God, everybody talks about being green nowadays. Recycle this, repurpose that. If I had a penny for every time I heard someone say any of those words, along with phrases like "light bulb moment", "the universe", or "good energy", well, I'd be loaded.
But the fact is that these words and phrases are being used because they matter. Heck, I use those words as much as everybody else. Here's why: we are overbuying, under using, and wasting way too much. I think back to when I was a kid, and how different everything was. Water wasn't bottled (plastic waste), people didn't go on daily Starbuck's or Dunkin Donuts coffee runs (paper waste), fast food wasn't taken out daily (again, paper waste, and worse yet, Styrofoam waste). We didn't have baby wipes (or for that matter, adult potty wipes), and most babies were diapered in cloth (just think about all that landfill). I know that my grandmothers washed their dishes with dishrags (rarely a sponge) and that they would hang them to dry after washing and rinsing them with soap. You say dishrags carry bacteria? Oh, and sponges don't? Just wash them. Their clothes hung on clothing lines. Food was shared via Tupperware, not those flimsy plastic containers that you use a handful of times and then throw away. People cooked food (they didn't microwave it), and they baked their own desserts. Homemade wasn't a novelty, it was the norm.
People took their lunches to work in lunch pails, and though their sandwiches were wrapped in wax paper, drinks were carried in thermoses. They brought forks and knives from home, and returned them home to be washed and used again, and again, and again. They ate dinner at the kitchen table on real plates with real forks and knives, and the table was covered with a tablecloth. Napkins were cloth, too. Washable.
People washed themselves with bar soap, not antimicrobial, antibacterial, kill-everything-under-the-sun-even-the-good-bacteria pump soap that comes in a plastic container. One bar for the body, another bar by the sink.
People didn't buy new things everyday. They didn't shop away their sorrows, or their boredom. They cleaned and managed their homes; they cooked dinner. They didn't spend exorbitant amounts of money on crappy plywood furniture, but saved their money and bought well-crafted, real wood furniture, with dovetailed drawers. If something broke, it was fixed, not replaced. Hand-me-downs happened with clothing and furniture. Things just weren't thrown out.
Quality mattered. It still does. Somehow, we've just forgotten.
Today, while picking up my Evelyn Fields reusable coffee filters at Savannah Hope Vintage, I got to talking to the owner, the lovely Andrea D, about quality. I was telling her how I think that what she does is amazing. She gives new life to select, vintage furniture, and her prices are a fraction of what is available in today's market. The price of a side table is comparable to furniture at, say, Pier 1, but hers is quality craftsmanship with amazing detail, and real wood, whereas Pier 1's stuff is made with plywood and glue, I think. Andrea's furniture is as beautiful, no, more beautiful than the furniture they sell at Anthropologie. Savannah Hope Vintage furniture is recycling at it's finest. My house is nearly all Savannah Hope Vintage, and it's fabulous.
Anyhow, Andrea and I were talking about the filters, and the napkins and reusable snack bags (all unbleached cotton, and handmade in the U.S.A.) that are also made by the same person, Melissa, of Evelyn Fields. We were talking about how being green is also a great way to save money, and it struck a chord with me.
I bought two reusable snack bags to see if I could actually green up my snacking. I've managed to carry my Sigg water bottles, filled with filtered tap water, a majority of the time. In addition, I often use my reusable grocery bags. However, with both, I forget to clean them or return them to their proper place. I need to brush up on the follow through of greening my life. Sometimes, bigger changes are easier to implement than little ones. So I am giving up as many disposable items as I can, ay-sap.
As soon as I am out of paper towels, I am converting to cloth. I have a ton of dish towels and rags already, so I am going to keep them in a big basket under my island in the kitchen and use them in place of the paper ones. I am also going to try the reusable snack bags, and ditch the Ziplocks. At least for snacks...
I've been saving my glass jars (think jelly, sauce, pickle jars) and reusing them to store things, and so far, it's been effortless. I love glass. It doesn't leech into foods, and holds everything really well. (And look at how pretty glass can be when one gets crafty (click here). Kudos to Andrea D. for this!) Whenever possible, I don't take shopping bags for my purchases (like from the bookstore), and when I do, I reuse those bags for garbage or recycling.
I challenge you to save some money and perhaps lessen your carbon footprint. Look around you and see what you are doing right now that can be replaced with a cheaper, more earth friendly option. The investment in a few towels might be more than a roll of paper towels today, but long term, you will be saving lots of money. And our earth.