Engrained in my personality are deepest respect for nature and a strong desire for frugality. Blending these two together is where most of my crunchy choices emerge. Still, I struggle against conventions and ease. Yet, I find when ignore these, often what will create less waste also will save me money.
- Recycle – While recycling isn’t ground breaking news, many families don’t recycle. We are lucky that our community switched to a single sort program which allows us to recycle glass, metal, paper, and most plastic easily from the curb.
- Compost – I am the only child in my family not to inherit my father’s green thumb, so composting was never practical. This summer, my neighbor started a compost, so I collect all our fruit and vegetable scraps, and walk over to her compost.
- Skip throw away tableware — My family has never been big on paper plates and plastic forks. I’m tempted some nights when I’m busy or exhausted, but I choose to just let the dishes sit until the next day rather than throw so much away. I try to use the real dishes when even hosting informal events like book clubs, cookouts, and kids’ birthday parties. On my wish list is a set of cloth napkins for daily use.
- Use fewer single serving products – Starting this summer, we have swapped out many of our single serving products for larger containers. There is less waste and the price is better. Instead of buying squeeze pouch applesauce, I purchased two reusable pouches. I also avoid using prepackaged servings in my daughter’s lunchbox, and instead I fill small reusable containers. (The only exception is her drink, because she is still a little young to be responsible for sealing it tightly enough not to leak).
- Limit use of paper towels and wipes – My husband and I have gotten very used to using baby wipes for cleaning up small messes, but now with my son mostly potty trained, we don’t have much need to buy them. I’ve made a big effort to use a wet wash cloth to clean sticky faces or small messes. I also started using rags for cleaning tables and counter tops. Paper towels have been reduced to use when cleaning up the really icky stuff, like the inside of the litter box. Once my current box of Swiffer pads is done, I’m hoping to find something to use on the pole that can be tossed in the washer. (Suggests for this welcome in the comments!)
- Reduce food waste – No one likes throwing out food, so I’ve taken a few steps to throw out less. First, we synchronize our meal planning and shopping list so that we are only buying what we need instead of guessing. I’m making a greater effort to check for leftovers in the freezer or fridge before prepping something new. We also try to use all each item. For example, making one last sandwich by pointing the bread ends in, or draining the end of one ketchup bottle into a new one. Lastly, we freeze portions of food if we can’t eat them right away. We do this for half a jar of pasta sauce, half a package of ricotta cheese, servings of meat and breads, and most recently flash frozen pick-your-own berries.
- Use reusable food storage containers – I’ve stopped using plastic bags in the fridge in favor of reusable containers. I would love to switch to glass in my freezer, but we don’t have enough room!
- Avoid the hot water – Since we switched to gas heat to save on oil costs during the long Maine winters, our water heater now turns on whenever someone turns the hot water tap. Most of the time we don’t even run the water long enough for the water to become hot, so we were wasting gas. We’ve trained ourselves to only use the hot tap if it will run long enough to warm up.
- Curtail food prep waste – I used to line our pans with foil to make cleaning them easier. I now seriously limited that to items that will use lots of water and soap to scrub clean. Ditto for the crock pot.
A few of these transfer to the bathroom as well! We use rags to clean the mirror, sink, and counter. We follow the same hot water rule. I drain old bottles of soap, lotions, and cleaning supplies into the top of the new bottles.