What's the true cost of your lifestyle? The answer that typically comes to mind is the impact to your wallet and waistline, but that cost actually goes deeper. Try the waste generated from everyday living. Our lifestyle impacts the environment with the resources we use and the waste we generate. In fact, it's estimated that we end up tossing roughly one third of what we buy, which in the county where we live, is estimated to be over 5 pounds per person per day.
So what is the impact of this waste? Most of us really don't give that much thought. The reality is that while a small percentage of our trash gets recycled, most of what we toss ends up in landfills, which can have substantial environmental and economic costs. Many older landfills are close to capacity, and building new ones close to the locations that generate the most waste is pricey and difficult to do (for example, how close do you want to live near a landfill?) And the impact doesn't stop there. Organic waste from food dumped in landfills can create methane, a potent greenhouse gas which is known to contribute to global warming.
What can you do to reduce the impact of this waste?
It's simple. Start by replacing some of those disposable things you normally trash like paper towels and plastic bags, with their reusable counterparts. You get the satisfaction of reducing the use of valuable natural resources needed to manufacture what otherwise might have been tossed, as well as reducing some of metals, paper and plastic that gets dumped in your local landfill. It should also come as no surprise to find that your wallet might benefit as well, as reusable products typically will pay for themselves over and over again.
What do we recommend for reusable products to help reduce this waste? Simple - whatever works for your lifestyle. The 'road warrior' will probably have different preferences from a stay at home parent. That said, we recommend reusables that are high quality, durable, versatile and if applicable, food safe. Need some ideas?
Here are 20 good ones to get you started, based upon our experience:
- Reusable water bottles - disposable water bottles can be recycled, but at a price. Bottom line? It takes resources to transport and recycle them. A better option? Purchase a reusable water bottle and use it. With the selection of bottles now available, there's a size and style to fit every lifestyle and budget.
- Fruit infusion water bottles - not only offer a healthy and refreshing alternative to sodas, juices and other sugary drinks, fruit infused water bottles can help reduce the waste that can be generated from disposable cans and bottles.
- Reusable food wrap - comes in a variety of sizes, is easy to use and super easy to care for. Perfect for covering bowls, containers and pans as well as keeping sandwiches and loaves of bread soft and fresh. Looking for more natural food wrap solution? Try Bee's Wrap, a food wrap made from bee's wax.
- Reusable lunch and snack containers - making your own to-go lunch offers many benefits, including healthy food choices, portion control and money savings. The 'right' reusable lunch containers can save you time, money and vastly expand your meal choices beyond a sandwich and side dish. How to determine what's 'right' for you? Start with the foods you want to eat on-the-go, such as a hearty chowder or refreshing salad and select containers designed for those foods.
- Reusable cleaning cloths - speaking of breaking the paper towel habit, reusable cleaning cloths are a responsible alternative to disposables for wiping, cleaning and dusting. Even better if they're made from recycled fibers!
- Stainless steel straws - why stainless steel? Not only are these a practical and economical alternative to disposable straws, stainless steel makes them food safe, stylish and durable. It also helps that they are dishwasher safe.
- Reusable coffee cups and mugs - love your coffee while on-the-go or in the office? Most of us don't think about the number of disposable cups we toss or their impact on the environment. Try roughly 75 cups per person annually or about 500 billion cups per year worldwide, according to KeepCup. Try this reusable, recyclable and engaging alternative to the disposable coffee cup from KeepCup.
- DIY reusable cleaning kits - why buy pricey cleaners when you can make your own? DIY natural cleaners can be just as effective as those at the grocery, and can be made at a fraction of the cost with non-toxic ingredients you already have in your own home. Whether you make your own or buy a DIY reusable cleaning kit, it's a great opportunity to reduce the number of containers and harsh cleansers we toss each year.
- Reuse disposable shopping bags - here's a solution to the disposable shopping bag issue, why not reuse the what's already out there? Not only can this reduce their number, you can benefit as well. Need an example? How many times have you gone to the grocery and forgotten your reusable shopping bags? If you have too many items to carry out of the store, one solution is to have one or two disposable bags stashed somewhere where they can be easily grabbed at a moment's notice. The perfect place? Your keychain! The Baggee is a hollow ball attached to a keychain designed to hold one or two disposable shopping bags, so they're always at your fingertips.
- Reuse empty disposable bottles as rain catchers - such a simple idea....Petal Drops by Quirky is a flower shaped funnel that sits on the top of a plastic bottle, making a unique rain catcher perfect for capturing and reusing rainwater for any number of uses, such as watering plants.
- Reuse ice cube trays and muffin tins to freeze perfect portions of leftovers - this is a threefer, adding convenience to your kitchen, reducing food waste and saving you money all at the same time. Extra eggs, milk, fruit, herbs, stock and other foods that might otherwise go bad can easily be frozen in premeasured amounts using standard ice cube trays and large muffin tins. These frozen gems can then get stored in food safe containers or bags until needed.
- Reusable shopping bags - not only do reusable shopping bags reduce the waste associated with disposable ones, our experience is that they are super convenient. Fewer bags to carry, load into the car and unload once you get home. Fewer headaches than trying to recycle the disposable ones as well.
- Reuse glass canning, pickle, salsa, spaghetti and mayo as customized glass drink containers - this is the perfect solution for someone who does not want to spend a lot of money for a reusable water bottle, and it is super simple to do with the handy Ecojarz reusable drink lid. Simply secure the lid to the jar of your choice with the screw-on band and you have a customized and stylish glass drink container.
- Reusable silicone lids - need a simple solution to cover a pot, pan or make a bowl into a food storage container? Silicone lids are a reusable and economical alternative to aluminum foil and plastic wrap.
- Reuse decorative bottles to decant olive oil, vinegar and other kitchen staples - so simple to do with a durable stainless steel and cork pour spout.
- Reuse lunch containers as food storage containers and vice versa - how many times have you had a small amount of food, such as leftover sauce or a piece of fresh cut fruit, and you used a large container to store it? Why? Most of the kitchens we visit have a vast selection of medium and large containers, but are woefully lacking in smaller ones which can be some of the most versatile food containers in your kitchen. Rethink your lunch containers - they are perfect for storing smaller amounts of food.
- Rechargeable batteries - how many batteries do you toss a year? Probably more than you think. From toys to remotes to those 'extra' batteries we hoard in drawers that never get used, a staggering amount of batteries end up in landfills. While rechargeable batteries typically contain small amounts of toxic heavy metals, they can be recharged and reused many times.
- Reusable soap dispensers - from dish soap to hand soap, reusable soap dispensers allow you to buy your soap in bulk and dispense it in reusable, stylish dispensers that are much more convenient to use. You get to enjoy the savings from buying in bulk, the planet gets to enjoy less packaging waste.
- Reusable food storage bags and clips - why did this make our list? Because too often we see fruits, veggies and snack items such as chips, cookies and crackers go bad because they weren't stored properly. Reusable food storage bags and clips easily pay for themselves many times over and the space saving design of these food storage must-haves makes them an indispensable addition to any kitchen.
- Reusable single cup coffee filters - they now fit almost all single cup brewers and are super simple to use. Just scoop the coffee of your choice into the filter and place in the brewer just like a disposable pack. The benefit to the environment? Rather than tossing a disposable pack in the trash, the coffee grounds from the filter can be used for rich garden compost. The benefit to you? Enjoy the benefits of the single cup brewer without the hefty price tag.