Going Green to Save Green
A guest post by Adrianne Gordon*
For many people, the idea of “going green” — lowering their impact on the environment — brings to mind dollar signs. Environmentally friendly products from organic food to hybrid cars cost more than their traditional counterparts. It can be hard, especially when the budget is tight, to make the investment. Our family’s process of becoming more green started more from a need to save money than anything else, I’ll admit.
|Drying dish towels and napkins
One day I was leaving Target with a few bags marveling over how much I’d just spent when I realized that several things I had bought were just going to get thrown away. Our budget couldn’t bear any extras then and I wanted to take us down a more environmentally friendly path. The idea of no longer buying things that would end up in the landfill seemed like a no brainer. We started small and there are times we need to remind ourselves of our green (as in money) on green (as in environment) goals, but we’ve made a difference in both our pocketbook and our trash creation. Here are things we’ve eliminated or reduced our use of:
Paper napkins — Cloth napkins are softer, more absorbent, come in all sort of colors and patterns and last forever. We have some we’ve used for nearly 10 years. We wash them with our towels so they don’t create extra laundry. I recommend 100% cotton over blends. Ask for a set for your birthday, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, anniversary, etc. Feel free to mix and match. If you come to dinner at our house, chances are none of the napkins will be the same.
Paper towels — Kitchen towels, newspaper, or rags from old t-shirts or towels often get the job done better. Like cloth napkins they last a long time and can be washed with towels. Choose kitchen towels to dry your hands after washing dishes (they are clean after all) or for spills. Newspaper works great for messes that you want to throw away (my go to clean-up tool for cat vomit) or when you don’t want lint (cleaning mirrors or glass). Rags can be used for big or especially messy messes and can be thrown out if needed. The fabric will decompose (green) and you didn’t have to buy it just to throw it way (green again).
Zip top bags — This has been a harder habit for us to break, but we use A LOT less than we used to. Reusable plastic or glass containers are the best replacement. They can be used again and again plus you probably have a bunch cluttering up your cabinets already. Be creative when looking for a container for something and you’ll have even more options. Reuse plastic containers from yogurt, sour cream, butter spreads, etc for leftovers or to store small non-food items. A set of plastic snack size containers cost the same as a box of baggies, but last you much longer. I feel obligated to tell you that glass is better for you than plastic, BPA free plastic way better than non, but start where you can with what you have and move up the chain over time. Pyrex type glass containers with rubber lids come in all sizes small to large and are widely available. Add a set to your wish list.
Plastic wrap & aluminum foil — Again reusable containers are your best bet. Cookware that is oven safe with a glass lid is a good option over covering a dish with aluminum foil. Keep an eye out at thrift stores, I’ve seen some great “old school” baking dishes like this for just a couple of bucks.
Sponges — Natural sponges will decompose, but most sold today aren’t. Plus the ones we used in the kitchen always seemed to smell no what how “antibacterial” they claimed to be. In the kitchen we use old fashioned dish cloths. We replace them more often than we ever swapped out the sponges and they clean better. For bathroom cleaning use old face cloths or cut up old towels from your rag collection.
A word about laundry since I’m sure you’re wondering. We honestly have not noticed an increase in laundry. Dish cloths, napkins and kitchen towels are used the most and take up so little space in the washing machine that they serve to just fill up the washer more when we do a load of towels. Rags are usually washed with bathroom rugs/mats and dog bedding at our house. The rugs and bedding are probably cleaner than they used to be which isn’t a bad side effect in my mind.
|Stackable glass bowls with lids, perfect for storing food
You already have a lot of the green replacements suggested here. Try your own green on green challenge and see how much you can not buy. Go ahead, hide the paper towels and baggies. You may never notice they’re gone, but you will notice a little less trash to take out and that your handing over less to the cashier on your next shopping trip.
Leave us a comment with your ideas on ways to save. Experienced challenges? Let us know and we’ll help brainstorm some solutions. Happy greening!
*Adrianne Gordon lives in Asheville, NC with her partner of 13 years. She fills her days as a full-time University staff member, mom to a fun two year-old (she swears there is such a thing), birth doula and coupon clipper. My oldest cousin on my mom’s side, she was the flower girl in my parent’s wedding and taught me to tie my shoes.