Today I've got 5 small ways to save the planet that save time and money (and don't require a large initial investment of either). None of them are going to save the world on their own, but they are small things that each of us can do that, hey, will at least make your life better if nothing else! If you're hoping to make some environmentally conscious changes in the new year, these are a great place to start.
1. Reusable shopping bags
OK, let's start with the most widely-used (and widely-available) one: reusable shopping bags. You can get these almost anywhere. Most grocery stores and general stores sell them (I got mine at Trader Joe's). My recommendation is to just make sure you get ones that are waterproof and have nice big handles. The advantage of having waterproof ones is obvious- any spills are at least contained in the bag- but the handles are something I didn't realize I would love until after I started using mine. When you have multiple young children in tow on a shopping trip, you need your hands free as much as possible. Pushing a cart and carrying bags in your hands are not things you want to be doing. With the longer handles, I am able to carry all of my groceries on my shoulders so that my hands are free to hold little hands or grab my keys- I don't even take the cart to the car anymore (another annoying part of shopping with multiple small children- moving the cart to the cart area when you have kids to get into car seats)! I keep my shopping bags permanently stored in my trunk so that I always have them with me. After 4 years of using them almost exclusively, my bags are just now starting to need replacing, and they were 99c each.
2. Reusable "ziploc" bags
This is another one that I use all the time- fabric versions of ziploc bags. I have them in every size that you would normally see the plastic versions- snack size, sandwich size, and gallon size- and I use them for everything from food to crayons. These are another item that are pretty widely-available but maybe a bit less well known. I have some made of oil cloth that are really nice- they are water proof and are dishwasher safe- here are the ones I have in sandwich size and snack size. The advantage that these have over plastic baggies, besides being reusable, is that they come in lots of fun colors and patterns that kids love, and they are much sturdier. I use these as pouches for my daughters' coloring supplies to take to church and they hold up just fine.
3. Wash rags
I have used these to replace 90% of my paper towel usage. Of course for a lot of cleanups there's the regular old rag, but these are nice because they are much thinner. I use these mostly to clean up small spills and wipe down countertops or the dining table, and because they are sturdier than paper towels but larger than sponges and thinner than towels, they are much easier to use than anything else I've found.
4. Dryer sheets
These to me are a no-brainer: reusable dryer sheets! I use these, but there are also dryer balls, which I hear will make your laundry fluffier. I love my reusable dryer sheets because I save money (because of the number of times you can reuse them), but also it's one less thing to remember- I literally leave them in my dryer and don't even have to think about it! One less thing to worry about, especially when it comes to laundry, is always a good idea in my book.
5. Feminine products
OK, I've saved the most "out there" option for last, but I had to include it because I have saved so much money by switching to these, and they have made my life SO much easier! If you're a man, or someone who's squeamish, now's the time to stop reading. Go get yourself some reusable bags and dryer sheets and call it a day.
Are you ready?
I use reusable feminine pads and a menstrual cup. The menstrual cup seems to be entering the "mainstream" more and more lately, so if you're curious about how it works, how to use one,or which brand or size is best for you, just google it. You'll find tons of helpful information. I have been using this one for over 3 years now and basically it has replaced my tampons. I won't get into the gory details here, but it has made my life so much easier. As a teacher I don't get to go to the bathroom very often during the day- the menstrual cup solves that problem. Tampons also made my cramps worse, and the menstrual cup doesn't. I always had to worry about making sure I had tampons on hand before, and now I don't. And I don't have to tell you how expensive tampons get.
The reusable pads are definitely.... still less mainstream. BUT let me tell you, these have made my periods so much easier. I don't generally need them with the menstrual cup, but on my first day, let's just say it's best for me to wear one just in case. Regular pads are just awful- they smell bad, and they are itchy and sticky. Gross. The reusable pads I have are more absorbent with less bulk, don't smell as bad, and are SO much more comfy. Plus they clean easily- I just throw them in the washing machine! I've been using these for over 3 years as well and they are still almost like new. Like the menstrual cup, they have saved me a ton of money and prevented the problem of having to worry about having enough on hand. (If you want to privately ask me more about my experience with reusable feminine products please feel free to email me or contact me on social media! My email address and social links are in the blog header.)
How many of these do you already use, and which ones are you inspired to try? I hope you'll give at least 1 of these a shot- I promise you won't regret it! What other eco-friendly items have you found that save time and money, make life easier, and are not too expensive? Leave a comment! I'd love to get some new ideas to try!