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25 Wasteful Things You Can Probably Get Along Without

By Joe Laur |
Like Garrison Keillor says about Bob’s Pretty Good Grocery in Lake Wobegon: “If you can’t find it at Bob’s, you can probably get along without it!”

Like Garrison Keillor says about Bob’s Pretty Good Grocery in Lake Wobegon: “If you can’t find it at Bob’s, you can probably get along without it!”

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We Americans are pretty spoiled. We can get just about anything we want, just about any place or time we want it. And we generate plenty of waste in the bargain. In 2008, we generated 250 million tons of trash- about a third was recycled, but a lot went into landfills or waste to energy facilities. Now on behalf of our parent company, Waste Management, we want to thank you for keeping a lot of good people employed, but we’d rather get the ongoing value out of that material rather than just toss it. The core problem is not purely consumption. Nature consumes everything. The issue is that our system focuses on disposability - but we can change that.

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Reflect on the disposable, overly-packaged, and single-use products that you use, and then look for reusable alternatives. Not sure where to start? Here’s a list that the folks at Planet Green put up awhile back. more than two dozen items that many people use . . . and can easily live without. Like a good meal of beer and tacos, we thought it was worth bringing them back up again.

25 wasteful things you can live without and the smart alternative:

Plastic wrap

Use a container with a lid.

Tin foil

Use an oven-safe pot or dish with a lid.

1
Five Rings

Disposable cleaning cloths, dusters, etc

Use a microfiber cloth that can be washed.

Paper towels

Use a tea towel, instead.

Disposable pens

Buy a good pen that only needs the ink well changed.

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Paper plates

Washing dishes is worth the effort.

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Plastic cutlery

Use the metal stuff.

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Disposable razors

Invest in a quality razor that only needs blades changed.

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Prepackaged fruits and vegetables

Buy fresh local produce.

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Individually wrapped snacks

Pack em yourself- snacks travel better in a hard container.

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Juice boxes

Juice in a reusable glass or steel container.

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Electric pencil sharpeners

Use the hand-crank version- might be your day’s exercise.

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Disposable diapers

Organic cotton/hemp diapers aren't much more difficult to use.

2

Disposable cloths

Fabric cloths can be washed regularly, absorb better.

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Paper or plastic single-use grocery bags

Get a few reusable bags or Earth Bins.

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Bottled water

Filter your tap water.

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Throw away batteries

Invest in rechargeable batteries- you'll save money in the long run.

3
Peter Halasz

Electric can openers

Use your muscles.

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Single-serving pudding or yogurt cups

Buy a large container of yogurt or pudding, and send it in reusable containers.

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Plastic cups

Stick to reusable glasses and mugs.

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Disposable table cloths

Spills happen- wash your tablecloth weekly.

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Antibacterial wipes

Make your own natural hand sanitizer.

4

Facial tissues

handkerchiefs work just fine. Launder them.

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Paper bills and statements

Switch to e-billing and statements. More secure, too.

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Plasticized sticky notes

Use paper sticky notes or scrap paper; they can be recycled.

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What item in your life can you “get along without”? We’d love to hear your comments.

Share with Your Friends & Family
  • Terr L. 4 years ago
    Wonderful ideas unless one has several chronic disabilities. I use the 'non-green' version of most of these ideas simply because I can't wash dishes, open jars, etc. anymore. If the power goes out then I'm sol since I can't manage a hand can opener. But they are all good ideas for the general populace. What about green alternatives for the physically disabled? And I think I had that microwave meal pictured for dinner just last night. 'Back in the day' I was greener than green when I was raising 5 boys on a very limited income. Cloth diapers and all even with the twins; gleaning fruit and canning etc., but now it would be impossible. So what alternatives are there for people like me? There are millions of us out here! tia!
  • Rusty S. 4 years ago
    In RE to the comments about the Swiffer products - I use a flat headed mop that has terry cloth covers that are held on with elastic. I mix up the cleaning solution in a spray bottle, then do the spray-wipe routine with the floors. The heads can be rinsed during the job if it's a big one, and I toss the terry cloth part into the wash when I'm finished. So, it's like the Swiffer, without having to throw away so much stuff.

