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 counter tops 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?