Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Waste Not, Want Not

Being environmentally conscious is really important to me. I find it senseless to waste resources, and at the same time money as well. Luckily, over the years I have found ways to solve both of these problems.

Even if you do not care about what resources you are helping to save, you might be thrifty and interested to know how much money you could save by cutting out the following from your life.

#1 Paper Towels

Paper towels obviously waste a lot of trees, not to mention all of the pollution that goes into creating them--from logging equipment, chemicals to treat the water, smokestacks from the factories, etc. All for something that you are going to use once and throw away.

Instead of using paper towels, you can simply use cloth dish towels for cleaning and wiping up spills. Cotton is a more easily renewable resource than trees, and production is less extensive. Plus, it is reusable--often one towel can last several years as opposed to a one time use to a paper towel. If you are afraid of germs, then you can always designate certain cloth towels for each specific task(one set for spills, another set for cleaning the sink, etc.) and also wash them separately from your bath towels if you wish. For those really dirty jobs(like pet messes) reuse old tattered t-shirts for rags. Even by using those once and throwing them away, you are saving a lot of resources.

How does it all add up??

If you would only use one paper towel per week, at the end of the year you would have made 4,425 TONS of landfill waste!

On average, a to create ONE TON of paper towels uses:

* 4100 kwh energy
* 7,000 gallons of water
* 60 pounds of air emissions
* 3 cubic yards of landfill space.

Add it up...paper towels really are not worth it. I'll let you do the math on how much money you are wasting! ;-)

#2 Ziploc Bags

Ziploc or plastic sandwich baggies are very popular with a lot of households. They can be used to put snacks in, lunch items, leftovers, and more. How convenient!

Or are they really?

Every year, Americans throw away some 100 billion plastic bags(including grocery bags, ziploc bags, newspaper bags, etc.). It's equivalent to dumping nearly 12
million barrels of oil. Only about 2 percent of those are recycled, and the rest when discarded can persist for centuries. They can spend an eternity in landfills, or floating around the country causing litter. Plastic does not easily biodegrade.

Instead of using a ziploc bag once for your food items, try these tips instead:

>>Store leftovers in a reusable containers--try enamelware, which is made from metal and not plastic like those tupperware or rubbermaid ones that eventually get thrown away too. Enamelware can last generation after generation. Just remember to reheat your leftovers on a plate instead of in the container(a minor inconvenience for how much money you will be saving).

>>Use cloth bags for snacks. Some of them are lined with PUL, or Polyurethane laminate(which is chemically inert and proven to be safe), so if you were to put something like sliced strawberries in them it would not leak. You can reuse them for many years, which elminates tons of waste with each use.

You can find these at handmade sites like Hyena Cart or Etsy. Just type in "resuable snack bag" in the search engine for hundreds of styles and options. Or, if you are particularly crafty, you can easily make snack bags yourself. All you need is some material, thread, velcro, a sewing machine, and imagination.

>>Pack your sandwich in a wrap n mat. A wrap n mat is a cloth mat with velcro adhesives to store your sandwich in. It's easy to use, and reusable too.

You can buy them here:

The possibilities are endless! Use your imagination when it comes to food storage. A lot of companies are creating biodegradable "plastic" bags entirely from corn and other plants. This is something that I use now for my small business, after realizing how much waste I was creating with the plastic bags I used for samples and packaging. Even though for that instance I am paying a little more than standard plastic, I am willing to spend the extra cents to help the Earth.

#3 Saran Wrap

Saran wrap, or plastic food wrap, is a staple of most households. It is usually used to store leftovers, and sometimes still left on while reheating those leftovers.

What most do not realize is that plastic wrap usually contains BPA or Bisphenol A, which mimics estrogen and causes reproductive harm in rats at levels below what most humans are exposed to every day.

In fact, BPA was first developed in the 1930s as a synthetic estrogen. For
whatever reason, someone decided that it would make a great liner for
canned food products and an additive for plastics manufacturing. As a result, 95% of adult Americans have a measurable amount of BPA in our blood and urine.

As if that weren't bad enough news, all of the plastic wrap manufactured in the U.S. each year is enough to shrink wrap Texas! Like plastic bags, plastic wrap is not easily biodegradable and can remain in landfills for a minimum of 80 years, but usually it lasts and eternity.

An island of garbage is floating in the North Pacific that is estimated
to be larger than the size of Texas. The death of over a billion
seabirds and mammals are attributed to the ingestion of plastics.
Despite government treaties to ban ships from dumping plastics, it is
estimated that nearly 14 billion pounds of plastics are dumped in the

So what can you do? As an alternative to plastic wrap for leftovers, try using "foilers" instead. You might remember your mother or grandmother using these in her kitchen. They resemble a shower cap, but are made specifically for food storage. All you do is stretch the foiler over the top of whatever bowel or dish you want to store food in. They come in many different sizes and prints. These are great for traveling to pot lucks and picnics, if you have a fruit or pasta salad in a bowl, top it with a pretty foiler and you are ready to go. I have not seen any at the grocery store recently(sign of the times!) but you can still find these at handmade sites I mentioned earlier like Hyena Cart and Etsy. Simply type in "foilers" in the search engine.

In conclusion...

I do not even buy those 3 things anymore. To me, I am not going to spend money on something to throw away. Those items are NOT essential to living and you can do just fine without them. The EPA says Americans generate 245.7 million tons of waste each year. After recycling, more than 166 million are left for disposal -- and 12 percent of that amount is plastic. Do the math on how much of that waste is from things you simplpy use once or maybe a few times. Think of how much money you could save every week, month, and year. Enough to go on a vacation or pay off your car perhaps? Now that is GREEN living I can do. :-)

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