Want to know how to reduce paper waste? If you want to start conserving, then check out these easy ways to reduce waste at home.
How To Reduce Paper Waste In 5 Simple Ways
America is the land of disposable everything. We have so many single-use items at our fingertips that it almost feels unnatural not to use them. From the moment we wake up in the morning and reach for a tissue to the time we put the baby to bed in a fresh disposable diaper at night, we often throw out so many paper products in a day that we hardly even notice that we’re doing it. If you are looking for some easy and simple steps on how to reduce paper waste, the following are some great ways to continue saving paper without even missing it.
1. Use Cloth Napkins Everyday
Instead of reaching for the stack of paper napkins in the cabinet, keep a collection of cloth napkins on hand. You will have a lot of fun with this one, I promise! You can make them yourself using a variety of methods – you can use a serger for nice finished edges, turn under a hem and sew them up with a conventional machine, or just cut fringe and tie it into knots.
You can let the kids pick out fabric with their favorite motifs or cartoon characters, match the napkins to your curtains or other decors, get creative for special occasions, and change them with the seasons. I cut my napkins 20 inches square, so I can cut four napkins out of a yard and a quarter of fabric, but you can make them any size you want.
If you have no time for or interest in making your own, an economical alternative is to purchase bandanas. I’ve seen them in big box stores for as little as a dollar each, in a wide array of colors and prints.
Using cloth napkins sounds like it will add a lot to your laundry load, but it really doesn’t. We reuse ours for multiple meals, and with just the two of us, we don’t worry about which is whose. We use fresh ones for guests, of course, and just toss the napkins into the hamper when they leave.
2. Don’t Buy Paper Plates
If you are used to using them, it will be a bit of an adjustment period, but using paper plates is a habit you can easily break. If your reason for using them is that you don’t have time to wash plates, just think about what a small percentage of you total dish-washing chore is made up of the actual plates. If it’s still too much, consider asking each member of the family to wash his or her own plate after the meal, or make everyone take turns washing the load.
If you use paper plates just for picnics or outdoor eating, consider buying those light-weight plastic plates instead. You can pack them along in a picnic basket, small laundry basket, or spare cooler for outings, and even keep some stashed in your outdoor grilling supply storage.
You don’t even need paper plates for a party! If the affair is formal, you would not consider using anything less than you nice dinnerware anyway. And if it is casual – especially if it is a community pot luck event – ask each guest to bring his or her own mess kit. It makes for an easy no-muss-no-fuss clean-up. No worries about having to wash a lot of dishes after people leave, and no awkwardness when guests feel like they ought to help clean up. Everyone takes home their own – easy peasy. Guests will probably forget at first, so have some regular plates on hand for pinch hitting, but they will get used to it by the second or third bring-your-own-kit event, and many will like it so well they’ll even want to copy your idea.
3. Use Cloth For Cleaning
When your kitchen dishcloths or bathroom towels get old and worn, save them for rags instead of throwing them out. Keep them in a separate place from your good towels, in a container or drawer out of sight, so you just throw them in and no need for any troubles folding them during laundry day. Ideally, have two containers – something as elaborate as brand new tall kitchen trash cans or as cheap as recycled kitty litter buckets – with clean rags in one and soiled ones in the other. Once you develop the habit of reaching for a rag instead of a paper towel for counter top spills and floor messes and drying off wet pet paws, you will wonder why you ever thought you needed paper towels at all. You can keep paper towels on hand for really gross stuff if you’d rather, but you will find that reusable cloth works for most cleaning tasks.
Cleanup could not be easier. Just a load or two a month and you’re done. Washer, dryer, toss back in the bucket, boom. You can use a little bleach if you want to and if germs are your concern.
4. Use Washable Mops For Your Floor
Instead of throwaway floor cleaning pads, or even foam butterfly-type mops, you can save a lot of money and planet resources by using mop heads that you can wash in your washer. It will cost a little more up front but will begin saving you money very quickly.
In a busy homestead kitchen like mine, the floor needs a lot of cleaning. When I used foam mop heads, I bought a new one every month or two, and was dismayed when I realized they were added up to the same price as a whole new mop! I looked for an alternative and ended up trying the style that has a mop head made of thick string. That was three years ago, and I wouldn’t dream of using anything else. I have three mop heads, and just put on a clean one every few weeks and wash the dirty one with rags. They are self-wringing, so all you need is a mop and a bucket. They are easy to use, compact to store, and super economical to own.
5. Make Your Own Alternative To Wet Wipes
Instead of reaching for a disposable wipe – slathered in chemicals and boxed up in plastic – every time you need to tidy up or wipe toothpaste off a mirror, or get the grape jelly off your child’s cheek, or get the sticky chocolate off your steering wheel, you can use a cloth wipe instead. If you are following along with the list, you are already using cloth wipes at home after reading #3 above, but you can very easily step it up and do the same on the go.
Grab one of the rags you have stored in your rag bin, or just take a washcloth from the bathroom cabinet – wet it, use a little bleach or dish soap if you like, and put it in a zip-top bag. Done. Just like that. Use a used zip-top bag, of course, to reduce your cost and landfill waste even further. Just seal up the bag and set it wherever you used to set the package of ready-made wet wipes – in the car console, in your purse, or under the back seat. If you seal the top of the bag, the cloth will stay wet for weeks, but it’s a great idea to get in the habit of replacing it with a fresh one every week or two.
Here’s a video on how to make a basket out of recycled newspaper. A fabulous repurposing project that will surely help you reduce paper waste and create a wonderful decor for your home!
That’s it! Five ways to have a real impact on the environment, all so easy to implement that you will barely even notice you’re doing them. These are absolutely win-win ideas – you win by saving money, and the planet wins by saving waste – that will cost you nothing to try. I am not saying that by doing these things you will single-handedly eliminate all of the world’s burgeoning landfills and astronomical costs that go along with them. But what I am saying is that every tiny little step that every person takes in the right direction, is a step in the right direction. And together, we can all get there.
What do you think of these ways on how to reduce paper waste? Are you going to try all of them? Let us know in the comments section below.
This post was originally published on October 2015 and has been updated for quality and relevancy.