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Dispose of those disposables!

a cloth diaper doubles a bib for Haydee while we were in Guatemala City for almost a month last year

Once we decided to use cloth diapers for our children, we began to consider what else we could switch from disposable to reusable. Once we tried, we discovered that just like cloth diapers, it took no more effort - in fact, frequently, it took less effort - to be green in more areas of our lives. Here’s what we’ve done.

baby products: We’ve had the same tub of disposable wipes for Haydee, our youngest daughter, for over a year and it’s about half-full. They are reserved for travel when we know we won’t be near a water supply. Normally we use flannel wipes in lieu of disposable ones. The reasons are just like the reasons for using cloth diapers: easier on baby, wallet and earth. For Liefe, we cut receiving blankets into rectangles. With the advent of Buzzie Bee Diapers and the homecoming of Haydee, we upgraded to two layers of flannel, sewn together. With cloth wipes and washable swim diapers and/or training pants, there is no reason to run to the store. Here again, cloth saves time and money.

cleaning products: The last time we bought paper towels was when we first moved to Maine, just about four years ago. We actually still have that role. It doesn’t feel right to throw it away. Instead of paper towels, we use rags from old cotton clothes, either stained or otherwise unsuitable to be hand-me-downs. We store them in a canister on the kitchen counter and launder as needed. We save money and reduce the amount of needless waste generated. Plus a clean cotton rag is does as much better job at picking up spills or cleaning up messy hands and faces than a scratchy paper towel.

composting: All vegetable food scraps (including egg shells and coffee grounds) go in a large yogurt container (with a lid) on our kitchen counter. When the container is full, one of us brings it out to the compost bin. We keep our compost bin right off the porch so we’re more likely to use it. Composting also cuts down on the amount of trash we produce. This cuts down on the number of trips we need to take to the dump. And, by composting, we wind up with great soil for our flower and vegetable gardens.

gift bags: When you receive a gift from the Temple family, chances are it’s either wrapped in children’s artwork or it’s in a reusable fabric gift bag. Our bags are likely to be made from scraps of old clothing or other household fabrics - like the remnants from curtains. While we do have some wrapping paper left over from the Day After Christmas sales back in 2000, it’s been so much easier to toss presents into a bag and tie with a beautiful ribbon. We always encourage recipient to reuse the bag.

leftover hats: I’m not sure what the technical or even common name for this. It looks like a shower cap, only its made to cover food. I find them from time to time at Family Dollar. We use them in place of plastic wrap. Then we wash them out with soap and water, hang them to dry and re-use again and again.

picnic basket: Eating outside is an adventure for small children. They love how it changes the routine. Liefe says that food always tastes better on a picnic. Rather than use disposable silverware and paper plates, we have a picnic basket with real silverware and washable, durable plastic dishes. We keep the basket loaded and ready to go.

shopping bags: Over the years, we’ve collected dozens of canvas bags. We use them when we go shopping, whether to the farmers market, the good tern, or even to the pharmacy. Many of our bags have been painted by our girls. It’s a fun, safe and easy project. Using and re-using canvas shopping bags reduces the overstock of plastic bags we previously had in several areas of the kitchen.

table linens: Growing up, my family always used cloth napkins and placemats. I share this practice with my family today. Cloth napkins double as baby blankets and boo-boo bear holders. Plus, it’s much more entertaining to do tricks with cloth napkin than it is with a paper one.

Have you done something else to reduce your consumption of single-use household items? If so, please let me know, I’d love to share more ideas...

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