Sunday, August 3, 2008

Disposables begone!

Following in the footsteps of Sharon, Crunchy, and others, I've made progress in my slow but steady quest to reduce my use of disposables. This goal has two purposes: Prepare for reduced availability / increased price of disposables during the peak oil descent, and reduce my impact on the environment. A few of the steps required some monetary outlay, but by my calculations I will make my money back within a year. The others were free!

1. Cloth hankies

This one was easy, free, and took about 5 minutes. Psychologically, this was also an easy change. At first, I thought that I would sew some cute handkerchiefs out of an old sheet. After about 2 months of having this plan in my head, I realized it was holding me up from getting it done. So, I simply took my husband's soft old T-shirt, cut it into strips, and set the stack of them on my bedside table. Since then, I have not used a Kleenex! I admit that this method would not work during cold season - I go through about 20 Kleenexes per hour (not exaggerating!). But the rest of the year, it works great.

2. P-cloth

Also free! But psychologically, not as easy. The first time I read about using cloth t.p, I thought, "Freaky nutcases!". After awhile, I started to think, "Why not?", and I couldn't come up with a good answer.

I use folded baby washcloths (the soft side, not the terry cloth side) to wipe after #1 only, then I drop them in a dry basket by the side of the toilet. I wash the cloths every few days in the washing machine with the rest of my whites, using my regular detergent. Since urine is sterile, I'm comfortable with this method. I haven't noticed any smell yet (in the last 2 months), and actually the P-cloths are quite soft and comfy! I get a lot of satisfaction in decreasing the destruction of trees and stopping wasteful plastic use (the wrapping of the t.p. packages). Somewhere, a tree is thanking me. Avoiding the expense is nice too.

Now that I've done it for awhile, I can't see why I thought it would be gross or difficult. I actually would not want to give it up. It does take an extra 5 minutes of my time every three days, but I think this is balanced by the need to only buy regular t.p. maybe twice a year. And this way, the toilet paper we have stored for TEOTWAWKI ;) should go much, much further... maybe years instead of just a few months.

3. Monthly feminine needs

Another chance to decrease my use of cotton (did you know cotton is the #3 crop user of pesticides?), avoid destruction of forests, and cut toxins in my body and the environment! I bought a Diva cup and some Luna Pads for backup. Diva does a good job of making these things fun and attractive, and they've been working pretty well in combination, even overnight. Problem of how to take care of this need if TSHTF: Solved.

4. Klean Kanteen

Ooooh! These are so pretty, I will actually show them off! Klean Kanteens replace plastic water bottles. They are made of stainless steel, with no plastic liner. Using a Klean Kanteen reduces the amount of plastic going into the waste stream, decreases the use of fossil fuels to make the plastic water bottles, stops wasteful shipping of water all over the world (insanity!!!), and decreases the amount of the chemical BPA going into your body.

I haven't been using bottled water in a long time, but I have been refilling an old plastic water bottle over and over again, and my hubby has been using a Lexan bottle that he hates. So I thought I'd pony up the dough for these beauties and make a statement. I bought two 27-oz Kanteens and a Sippy Cup for the small guy. I've only had them a day, so I can't blog on their long-term use, but so far I love them! One caveat: they dent if you drop them on something hard.

5. Cloth bags

The scourge of plastic bags drives me nuts! We've been using cloth grocery bags for eight years now. We figured out that it takes 4 cloth bags (2 large, 2 small) to replace about 10-15 bags per grocery store trip. That comes out to 8 x 52 x 15 = 6240 bags in the last 8 years! We got our grocery bags as "Thank You" gifts from Environmental Defense, but you can find them cheap-o at thrift stores, and many places are starting to sell them at reasonable prices.

However, I was still getting plastic bags from non-grocery stores, so I just recently got a giant bag from Bed Bath and Beyond for big bulky purchases ($2), and also a small bag from my library ($2) for books. I can keep these tucked in my glove compartment for any spontaneous shopping. Next step: I'm thinking of giving cloth bags as a Christmas gift to my clients this year.

How about you? What are you doing or planning to do?


Tara said...

I SWEAR - I've really been meaning to do the cloth hankies and cloth tp for awhile. I just can't seem to get it done. We're not over the move yet, and certainly not over the "new old house" emergency outlays of money and time. We were replacing our water heater at 11:00 last night, after all. I'll get to the cloth wipes eventually! :)

I just can't make myself get behind the Diva cup. I don't know exactly what my mental hurdle is with the thing, I just know that I have one. Then again, I don't have a need for feminine products very often, so I "justify" my use of disposables that way. Shame on me.

Verde said...

Well, I jusst got going o the DIVA cup and actually liked it.

I guess P-cloths are next.

Yes on the cloth bags

Sometimes on Hankies

And we just use the same old water bottles we're always used.

Kelsie said...

Yes to cloth bags, cloth napkins (of the culinary ilk), hankies, cloth menstrual pads (I even started my own Etsy shop selling cloth picnic napkins and menstrual pads), and of course, absolutely no paper towels--only rags for cleaning and wiping up messes. My one hang-up? Cloth t.p. I really don't think I'd have any problem at all using it for #1, and when we're out of toilet paper, I just use a washcloth or bath towel and toss the towel into the Cloth wipes are SO easy to sew, as well. I may just have to do that this week. I'll stick to my recycled t.p for #2, but I can totally do #1 with cloth. :) And then I can add wipes to my Etsy shop.

Thanks for the subliminal kick-in-the-pants.

BTW: You live in Oklahoma City! That's where I lived for 18 years, and that's where my parents are right now. Nice to see some Green Folk out that way.

Lewru said...

Okay, I'm ready to switch to cloth tp. And I'll try the Diva cup again - maybe they've got a second generation than the one I tried in 1999 (it was no gouda).

How did your husband deal with you cutting up his nice, soft, old t-shirt?? :)

risa said...

We haul our dishwater and a lot of our bathwater, this time of the year, out to the fruit trees (the vegs get the well water from the electric pump). Before the trip, the day's pee goes into the water. Got two sizes of cloth bag. Store managers are sometimes rude about these ("Didn't you see the sign, shoplifter? You gotta leave that up front"), so I roll mine up in the cart tucked behind my purse, and when I get to the checker, I unroll it, show its emptiness, sign the chit, and start filling it.

We still have t.p. because there isn't consensus on that yet, but I'm no longer using it for #1. Paper tpwels are still here for grease, but we have wood heat, so 3/4 of the year it gets re-used, so to speak, as fire starter.

We still have the same water bottles we had in the 70s. They are a kind of ancestral Nalgene.

Some good thinking here, Okie City!

Aztec-Star said...

Before I go into your post, please let me know if you are considering selling your Hypnobabies program.

About reducing the use of disposables, I found some great resources on potty training from birth. It's called Elimination Communication, and when you read more into it makes a lot of sense. We are training our babies to go in a diaper which makes it harder on us when we try to transition them to the potty. Anyway, please get in touch with me.

The Purloined Letter said...

Yep--we've spent the last few years making these same changes. What amazes me is how normal everything starts seeming--and even how luxurious so much of it starts feeling--once you get in the habit.

Cloth toilet wipes are so much nicer to use than that icky paper. My hands stay cleaner, my bottom loves the softness, and I feel like I am treating myself right. (My family uses wipes for everything and have found it totally nongross and nonsmelly. We wash about once a week.)