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Please don't remind me that I'm poor; I'm having too much fun pretending I'm simply "living green" like everyone else these days.


Sunday, July 25, 2010

The second R

The second R is...... RE-USE IT

In order to live well, in these uncertain economic times, you should be asking yourselves  "What are we in the habit of throwing away after one use that could be used again?"  The more times you can re-use something the more money you can save. 

My grandmother used to say  "She who doesn't throw away, can re-use it another day."  If you think about it, our grandparents and great grandparents had very few disposable items.  Grandmothers would can their own foods so the jars were used over and over.  Disposable dishes were unheard of back then.  Use once and throw away was a concept our ancestors couldn't have imagined.  I think they would have been horrified at the thought of disposables.

I know we are limited by the manufacturers in what packaging they choose.  If we want the product we must buy it in the container they choose to sell it in.  We have no control over that.  What we can do is choose to limit our own choice of what we use.  Washable dishes instead of foam plates to throw away.  Use cloth hankies instead of kleenix.  Cloth napkins and cloth hand towels instead of paper. 

I'm not saying we should all go back to living a colonial life but we can make conscious choices about how much we contribute to landfills.  Personally, I would like to see grocery stores go back to using paper trays for meat and deli items instead of foam and plastic.  Paper bags instead of plastic.  At least the paper won't last a thousand years in a landfill.  Metal is recyclable and so is glass providing more is done to recycle it.  Newspapers, phone books, and cardboard boxes can be recycled into paper bags instead of cutting down trees.

Look around your house to see what items you use once and throw away.  For example; do you have a vacuum cleaner with a paper bag?  Cut open the folded end, empty it, fold back and secure it with paper clips so you can empty it several times before tossing.  One bag can last a year or longer. 

I once bought a mop and mopping cloths for an experiment.  I realized I didn't like the mop because it was too heavy with a bottle of liquid on it.  I could have thrown the cloths away because they are made to be tossed.  I hated the idea of using something once and tossing it so I decided to experiment with washing them.  It worked!  I've washed them several times now and they are still good.  A little ragged on the edges but still functional.  I use them on my regular swiffer sweeper.  Either for dusting or for damp mopping.  Each time I wash these to use again.... I save the cost of buying more.

The idea is to find a way to reuse what you can, as often as you can.  You will save money.  Money that can be used to pay down debt or save for a special occasion.  Hmm.... wouldn't you rather use the money to have a nice vacation instead of spending it a little at a time for disposables? 

Let me give you a mental picture to think about.  Have you seen the tv commercial of the woman going to the grocery to buy meat.  She tells the man to give her a few pounds of something.... but says wrap only half of it and toss the rest in the garbage because that's what she will do anyway.  If you haven't seen it yet, watch for it and think about this example.

  If you bought one pack of foam plates ($3), 2 rolls of paper towels ($2), and one pack of plastic cups ($2) per week, every week.  That's $7 a week.  Granted, that doesn't sound too bad, after all you can afford it right?  The convenience is worth the $7 a week.  But if you really think about it, that's $364 a year. 

Now add another $2 for napkins, $4 for mopping cloths, $2 for plastic forks and spoons, and $2 for baby wipes per week.  Now you are spending $17 a week or $884 a year for disposables.  In other words.... you would be throwing away $884 a year

Would you really take 8 one hundred dollar bills and 8 twenty dollar bills and toss them into the trash?  That's what you are doing when you buy disposables.  Think about the real cost of all your disposables next time you put them in your shopping cart. 

Hmm... while sitting here trying to think of some disposable items to use for the example I remembered coffee filters and tea bags used to be made of cloth.  Did you know that?  They were used and washed to use again.  Gosh, I hadn't thought of those in years and years.  I use instant coffee but if I went back to using ground, I would make some cloth filters.  For tea we put a bit of tea into a little bag with a drawstring top.  To empty and wash, we turned them inside out. 

Even before the days of cloth filters, none were used.  Coffee grounds and tea floated in the water.  They would settle in the bottom of your cup so you were drinking only the liquid.  I think maybe that's where reading tea leaves in cups got started.  A game to find a use for leftover tea in cups.

Ok, I've type-talked long enough today.  Think about what I've said.  Is there some disposable items you can do without?  Can you find ways to RE-USE instead of tossing?

1 comment:

Beth said...

HI Anita!

I like the idea of washing swiffer pads. I also cut up left over batting which can be washed too. Some coffee models can be fitted with reusable filters and I have seen my mom use a tea ball (not sure that is what you call it.)-it opens in half, you put in your loose tea, close it, and use it just like a tea bag. Both of these are washable and reusable. Thanks for your tips!