by Adriane Jaynes
There is a common misconception that doing things that are better for the environment always costs more money. This is the first in an occasional series of articles that will prove that myth (mostly) false. In fact, many times the opposite is true – you can actually save money by choosing options that are less harmful to the environment.
One of the easiest and best ways we can lessen our impact on the planet is to just buy and consume less. Today we’ll focus on the kitchen. Purchasing fewer disposable, individually packaged, and single use products will save money and reduce your impact on the planet. Here is a list of 6 items commonly found in the kitchen that you can stop buying (or buy less of); eliminating or reducing these will help the planet and your wallet. Choose an item from the list and try to go without it (or limit your use) for a month. Once you get used to it, pick another one and try eliminating it for a month, and so on. Your wallet and the planet will be grateful.
- Paper napkins – I have not purchased paper napkins in over a decade! People have seem to have the idea that cloth napkins are only for fancy occasions, but they do not have to be. I have a drawer of bandanas we use as napkins. Since they are just bandanas, I don’t care if they get stained. When they are dirty, we just throw them in with the next load of laundry. They don’t take up much room in the washer and I don’t bother to fold them anymore, I just stuff them back in the napkin drawer. Even though they have been used daily for the last 5 years by messy babies, toddlers, and now big boys, none of them are stained and all are in remarkably good condition.
- Paper towels – I keep a roll of paper towels on hand, but I can usually make a single roll last for a year or more because I use cloth rags for most messes, and reserve the paper towels for exceptionally gross jobs, or for cooking bacon in the microwave. I recently got a really good deal on a 10 pack of paper-towels, so I think I’m set for the decade!
- Ziploc bags – like paper towels, I keep these on hand but I use them very sparingly. Most of the time leftovers and packed lunches fit nicely into the plastic and glass containers that I’ve used for years.
- Juice boxes and individually packaged snacks and drinks –Sometimes these are necessary, but if you can reserve them only for times you are on the go, you can save a lot of money and cut down on a lot of waste. In our house I pack my sons’ lunches with a water bottle filled with juice rather than a juice box. The individually packaged snacks that I do buy are reserved for school lunches or the stash of snacks I keep in the car (which is helpful at keeping us away from fast food when the kids are begging for food in the car). When we are home they are served portions of apple sauce, yogurt, cheese, chips, etc. out of the large containers or bags. This reduces the amount of trash we generate, but its primary function is to save on our grocery bill.
- Bottled Water – technically this is an individually packaged drink, which I mentioned above – but I think it merits its own mention because of the environmental and economic impacts. There are so many reasons to avoid purchasing bottled water, but the first one I’ll mention is price. Bottled water is essentially 600-2000 times more expensive than tap water, and if you think you’re paying for quality, you’re not – it’s been widely reported for years that most bottled water comes from municipal water sources, or worse is shipped across the world from places like Fiji where half the population lacks access to clean water. And some studies show that bottled water is less safe than tap water, because when the plastic bottles get hot (either during transportation, storage, or when you leave it in your car on a hot day) the chemicals in the plastic can leech out into the water. So, if you’re still drinking bottled, it’s time to stop. Use refillable bottles. It takes 10 seconds to fill one.
- Trash bags – you might not believe me on this, but we have not purchased trash bags in over a decade either. By eliminating many of items that generate huge amounts of trash, composting our food scraps, and recycling we have eliminated the need to buy trash bags. Our amount of trash is small enough that we are able to use grocery sacks (which we somehow still seem to have an endless supply of even though we almost always use reusable bags).
All of these efforts now have an additional benefit of saving us money on our trash bill since the City of Tulsa initiated the three size options for trash cans. We opted for the smallest and least expensive trash can, which our family of four rarely fills to capacity unless have guests or are hosting a large party.
Many of you probably have cloth napkins, plastic or glass containers, and reusable water bottles on hand. If you’re excited about trying one of the tips above, try using the items in your house that you already own. Please don’t use this list as an excuse to buy more stuff!
I hope you’ll give some of these a try and see how easy it is to make small changes that can add up over time. Feel free to use the comment section to add your tips for reducing waste, ask for more detail on these tips, or suggest future topics. Happy saving!
Adriane Jaynes is the Energy Programs Coordinator at INCOG, where she manages the Tulsa Area Clean Cities Coalition, which promotes voluntary projects to increase the use of alternative fuel vehicles by focusing on projects designed to reduce overall operating costs and increase public access to new fuel sources. Additionally, she is a follower of Jesus, a wife, a mother, a traveler, and an advocate.