This article was written 20.12.18, please excuse any reference to COVID that no longer applies.
Happy New Year everyone! I hope you had a good holiday, despite not being able to see relatives in person. (Thank God for the internet, am I right?)
To kick off the new year, I thought I’d start with what zero waste goals I hope to achieve by the end of this year. I can’t remember if I made a post about it yet, but last year my main goal was to switch from disposable to reusable menstrual pads, and I’m happy to say, I succeeded!
It actually wasn’t as hard or gross as I originally thought, and if I haven’t posted it already, I promise I will make a dedicated post talking all about that transition.
Since I felt like that was my most wasteful thing, I was struggling to find what else would be a goal that would make a big (ish) difference by the end of the year. Then it finally hit me: I use a lot of paper towels. I’m kind of surprised I never noticed before, but I guess since I hadn’t really thought about it/it was just a ‘normal’ thing I did, I didn’t really pay much attention to it. And this is why we have a problem!
With that in mind, my next main goal for this year is to stop using paper towels. That seems like a crazy thing to say, but when you think about it, chopping down a tree that took years to grow just to be used in a product we only use 1 time? That’s crazy! (Same thoughts I’m having about toilet paper, but I think I’ll do better if I focus on changing 1 thing at a time, instead of trying to change everything all at once, so toilet paper switching will have to wait)
Since I started doing some research into zero waste living, I’ve discovered there are bamboo paper towels. These are better for the planet because bamboo re-grows a lot faster than trees do, so it’s not as devastating as (for example) cutting down a 40 year old tree, and then having to wait another 40 years for it to re-grow. Bamboo is a type of grass, so it grows a lot faster, which is great! Though switching to bamboo would still be producing waste, I’m just thinking of using them as a transition while I figure out what else I can use.
It sounds dumb, but it never occurred to me that most things I use paper towels for (wiping up spills) I can just use a sponge or a towel for. I’ve also seen reusable paper towels as well. Those look like they are just wash clothes snapped together into a roll, so I may actually attempt to make some homemade reusable paper towels, if it turns out that actually is all they are. I’ll of course continue to keep researching, so I can make the best decision possible, but right now reusable paper towels are looking like a great option. Not only will they eliminate the single use paper towels I use, but because they can be washed, I can throw them in with the reusable pads (which I’ve actually been feeling bad about, because I’ve had to wash them by themselves and while I set the machine to do a Small load, I still feel like it’s a ‘waste’)
If I begin succeeding with the paper towels, my next main thing I’d like to switch to reusable is Ziploc bags. I use them also a lot more than I originally thought. Since COVID started, I did start washing and re-using them, which is good, because I’m not using them as single use plastic. However, since my end goal is to be as zero waste as possible, I’d like to switch them to reusable silicone bags, or to use jars or something else to replace them.
Zero waste isn’t about going out and buying all new reusable stuff, and while I think it’s great and helpful there are a lot of reusable alternatives out there now, I don’t think it’s practical for someone to dish out all this money to buy reusables and then just throw out all the plastic stuff they own. When I say I’m going to transition, I literally mean it. I will use the plastic bags and paper towels I have left (which admittedly isn’t very many at this point – which I think is one of the few good things to come out of 2020) and then will start to look to things I already have before deciding to go out and buy new reusable things.
So there you go. My 2 big zero waste goals for 2021 is to reduce/stop using paper towels made out of trees, and to stop/reduce use of Ziploc bags.
Do you have any zero waste goals you’d like to achieve? Do you have any tips or tricks on how to transition away from using paper towels or Ziploc bags? Let me know in the comments!
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