Becoming a bit more conscious about how you’re reusing things lately? If going zero-waste is one broad goal, learning how to “reuse” might be the next step. Many of the products we use on a regular basis weren’t intended to be harmful. But most of them are. In today’s world, we produce about 300 million tons of plastic waste every year. Changing how we think about reusable products could have great effects on our environment.
The practice of reusing involves the basic knowledge to know what is worth saving, and what’s not. Ultimately, the payoff for the long run is worth it. Consistent reusable efforts could keep pollution rates down, minimize garbage in landfills, decrease CO2 emissions, and cut down on the amount of waste found in oceans.
How can you make the process doable, practical, and simple? Baby steps are best when changing habits. So start small and develop a routine. It may take practice and close attention. But, once the habit forms, you’re in the clear. We’ve put together a list of some alternative items that you can start with. You might be surprised to find that some of these are already in your home. After all, reuse it or lose it.
Use glass jars and other reusable containers for storing liquids or other substances
How about a new place to keep those detergents or liquid soaps? Well, glass jars do the trick. It’s common for most store-bought things to come packaged in plastic containers. One way around this? Buy liquids as-is, using your own reusable packaging. Depending on where you’re located, many stores around the world — including in such cities as London, Barcelona, and Berlin —participate in the zero-waste movement by providing household liquid items that can be bought in bulk. All you’ve got to do is bring your own empty containers with you and fill them up. If you live in the U.S., here’s a helpful chart, organized by individual states, that can steer you in the right direction.
Use multi-use bags in place of plastic bags
Carrying loads of plastic bags out of the grocery store is already a pain. Worse, when you arrive home and unload, the bags end up in either the trash or the recycling bin. If you have a storage bin to collect them for future use, this isn’t half bad. But if you’re going steady with the reuse revolution, you can try taking it a step further by buying cloth or reusable bags you bring with you when you shop. Some stores who participate in sustainable causes may even have some sort of reward system in place. Some places around the world encourage this by charging for plastic bags to reduce the use.
Replace disposable diapers and napkins with cotton or cloth ones
Got a baby on board? Well, you’ve probably got diapers on board, too. Babies certainly do mean well, but disposable diaper use could be harming the environment much more than we think. During their first two years of life, babies use about 6,000 diapers, resulting in 3.6 million tons of waste. And disposable diapers are estimated to take at least 500 years to decompose. To minimize this, you can buy reusable cotton or cloth diapers in bulk. While this means a lot more laundry, it can ultimately save you money while reducing your impact on the environment.
Also, paper napkins are common in the average household. Replacing these with cloth alternatives might make your laundry loads a bit thicker, but in the long run amount to much less waste.
Use silicone straws instead of plastic straws
In recent years, silicone straws having been making sufficient strides as the new alternative to plastic straws. In many restaurants, silicone straws have even become the norm. This is a very good thing, considering where most plastic straw waste ends up in the ocean. Plastic straws have been deemed one of the top 10 contributors to ocean debris build-up across the world. And during a recent five-year period, billions of plastic straws were found along the world’s coastlines — significantly harming marine wildlife.
Next time you head out for dinner or a night out on the town, stick some silicone straws in a pocket and pull them out before you take a sip of your beverage. A little goes a long way.
Keep rechargeable batteries on-hand
Batteries make the world go round. Flashlights around the house in case of emergencies? How about your child’s toys that never seem to shut off? Cordless power tools. Remotes. Clocks. The list goes on. As humans, we depend on battery power. But this isn’t particularly good for the environment. When tossed in landfills, the toxic metals and elements found in batteries are seeping back into the earth. Investing in rechargeable batteries is a great way to reduce the harmful effects of traditional battery waste. These days, there’s a rechargeable battery option for just about any size or battery voltage. Check your local electronic store or search for sustainable brands that may carry them.
Use old newspapers for cleaning windows
It’s an age-old adage, but our elders may have been right about reusing newspapers for cleaning purposes. Specifically: windows. What do you need? White vinegar and water. Theory holds that the solvents in the ink paired with the highly absorbent, dense fibers in the paper make them effective cleaners. When used to clean windows, it’s believed that the soy-based ink absorbs the liquid instead of just pushing it around, making it less likely to leave streaks or scratches. Aside from cleaning windows, newspaper also makes a great wrapping paper alternative and is terrific for packing up fragile dishware when moving or travelling.
Replace plastic water bottles with reusable, non-plastic bottles
Water. We all need it. But our ecosystem could use a bit less of the plastic that it’s usually stored in. An estimated 80 percent of plastic water bottles end up in landfills. And it takes up to 1,000 years for each of these bottles to decompose. Not to mention, hormone disrupting chemicals such as BPA can also be found in the plastic that water is packaged in. This can potentially lead to harmful hormonal imbalances. If you’re on board the “reuse” train, try buying BPA-free reusable bottles for drinking water and other non-plastic containers that can be used limitlessly.
Reuse dryer sheets for dust rags or basic cleaning
After a good laundry wash cycle, adding dryer sheets before you switch on the dryer is the cherry atop the sundae. But what happens to them when the load is done? Instead of tossing these in the trash, you can reuse them for cleaning up around the home. Remove water spots from your coffee table. Shine the chrome in your kitchen. Dust surfaces. Remove soap scum off the bathroom tile. This can all be done with old dryer sheets. They’re typically rather thin, so you may have to double up. But they’re also sturdy and don’t rip easily.
Also, if you’re looking for a handy, sustainable, no-mess alternative for traditional laundry detergent, may we recommend our own SaltyLama eco-friendly laundry strips?