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Five Eco-Don’ts when you’re Going Green

In January, I posted a list of 12 green resolutions for 2021. Now that it is (somehow!) March, I’m delving into all things reusable. We’ll talk about how to make lots of wonderful changes in your home that will help you reduce your waste and your impact on our wonderful planet. But, first, a few words of caution about eco-changes. The following is a list of Eco-Don’ts when beginning (or continuing) your journey toward a low-waste lifestyle.

Eco-Don’t #1: Don’t ditch the disposables. It can be really tempting when you begin something new to “clear the slate” and “start fresh”, but when it comes to eco-changes, that is actually counterproductive. Tossing all your disposable products without using them would be worse than not using them. So, hold onto all those paper towels and ziplock bags and sponges. Instead of going cold turkey, why not ease yourself off of them instead? For example, when we decided to stop using paper towels, we still had a few rolls left. We started using them only for cleaning the bathrooms, dog throw-up, and other gross things and switched to rags for everything else. And, if you have a bunch of packaged snacks, water bottles, and/or disposable masks, save them for emergency situations (just watch the expiration dates).

These two rolls of paper towels have moved with us three times. We use them very sparingly for only the grossest stuff. Rags, like these old stained t-shirts (which I cut up into smaller pieces), work just as well. You can wash them, if you’re picking up something like spilled coffee, or toss them, if you’re picking up something like dog throw up.

Eco-Don’t #2: Don’t buy into the hype. There are A TON of green products out there and a lot of them are really tempting. Just because one exists however, doesn’t mean you personally need it. Look at what you use daily and see if there is an eco-swap for those things that doesn’t require buying something. For example, Unpaper towels are super cute, but dishtowels, or even a bunch of ripped up t-shirts work just as well. And, while bamboo, silicone, and coconut tableware are all awesomely renewable, there is nothing more eco than using what you have or going to the thrift store and buying some mismatched dishes. In fact, following February’s advice when it comes to buying things, is usually your best bet. However, there are definitely some swaps everyone should make and I’ll go into those in more detail later.

A lot of companies are trying to look green these days. Things like disposable “eco-cups” are not the answer. Photo credit:

Eco-Don’t #3: Don’t get greenwashed! It’s awesome that more and more people are interested in living more sustainably and that more and more companies are trying to produce sustainable products, but there is also a lot of greenwashing out there, so do some research before your buy. To learn more about greenwashing, check out Rachel’s post here.

Buying sustainably takes some initial effort and some up-front cash, but over time you will save money.

Eco-Don’t #4: Don’t let the sticker shock stop you. Listen, some of these reusable, eco-friendly products are really expensive. For example, one LastSwab costs $12. How can you justify spending $12 for one q-tip when you can buy 500 of them for $15 on Amazon?! It can be hard, but you need to get into the habit of thinking long-term about products. Over time, you’ll at least break even on most eco-products, if not save money. After an initial investment, I have saved hundreds of dollars on diapers, for example. And my expensive Norwex clothes save me from buying sponges. You might need to do some budgeting to make the initial purchase, but think of it as an investment and over time you’ll save money.

Baking your own bread takes time and practice. So does hanging your laundry on the line and walking or biking instead of driving. Set your goals high, but be kind to yourself along the way. Just don’t give up!

Eco-Don’t #5: Don’t give up. Some eco-changes are super easy. Buy a water filter and a water bottle and suddenly you don’t need to buy (and lug around) all those silly plastic water bottles anymore. Some changes take a bit of getting used to. Yes, you do need to give your cast iron cookware a bit more TLC, but it will quickly be routine. Even the eco-swaps I recommend in Zero WastePeriod will become old hat, I promise. But some eco-changes are more of a lifestyle change and will require more time, (human) energy, and determination. Switching from using a dryer to line-drying is one of those changes. It is much easier to throw your clothes in the dryer than it is to monitor the weather and get out there and pin and unpin each sock. And buying a pack of pants at Target is easier than patching up the ripped knees on the pants you already have. For that kind of change, you just need to keep your eyes on the prize and try to embrace the added benefits of a slower, more physical life. But don’t give up just because something feels awkward or hard at first. You can do this!

Those are the don’ts. For the rest of the month, I want to focus on the dos!

– Hannah

Have you fallen into any of these eco-traps?

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