Earth Day Challenge: No baggies, water bottles or paper towels, Oh my!

I’m not a professional environmentalist, nor do I play one on TV. But I do like to think of myself as (semi) eco-conscious. So when I simultaneously ran out of paper towels and bottled water right before Earth Day this week, I knew this was the perfect time to make some Earth friendly changes in my household. Let’s do this!

Day One: I’m already longing for my Bounty. I keep walking over to yank off a white fluffy sheet but only the empty paper towel holder stares mockingly back at me. I’ve always used kitchen hand towels to dry my hands, but I use paper towels for *everything* else. How will I wipe off the countertops, clean up floor messes or dry washed vegetables? I pull out three kitchen towels and designate one each for a particular task: house cleaning, hand drying and food preparation.

Day Two: I just picked up a watermelon at the grocer, delicious! I cut off a few slices for the kids’ lunch and then go to store the rest in a large Ziploc before I remember that baggies are prohibited, rats! Ooh, how about Saran Wrap? No, darn! I pull out the biggest Tupperware container I have and the watermelon is still too big to house it all. I have to cut it into several smaller pieces and then use an additional container to finally get it all under cover. Whew. I didn’t use any baggies, but I’m running out of room in my refrigerator!

Day Three: Today I purchased a Brita water filter pitcher in an attempt to cease the four-bottles-of-Poland-Springs-water-a-day-habit of mine. For some reason, I tend to drink more water when it’s in the bottles (which is healthy for me), but I also see that my recycle bin is loaded up with an entire case of empties by week’s end (which is not healthy for the Earth). I designate one glass for at-home water drinking (it would be counter-productive to load up the dishwasher with four water glasses a day!), and simply refill the extra two Poland Spring bottles I have left over with the Brita water for when I’m on-the-go. Not as convenient, but I can see getting used to this.

Day Four: My house is a pig sty, time to clean! Dusting and wiping countertops seems easy enough with a cloth or sponge, but mirrors are an entirely different story. Streaks and cloudy finishes, yuck.

Day Five: While my kids are at school, I start dismantling their Easter baskets and pulling out the items that I can save and reuse next year. I bundle up the wiry Easter grass and head towards the Ziploc drawer…noooooo!  What am I supposed to use if not a baggie? I decide that, since this will be used as long-term storage and I won’t be throwing it away any time soon, it’s ok.

Day Six: Aaaaargh, a gallon of apple juice has spilled all over the kitchen floor, and not a paper towel in sight! I grab some hand towels and mop up all the liquid, but the floor is still a sticky mess. I head for the Wet Swiffer and realize that I need to use a new pad and replace the plastic cleaning solution container. Lots of waste created to clean up one mess…it just doesn’t seem right. I happen to have an actual mop (would this be considered an antique now?) and set to work on the spill. To be honest, it did a better job and once I dried the floor with a towel, it was shiny and perfectly clean—not typical results for the more-convenient Swiffer.

Day Seven: I haven’t used one paper towel, thrown away one plastic bottle and have only used ONE Ziploc baggie this week. That may sound like a small feat in the whole scheme of things, but it’s something I never thought I could do. Feeling on a roll, I even brought my own travel mug to buy coffee today. Every little bit helps.

What I learned:

  1. Paper towels are not the lifeline I once thought they were. Not having them around saved me money (they are almost $8 a package!) and minimized my waste. I *might* consider keeping on roll on hand for certain house cleaning tasks, cloudy mirrors are not attractive.
  2. Convenience items are just that, convenient. Nice to have, but not absolutely necessary. Absence doesn’t make the heart grow stronger—you simply devise other solutions.
  3. If everyone made a few small changes to their daily habits, we could make significant changes as a community.

What eco-friendly changes have you made to your household? What solutions did you find to replace old habits?

1 Response

  1. Alison

    I use newspapers to clean mirrors and windows, it works quite well. I also have a stockpile of nalgene and other water bottles that I can have on the go. It sounds like you did great work this week. We don’t use paper towels either and I bought an inexpensive pack of 24 washcloths that we use for kitchen rags which comes in very handy. I also save the bags from loaves of bread, English muffins etc. and use those to put sandwiches in, or other things I might have used a baggie for. We do keep baggies on hand, but wash them out and reuse them, they eventually wear out but we only use a box a year or so.

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