Happy Earth Day, Friends!
Earth Day is one of those days that never really used to be on my radar until I had kids and started buying products from brands that are pretty hip to the Earth Day festivities. Aka: they offer HUGE sales.
Seriously, if you’re in the market for cloth diapers – or any eco-friendly products for that matter – go buy them this weekend because Earth Day is the conservationist’s Black Friday. (You’re welcome.)
In the spirit of the day, I thought I’d share with you some of my favorite eco-friendly alternatives for everyday items we use around the house. And I’ll be honest, the main reasons we use most of these are because they’re 1) cheaper than their disposable counterparts or 2) truly more useful to me than cheap, disposable products are.
Believe me, I wouldn’t recommend these products if we didn’t benefit from them in some way – I’m not about that fake recommendation for reimbursement game. This also seems like a good time to add that I’m not being compensated in any way for the products mentioned here.
And if a video isn’t your vibe, read on to learn more are my favorite eco-friendly products:
1. Reusable Grocery Bags
Reusable grocery bags are my jam, guys. Mostly it’s because we live on a second-floor walkup and it’s an absolute pain to try and drag in a billion little plastic shopping bags after a trip to the grocery store.
When I shop with reusable grocery bags, I can simply throw a ton of stuff into a single bag, load up multiple bags on each arm and break my back hauling them up the stairs. But hey, at least I don’t have to go back out to the car!
My Omi always tells me that the lazy donkey takes everything in one load, so I guess I’m a lazy donkey. A lazy donkey with stuff all in my house at once. So there’s that 😉
Reusable grocery bags are also helpful when shopping at budget grocery stores, like Aldi, which don’t offer the plastic bag option in the first place. And they’re an absolute must if you frequent a farm, farm market or farmer’s market on the regular, since plastic bags are an unnecessary expense for your local farmers to carry.
2. Reusable Food Storage
Reusable food storage products like glass containers and reusable sandwich bags are a really simple way to green up your kitchen – and make meal prep a breeze.
We use glass containers to store all of our leftovers or prepped lunches when we know we’re not going to be home to eat. Glass containers from brands like Pyrex and Anchor pull double duty and are perfect for baking food in or using for a reheat in the microwave.
They do take up a bit of space in the refrigerator, but I find the convenient see-through sides a good motivator to finish up some leftovers or use half a tomato that I stored but might’ve otherwise forgotten about.
I took a longer time to experiment with reusable sandwich bags than with glass containers, because they seemed kind of gross to me at first. And I must confess, we don’t use them exclusively – yes, there are times when we choose a disposable sandwich bag over a reusable one.
In my experience, reusable sandwich bags are most convenient when we’re taking food somewhere with us, rather than trying to store something in the refrigerator. I use them for dry foods, like sandwiches, snacks and desserts.
I’d like to see more companies develop better reusable bags that have zipper closures that aren’t going to get jammed by a “sloppy” food that’s stored inside, for example. I’d also love to see a freezer friendly option, although I’m not sure how eco-friendly that could be, since most reusable materials are rather breathable.
In all, I am a huge fan of reusable sandwich bags for lunches, picnics and other take along treats. This is definitely the place where we previously used the most disposable bags and wrappings, anyway – up to five disposable wrappings a lunch sometimes!
3. Reusable Drink Filters
We drink a lot of coffee and tea around here (hello, keeping up with three tiny humans!). As a former barista and current owner of a coffee company, I’m suuuuuuper picky about the way my tea and coffee taste. As such, we only use ceramic cups for drinking coffee and tea, even on the go.
When it comes to brewing coffee and tea, you’d better bet that brewing vehicle drastically influences the ultimate flavor of whatever it is you’re making. I find that disposable brewing tools – especially commercial tea bags – leave a horrid taste in the drinks that I make.
Paper coffee filters, K-cups and disposable tea bags not only contribute an off flavor to the drinks I love, but they also generate an unnecessary amount of trash. That’s why we only use non-disposable drink filters, like our French press, tea infusers, muslin cold brew bags and even a gold coffee filter for our drip coffee maker (though it’s currently in storage).
Non-disposable drink preparation does take a little longer than popping a K-cup into the Keurig and pushing the button, but the better flavor definitely justifies the inconvenience. Plus, I have complete control over the coffee beans or tea leaves that I use for each drink, meaning that I can choose fresh, organic or flavored varieties whenever I please.
4. Unpaper Towels and Napkins
I’ll admit, our switch to unpaper towels and napkins was purely out of convenience. 1) It’s super inconvenient to use up the last paper towel or napkin and then realize there’s not a single one left in the house. 2) Spending money on these items literally makes me feel like opening the trash can and throwing my dollars and cents into it.
One day we ran out of paper towels and I announced, from the midst of whatever mess I was trying to clean, that we were never buying paper towels again. I opened the kitchen drawer where we keep the hand towels and told my husband that from now on, these were our paper towels. He was very skeptical.
I’m pleased to report that, two or three years since that fateful day, we haven’t purchased a single roll of paper towels. We honestly don’t miss them.
It took some creative thinking to devise how to clean things like the bathroom without paper towels, but I simply designated some of the more worn out towels as bleach towels, and that was the end of that problem! For really gross messes, we simply throw the yucky towels in with our diaper wash (it’s the wash that gets the most detergent and agitation for proper cleaning) and banish said towel from kitchen counter duty.
Cloth napkins are a more recent addition to our kitchen, but again, once we pulled the plug on purchasing paper napkins, it was a pretty easy switch. Previous to my moratorium on paper napkins, I found that we’d use extra napkins to clean up a mess we simply didn’t want to dirty a towel for. So, our unpaper towel switch was somewhat unfruitful in keeping paper waste from the dump. We were using less paper, but we weren’t using reusables as effectively as I wanted.
To switch to cloth napkins, I did a little research and ended up purchasing a cute little custom set of cloth wipes from a brand I’ve long admired. Now we use these at the table, to clean up little kitchen spills and, of course, to wipe little dirty faces.
5. Cloth Diapers
You knew this was going here, right?! I love, love, love cloth diapers!
I’m not going to get into a ton of detail here, save to say that our decision to use cloth diapers has saved tens of thousands of diapers from heading to the landfill and has personally saved us upward of $5,000 in diapering expenses.
Cloth diapering was the spark that lit our fire to pursue more eco-friendly living through reusables. But it’s still my favorite way to be a little greener while saving some green.
I’m currently writing an ebook all about cloth diapers – why they’re better for planet, kids and budgets. It’s chock-full of everything you could want to know about different types of cloth diapers, how to use them and how to make room in your budget for building a cloth diaper stash.
How are you going green this Earth Day? Sound off in the comments to share your experience with reusables and your tips for eco-friendly living.