    Wastefulness aside, I always seemed to run out of supplies for the Swiffer at the worst time, and I found them expensive. I'm better off with things that I only have to buy once.

    The mop I currently use wasn't any kind of special order, and it wasn't expensive - I got it in the cleaning aisle at Lowe's or Home Depot, one of those places. I think it was something like $15.
  • Laura G. 4 years ago
    Regarding the comment about paper towels being more environmentally sound because you need to use soap and water to wash a towel. You need to look at the entire lifecycle of any product. In the case of paper towels - the paper industry is one of the most serious polluters because of the amount of water and bleach used in the pulping process. Then add in the gas for the machines to cut down trees to make the paper towels, the gas to get the trees to the mill, the energy to run the mill, the gas to get the product to market, the gas it takes you to go to the store to buy the product, the gas used in the recycling truck, then the energy to make that paper into a new paper product which again uses water etc and the whole cycle starts over again. Cloth takes a lot of energy out the equation. There are also many ways that gray water from washing can be reused. The few towels a week I wash because of not using paper towels is small compared to how many paper towels I used to go through before I switched. And once my kitchen towels start looking bad, they become my cleaning rags and then if I pitch them they biodegrade.
  • Laura G. 4 years ago
    Cloth diapers are more environmentally friendly than disposables over the entire lifecycle of the product. Disposables are made from wood pulp, chemicals for absorbancy and plastic. The amount of water needed in each process to make a disposable diaper is far more than what you think, not to mention the pollution and environmental distruction caused by logging and drilling for oil. Next you have fecal matter going directly into landfills. Fecal matter is considered a biohazard and should be disposed of in a toliet, but I never heard of anyone emptying a disposable into the toilet. Next disposables do not decompose in a landfill and will still be there in a hundred years. You do not need to use super hot water to clean a cloth diaper - check out cloth diaper sites for products that will santize the diaper. A cloth diaper is made from organic materials and can be reused as burp cloths, cleaning rags, etc. Once thrown away, they will degrade. So they are a better choice. Do some research to find out which is better for the environment and you will find that many studies were paid for by the diposable diaper industry. There was a comprehensive study done in England in the last few years, but it too failed to take into the entire lifecycle of each product. Once you do that you see that cloth is better.

    Added bonus - children tend to potty train earlier because they can feel the wetness with a cloth diaper. Disposables absorb that and hold too much urine. Parents tend to not change their child as often because the wetness is not readily apparent. The child doesn't feel the wetness, so why potty train. Potty train early and then no more diapers.

    Also don't use those disposable wipes - try a warm washcloth with soapy water if needed.
  • Sea W. 4 years ago
    Several of the above items, though disposable, have been confirmed to be the most environmentally friendly option.

    Example, use of paper towels, is better than tea-towels/microfiber/fabric-cloths in many situations, because water and detergent/soap need to be used clean the towels/cloths, which creates wastewater and consumes electricity/natural gas. And paper towels can often be composted, which further reduces their environmental impact.

    Re: reuseable containers, versus disposable packaging. Again, the containers will need to be washed, with water/detergent-soap, creating waste water and consuming energy. And much packaging nowadays can be recycled. It's not a slam dunk that the re-suable container is much better.

    To the persons who advocate showering only weekly ... a person can save a lot of water by showering efficiently ... use a water-saver showerhead, and get in and out of that shower in 2 minutes or less. Or do it military style - get completely wet, turn the water off, lather your whole body, then turn the water on for a quick rinse. You don't need to return to 1930s bad hygiene. Btw, showering is not just about smell, its about being healthy,cleaning bacteria and virus' out of your hair, and off your skin (particularly in the pelvic area). Ladies, you don't need to have the hot water pouring out the showerhead and down the drain as you take 10 minutes to shave your legs.



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