Increasing numbers of households are practicing recycling, but fewer of those households are practicing the other tenets of the environmentalist “Reduce, Re-Use, and Recycle” mantra. Given that the recycling process has its own environmental costs, the “reduce and re-use” aspects actually have the greater environmental impact. From the point of view of an individual household, reducing and re-using items will have its economic benefits as well as environmental.
Here are a few tips to try.
Re-Using Cleaning Items
Here’s a statistic for you: a microfiber cleaning cloth can do the work of sixty rolls of paper towels before it needs to be replaced. Microfiber is gentle enough that it can be used on nearly everything, even including eyeglasses. It’s absorbent for wet spills, adheres to dust for effective dusting, doesn’t streak glass, and costs less than a dollar. A household can invest upfront in a good number of microfiber cloths, and save money for years on the paper towels they’ve been regularly buying.
When it comes to household cleaning products, buy the bulk-size large jugs or concentrated mixtures to dilute with water, and keep refilling the set of spray bottles you use while cleaning. A large container of cleaning concentrate can refill an existing bottle dozens of times; that’s dozens of spray bottles you would have bought and discarded if you kept buying them individually.
Switching from Disposable to Reusable
A fairly visible example of this practice is the idea of bringing re-usable cloth bags on grocery-shopping trips, rather than taking the paper or plastic bags given out by the store. Some stores have started adding a bonus kick-back to grocery bills for those who bring their own bags, but even if it doesn’t save money, it saves tons (literally) of plastic or paper over the course of a few years. You have the added benefit of finding some bags you really like, which can make your groceries easier to carry.
If you use a dry-cleaner for some of your clothes, you can do the same sort of switch. Make a one-time purchase of a re-usable dry-cleaning bag, and you have a tote to deliver your clothes as well as a far nicer cover (compared to the pesky plastic covers) when you pick them up.
Bulk Buying and Repackaging
Invest in some useful sizes of Gladware or other re-usable food storage containers, and start buying foods in bulk sized containers. If you buy the little individual yogurt cups, you’ll be throwing away the small cartons all week long.
Buying a bulk size carton of yogurt is not only considerably cheaper, but you’re not disposing of all that plastic of individual wrapping. It won’t even take long for your grocery savings (from buying the cheaper bulk items) will make up for the initial investment in re-usable containers. The larger cartons can serve as food-storage containers themselves, perfect for stowing left-overs in the refrigerator once they’ve been cleaned out.