipes from unused receiving blankets. I use a disposable wipes tube and fold the washcloths in half and lay them in. I mix up water with a squirt of baby soap and a few drops of Tea Tree Oil and pour it over the wipes. With two babies in diapers now, I go through a tub of my cloth wipes a day. I usually make up a new tub of wipes first thing every morning.
I think that’s most of the ways that we have replaced paper products with cloth in our house. Sometimes though, I forget what we used to use paper for because I am just so use to using cloth for everything now!
What are some ways that you have reduced or eliminated paper waste in your house? Are there any paper products that you would like to stop using, but just haven’t found a good replacement for yet?
I use cloth pads for my ‘monthly’ they are comfortable, ‘green’ (I sure am getting tired of that word!) and have made my cycle something I look forward to. I bought some cloth travel pack tissue covers from Longaberger and fold a pad into them to carry discreetly in my purse. I have a vintage bean crock in my untility room that I soak them in until my cycle is over. A glug of peroxide and a double rinse they are perfect! 3 years of use, and no waster yet.
Okay, you got me; reading your article has pushed my guilt button for using paper towels and napkins!
I quite agree with your thoughts on the subject, and as soon as I’ve used up my stock of paper products, I’ll transition to real cloth, using your suggested products.
Using more “green” items in my home will help me on my journey of learning to live well with less.
Thanks for a great article! Keep up the good work!
This year we started “trashless” lunches for the kids school lunch. Basic idea is there should not be any paper/plastic/carton to throw away when they finish their lunch.
I’ve found that a major way our family has reduced waste is by, as much as possible, avoiding purchasing items that come in packaging of any kind (box, carton, bottle, etc.)
For meat, we bring glass jars to the deli counter and they are kind enough to weigh the container first so we aren’t charged extra.
For items like flour, oats, beans, dried fruit, and rice, we buy in bulk using reusable bags.
It takes a little getting used to at first and we receive the occasional strange glance from the cashier, but it’s well worth it! 🙂
Hey, I just wanted to share a tip with you – I also cloth diaper and use baby washcloths for wipes. However, I keep my washcloths dry and in old square tissue boxes. Then I keep a small squeeze bottle filled with water by it. When I need a wipe, I just squirt it and then it’s wet. That way I don’t have to prepare a box of wipes every morning. I just shove the washcloths in the box after I’ve washed them. Thanks for the great blog and advice.
When I was diapering I would leave a steal bowl on top of our space heater with a soft rag in it. I stayed nice and warm for baby’s bottom. I would change the water after each use. The bowl was always handy, right next to my changing table. It doubled as a humidifier.
Eliminating Paper says
Great post! Been reading a lot about eliminating paper. Thanks for the info here!