We are surrounded by waste and the problem continues to grow. Reducing waste is a global responsibility and the time to act is now. Many of the plastics crowding our landfills, floating in our oceans and being placed on the curbs for pickup every day have been estimated to take a minimum of 450 years and some 1,000 years to decompose. Something you use for 5 minutes today has the potential to circle the Earth for 1,000 years. Let that sink in.
While I was generally aware of this information, I didn’t really start thinking about reducing my own waste completely until I became a Mom. Suddenly, I found myself buried under piles of baby products and recyclable produce clam-shells. I realized that these one-time use items would be around years after even my great-great-grandchildren were adults. That’s not the type of legacy I want to leave behind. I hope to leave more than trash sitting around for future generations and I set out to reduce my family’s waste and impact on the planet.
While we have the pyramids, Stonehenge and various statues and works of art to remind us of past civilizations, what our generation is leaving behind is trash. There is a continent of garbage floating in the ocean known as the Great Pacific Garbage patch that is thought to be up to 2x the size of the continental United States. In addition, our land masses are overflowing with landfills and waste.
We all need to help reduce waste at home.
Home is the best place to start reducing waste. Little things you do every day make a huge difference for the planet. If everyone changed one or two small things today, it will have a monumental impact on the Earth’s tomorrow. Things you may not have considered, but are open to, are good not only for the planet but also for your health. Many of the disposable products plaguing Mother Earth are full of chemicals and non-natural ingredients thought to impact the health of human beings directly.
Where to start.
Here are 5 easy and effective ways to reduce waste at home. These are personal quests that I have committed to and can attest to both the value and success of each journey. While some may seem odd at first, once you get started and immersed in the sustainable culture that follows, you’ll be in a happy place too.
1. Cloth Diapers are Adorable and Mother Earth approved
Pregnant with my first son, I stared longingly at the cloth diaper display at my local baby store. I took one look at the thin prefolds, pull-up plastic pants with pins and ran in the other direction. I ran, or perhaps waddled, straight into the disposable diaper aisle. After my son was born, I spent months trying to get coupons, calling companies for discounts and testing out the most natural disposable diapers I could find. It was expensive, time-consuming and disappointing.
When I became pregnant with baby number two, I worried about affording disposables and the possibility of changing two in diapers with a repeat c-section. Remembering the local baby store selection, I did not even consider cloth.
To my relief, I had a successful VBAC and felt like I could conquer the world. I started researching cloth diapers online and when I saw someone post an offer locally for free cloth to a family in need, I called right away. I drove in my station wagon to meet a woman I didn’t know, was asked some uncomfortably personal questions about my family’s finances and eventually was handed a box of 12 brand new prefolds and 2 covers!
Let’s just say it snowballed from there. I started buying pocket diapers as I could afford them, eventually dove into all styles and started my blog called Mama Banana’s Adventures!
2. Grow Something Edible
Grow something you can eat. Anything. Maybe you have a single tomato plant in a pot, a handful of green beans or a whole garden. The amount of environmental impact that produce has on the planet is frightening. Imagine you’re a tomato growing in Mexico. You’re picked early so you can ripen by the time you reach the USA. Next, you’re packed onto a truck, transported from Mexico all the way to Pennsylvania. Then, you are then unpacked from the truck, placed into a stockroom and eventually put out on the supermarket shelf. You may even be in a plastic clam-shell.
Now, imagine you’re a tomato on your front porch. You were grown just a few miles away at a local greenhouse, picked up as a seedling and soak in sunshine until one day, you ripen. Instead of being driven across the country, you are simply picked and taken inside to eat.
The amount of gas, emissions, manpower and effort it takes to transport produce cross-country makes growing a tomato on your front porch an eye-opening movement. Right?
3. Green Your Menstrual Cycle
The first time I heard about reusable menstrual pads was from a friend. She ordered some from Amazon primarily to save money and reduce her household’s monthly expenses. So gross, I thought to myself. I reconsidered reusable menstrual products when I started researching the chemicals in disposable pads and tampons. So, I dove in. I started out slowly, using a few pads on my lighter flow days, then increased to a full reusable stash. Now, I regularly help other women switch over and wish I had gone reusable from the start!
I can’t mention reusable pads without including cups. My reusable menstrual system is made up of pads and reusable menstrual cups. While the pads obviously replace pads, I often must explain that the cups replace tampons. They are worn inside, reused, last years when treated properly and make menstruating a breeze.
Where can you find these items? My favorite reusable pads come from a work at home Mom shop owner known warmly as Pink Lemonade Sue! You can see the pads and her cup selection at her online store.
4. Use Reusable Food Containers
Now, I realize that saying “reusable food containers” is vague. I wanted to include some great reusable food containers here and the category kept expanding. So, I consider reusable food containers to include reusable grocery bags, reusable jars, pouches, reusable milk containers like those we get and return at a local dairy and so on and so forth.
As a first-time Mom, I quickly saw that baby food jars and pouches were piling up. While I tried to come up with some creative ways to reuse the jars, the pouches are not recyclable or great for crafts. The best solution I could come up with was to make my own baby food. In addition, I recently took my own advice mentioned above and planted a large garden. This year, I started an annual tradition of canning pickles and sauce for my family.
Making canned food at home.
If you use puree baby food or pouches, you can easily make the food at home in a food processor or use a system designed specifically for this process. The pouches get reused, the jar or bowl gets reused and you know exactly what you’re feeding your little one.
For canning foods, it’s a little more complicated. I’m slowly learning this process and occasionally burning the tips of my fingers hot-processing Ball canning jars. So far, I have canned 32 quarts of pickles and I’m teaching my children how to preserve food too. I hope it’s a tradition they can celebrate as adults with pride and a closet full of delicious pickles and sauce.
5. Reusable Paper Products
I’m going to get real with you here for a moment. In case you thought I wasn’t already, we’re going to talk about reusable toilet paper. Yes, you may have heard of reusable paper towels but I’m going to address reusable toilet paper. Now, while you may already use reusable baby wipes, when kids start to potty train it’s logical to go to reusable toilet paper. These squares get used just like disposable toilet paper but you don’t flush them. You wash the colorful squares just like cloth diapers or wipes.
What about poop. Everyone asks about poop. Say you pee six-eight times a day and poop once or twice. If you are flat against using reusable toilet paper for poop, or for your partner, start off wiping your rear with disposable TP and when it gets into the safe zone…switch to reusable paper. Even if you use reusable toilet paper for pee-only, you are making a serious reduction in the amount of disposable toilet paper used and chemicals touching your most delicate regions.
I hope that this look at 5 easy ways to reduce waste in your home has given you some ideas. Maybe you already do all of these things, maybe you’ll pick one or two or maybe two years from now you’ll have your own website too. Remember, the Earth is not a self-cleaning oven. We must care for it as if there is nowhere else for our children’s children to live should it become too polluted to inhabit life. Hundreds, or even thousands, of years from now, I hope we are not spoken of like we speak of dinosaurs. Our fossils being large plastic waste piles and scattered impressions of cell phones and k-cups.
The guest post was written by Jeanette Elbattah author of Mama Banana’s Adventures and The Green Vagina. Proud Mom to 4 boys, Occupational Therapist, and enthusiastic coffee drinker. Jeanette enjoys sharing Eco-friendly topics and lifestyle experiences with you.