zero-waste and social distancing

In honor of Earth Day, I thought it might be fun to write about our zero-waste swaps that have helped us the most during the pandemic. Some of these I’ve written about before (and I have links to those posts if you’re interested), but others are new here. 

I don’t know about you all, but as soon as things started getting out of control, my Facebook feed filled up with posts from people searching for assorted items like toilet paper and diapers. I remember looking at Justin and saying, “I’m so glad we don’t need to worry about a lot of this stuff.” For once, being weird helped! 

Here are our zero-waste swaps that have helped so far: 

You’ll notice that what most of these have in common is that they are made of cloth and they reduce paper products in our home. I’ve been on a mission for the last few years to reduce paper products in our home. One by one, I research alternatives, gain buy in from Justin, and implement our new way of doing things. It’s a process. 

Let’s briefly talk about each of our swaps. These are mostly in the order that we adopted them in our home. Some are easier than others in terms of time commitment, upfront costs, and level of funny looks you’ll get. 

We swapped paper towels for cloth cleaning towels a little over four years ago. This was our first and easiest swap. Had I known what I know now about plastic and microfiber then, I would have switched to flour sack towels, but we’re going to use our existing towels until they fall apart. There’s no sign of that happening yet. We’ve only gotten funny looks from the few medical providers (speech therapy, physical therapy, and our home health nurse) because they’re accustomed to drying their hands with paper towels. I just make sure to put out a fresh towel for them before they arrive. 

Next up are our cloth handkerchiefs. I got our supply from an Etsy shop and will buy more from her when we’re ready. When we lived in Michigan, my allergies were out of control and by the end of the first week my nose would be raw and sad. Handkerchiefs have solved that problem entirely. We do still buy the occasional box of tissue, but that’s often for when Justin is sick with a cold and he doesn’t want to deal with it. I use them all the time and always have one in my pocket. I don’t recall ever receiving funny looks for my hankies. 

If you’re a long-time reader than you know how much I love grocery shopping with our jars. Sure, there has been the occasional hiccup but, overall, we’ve had positive experiences at many stores. By far, our best experiences – and this won’t surprise you – have been at our local zero waste store. Just before coronavirus closed most stores, we stocked up on our favorite goodies from the zero-waste store including olive oil, all-purpose cleaner, dish soap, and hand soap. Right now, they’re doing local delivery and curbside pick-up. We might have to put in an order as our supplies are starting to dwindle.  

We haven’t been using our jars at the grocery store lately since most stores have stopped allowing folks to bring their own reusable bags or jars. Instead, we bought our own bulk bags and are refilling our jars from them. We brought the store to us. We got 10 pounds of sugar, 20 pounds of rice, a gallon bucket of coconut oil, and 24 pounds of flour. The larger bags feel less wasteful than smaller individual containers. 

Our last two swaps all have to do with bathroom stuff. So, I’ll understand if you decide to stop reading now, but considering the run on and continued shortages of toilet paper – even Who Gives A Crap is out of stock – maybe you should keep reading.  

We’re big proponents of bidets in our house. You don’t need to get a fancy one, although I imagine that a fancy one would be nice. Our’s is definitely not fancy, but it gets the job done. For those of you unfamiliar with the idea, a bidet sprays water on your bum to clean you up. You end up using less toilet paper because you’re simply drying off.  Just don’t try to use it as a diaper sprayer. You’ve been warned! 

Finally, we cloth diaper our kiddo. I’m working on writing a much longer post about why and how we cloth diaper, but it’s pretty straightforward. You snap the diaper on the kid and change as often as needed. You put the dirty diaper in the bin, and we wash them every other day. Yeah, you must spray the solids off, but it really isn’t that big of a deal. It has definitely saved our sanity though. This kid uses about eight diapers a day – sometimes WAY more. If we had to buy disposables, I think we would go nuts with the cost and waste. We’re not quite to cloth wipes yet, but that might be coming if my subscribe & save delivery keeps getting canceled. 

Would you consider making any of these swaps? Have you had to make changes to how you typically do things? 


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