Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Reader Question: What are some tips on less trash leaving the house?

First off, a BIG thank you to all my readers! This blog has been such a fun new venture for me and it has been a thrill to watch the numbers grow! I appreciate every blog comment, email, Facebook message, comment, post,  and *like.* I hope you'll keep them coming! Wow, that was a lot of exclamation points. But seriously, I appreciate each and every one of you :)

Now for some Q&A. I've gotten some great questions and I thought I should start addressing them...


What are some tips on less trash LEAVING the house? Do you use paper towels? I assume you have the reusable grocery bags?


If you read yesterday's post, you probably saw the link to FAQ - Why Recycling Should be a Last Resort from Live Renewed. Just when you thought you were doing your part by recycling, this post proves otherwise! Don't get me wrong, recycling is great and something that we need to do...but the real challenge is to rethink everything you're consuming and to focus more on the reduce, reuse, repurpose aspect. Here are some tips:

1) Use cloth...for everything. We use paper towels VERY sparingly. They really are a last resort (I think it would literally take us at least a year and a half to go through one roll). If we spill something nasty on the floor, we use a washcloth (that resides at the kitchen sink), and that washcloth then heads straight for the laundry. Then we get out a new washcloth (so we're always prepared). Bottom line, use more reusable items like washcloths and rags, rather than something disposable. You might remember I have a whole post dedicated to using cloth napkins for this very reason. And for the mamas, cloth diapers and reusable breast pads are the way to go. I've recently been challenged to rethink some other areas where I could probably be using something reusable, like for removing my eye makeup (which I currently use cotton balls for). And if you really want to get crazy, check out this post from Keeper of the Home (and subsequent comments) for even more ideas (my blog is called Simple GreenISH Living for a reason, though, so there are a couple places I'm just not willing to go with cloth...but you might be more adventurous than me).

2) Pay attention to food packaging. Resist the urge to buy individually wrapped items (or at least limit the number of individually wrapped items you buy). Buy bigger containers of an item, buy in bulk, and use reusable containers to divvy out smaller portions. We recently switched to buying large containers of yogurt so that we eliminate all those containers from individually packaged servings (I've checked with the yogurt companies and most single-serving yogurt cups aren't even recyclable). If you're packing your lunches like we do, try to use as many reusable containers as possible when doing so. To make it easier for yourself, have a couple sets (preferably glass, at least for the adults in the fam) so that you always have a clean set to make lunch packing quicker and less of a hassle. There are adorable reusable snack/sandwich bags that are another a great option. Yes, we use reusable grocery bags around here (check out this post with links to homemade grocery bags or this post for tips for reusing plastic bags). If you're already doing well to remember your reusable grocery bags, why not also tote along a set of reusable produce bags? My mother-in-law just bought us a set of these which are great! Also check with your grocery stores to see if you can bring your own containers for bulk items (our co-op lets us bring ours) and I've heard you can even bring your own containers to the deli counter at some stores. Here are some other great links for food packaging reduction from Live Renewed and The Zero Waste Home.

3) Reuse/Repurpose (and Upcycle). Give new life to whatever you no longer want/need and can't donate or sell on Craigslist (or at a garage sale). One of my favorite magazines, Real Simple, always features "New Uses for Old Things" - I no longer subscribe to the magazine (because pretty much everything can be found online these days), but this has always been one of my favorite features! It's a great place to start to get those creative juices flowing. I recently repurposed my old napkin holder as a mail file (a tip I'm sure I got from Real Simple at some point) and I upcycled an old bottle into a soap dispenser last week. Check out the blogosphere and Pinterest for even more great repurposing/upcycling ideas (I feature some of these great ideas on my blog from time to time). Just get creative! I know you have it in you :) 

If you have any tips to add to this list for less trash leaving the house, please share, I'd love to hear your suggestions!


  1. Beth, I use paper towels at the office daily. Problem with cloth is i have to keep things steril> Also you will be proud as i recycled one of the old tables from the old office. I painted it black last night and instead of buying a new table i and refurbishing it. You might add a note on this and the sign we are reusing.

  2. I love Trader Joes, but I hate that they use soooo much packaging. Compositing is a huge way that we send out less garbage. It is always weird for me when I am visiting someone and I can't compost. We also feed many of our food scraps to our chickens, so we have very little food waste.

  3. Thanks for the the reminder, Kara! Totally should have added composting to the list (

    LOVE Trader Joes too, but feel the same way about ALL.that.packaging. I think I recall reading one of your posts about the smell of Trader Joes giving you nausea during your pregnancies? Lol, it had to be the packaging!