Ok, so by now I’m sure you’ve got your reusable shopping bags and coffee cup for Starbucks. And if you don’t – why not? Most places give you a discount for bringing your own bag or cup AND its one less bag or cup that winds up in a landfill. The discounts are small – usually about 5 cents per bag/cup – BUT it adds up! I usually shop once a week at the grocery store and alternate other stores about once a week, depending on what we need. They can put a lot more stuff into the reusable bags I bring than they can put into the little plastic bags because they’re bigger and much sturdier (my groceries usually fit in 3-4 reusable bags, as opposed to 10 plastic bags). So I could be wasting more than 40 bags a MONTH, or getting approximately one dollar a month BACK in bag credits. Yes, it’s not much, but heck, by the end of the year that’s 12 bucks I’ve saved that can be used for other things. And worse, I heard recently that Americans consume over 60,000 plastic bags every FIVE SECONDS. Yikes. That waste could be 100 percent eliminated.
Here’s a few other reusable items that will save you a bundle over time:
-Cloth napkins: It costs about $4 for a large package of napkins that will last a month or two. Instead, purchase a 10-pack of “buffet” napkins for about $10 at Target and they last forever (well at least until they’re worn out – then they make great dust clothes). And it makes every meal a little fancier :-)
-We keep a bin of dishcloths in the kitchen and haven’t purchased paper towels in eons.
-Sandwich bags: you can get a huge range of styles and designs:
-Water bottles: that’s a whole other article in and of itself. Not only is most bottled water from a municipal source (i.e. tap water) – it’s SUPER expensive compared to what you’d pay from your own tap and those bottles are a huge pollution problem. More on this topic to come soon.
-Produce bags: another big waste of plastic are the thin bags you put your fruits and veggies in at the grocery store. You can buy reusable ones and save more plastic bags from needlessly entering landfills.
-Notepads! I know, sounds weird, but stay with me. I am a list-maker. I keep lists at work of stuff I need to do, I make shopping lists, and I write down what I need to do the next day at home. I was using tons of “scratch” paper and post-its. I bought a dry-erase marker and started keeping my home “to do” lists on the bathroom mirror. I never lose it and am reminded of what I need to do in the morning when I get up. It just wipes away. I found I still needed portable lists for taking to the store and at work. I purchased some do-it-yourself lamination sheets from an office supply store and a few extra dry-erase pens and made my own mini “whiteboards”! I put one on the back of my front door to remember things like taking out my recycle bin, carry a small one with me to shop, and have several at work for notes. Now I can reuse a single sheet of paper endlessly. Plus – my kids love coloring on them and they could easily go through a ream of paper in about a day if I'd let them...
-Coffee filters: Why buy paper ones every month when a single reusable one will last forever, for only a few bucks more? A lot of coffee makers come with them as standard equipment now.
-Bags for bulk items: I am a huge fan of the bulk section at the grocery store. Not only are the items cheaper, but it saves unnecessary packaging. In order to avoid using the plastic bags provided in the bulk section, I made some small white cotton bags that I use every time I make purchases in that section. They don't weigh any more than the plastic ones (since most bulk things are purchased by weight) and I can still put the tag with the number on it for weighing at the checkout.
-Peanut butter containers: At my favorite grocery store you can grind your own delicious (and sugar/hydrogenated oil free) peanut butter from a machine. I used their container the first time and since then, I just wash it out after we run out of peanut butter and bring it back for a refill. I asked to make sure there was no health hazard issue, and nobody at the grocery store minds.
Let me know what I might have forgotten!