Recycling is a fairly easy habit to get into. Reducing is, too. But what about that tricky other r? Reuse. It can be difficult to figure out how to reuse and sometimes the idea of reusing is a little icky. This week I’ve got ways for you to reuse certain items to cut down on how much waste you’re producing.
The Culture Of Disposable
Americans are, I’m sorry, horrifically obsessed with disposability. I’m an American and I know that I have been guilty of this in the past. I’m getting better about it across the board and have recognized the places where I can do better. We like things quick and cheap and disposable, but let’s face it. The stately stone house that has stood for centuries is better built and more beautiful than the pre-fab McMansion in the cookie cutter subdivision, right? Right! Let’s apply that thinking to other areas of our lives. In addition to being better for the earth, reusing is also great for your wallet.
In The Kitchen
- Don’t recycle jars. There is zero reason to throw out a tomato sauce jar. It’s free food storage. Think about it. Even if you only buy sauce once a month that is twelve pieces of food storage in a year. Twelve pieces of plastic you didn’t have to buy. These are great for storing bulk bought nuts, dried fruits, seeds, spices. They are also perfect for storing leftovers, and packing snacks for a picnic or road trip. It’s not just glass tomato sauce jars, though. Honey, peanut butter, jelly… the options are limitless.
- Reuse your glass. I work from home and during the day I drink tons of water. I pull out a pint glass in the morning (I don’t think I’ve bought glasses since 1999 when I moved into my first place) and use the same one throughout the day. There is zero reason to use a different glass. At the end of the night I pop it in the dishwasher but I could rinse and reuse. I used to get a new glass every time but all this does is require me to run the dishwasher more often.
- Skip the plate when you can. I have either a smoothie or an english muffin with peanut butter for breakfast every morning. I generally stand near the counter and eat this while drinking my coffee. My counter is clean and dry and easy to wife off after. Save the plate and fill the dishwasher more slowly.
- Use a dish towel. Stop reaching for napkins and paper towels! Keep a dishtowel on the handle of your oven and use it for wiping your hands.
- Don’t toss the coffee grounds! Certain plants like azaleas and blueberry bushes love acidity so many people put coffee grounds into the soil near those. There is a risk of getting mold so the foolproof method is to compost those coffee grounds and then use the mulch everywhere in your garden.
In The Bathroom
Don’t worry, we’re not gonna get weird here.
- Reuse your towel. Seriously. You just got out of the shower. You’re CLEAN! Your towel is just wet, but it isn’t dirty. The only thing you have to worry about is that funky smell that comes from towels sitting damp for too long. Here’s the trick: dry flat so that the max surface area is exposed. In our house Kris always showers first since he commutes. After his shower he rests his towel over a rack we keep just for that purpose. After my shower I put my towel over the shower curtain rod – yup, that little bit of room between sides is enough to eliminate the chance of funk. At some point during the day when both are dry I refold them and put them on the rack so that they’re set for the next morning. This significantly reduces how frequently we have to wash towels. I do not recommend using the hook on the back of the door because the folds that develop cut down on the dry time.
- Consider Lush. If you have a Lush store near you, consider switching to their products in the bathroom. Lush’s black pots are recyclable or you can reuse them. They are great for leftovers, homemade cleaning products, bringing to the store for buying bulk, and as lunch/leftover/snack containers. Just pop them through the dishwasher and you’re all set.
- Use a beauty blender. Sure, you can use qtips and cotton balls for blending your makeup but beauty blender sponges are reusable and work better. I recommend ecotools products which are available in stores and online.
- Make your own. Make your own bathroom cleaner and window/glass cleaner so that you can just refill the spray bottles using a funnel rather than purchasing and throwing out plastic spray bottles each time.
- If you have a cat. If you have a cat there is no reason to buy plastic jugs of litter each time. Many pet stores sell bulk litter you can buy — just bring your bucket to refill. And don’t buy a fancy scoop. Cut the top off of a clean, dry plastic milk jug. Your cat is all about an eco-friendly bathroom.
This Week’s Challenge
Pick one kitchen and one bathroom hack and start doing it this week. Add more as the new ones become habits and pretty soon you’ll be greener than you ever thought possible.