Did you know that almost 50% (possibly higher) of the products we now believe we must use on a regular basis, our grandparents and maybe even parents, lived for many decades without….?
Product developers and their advertising campaigns have fundamentally shifted consumer behaviour over the last 10-60 years of Western culture. Our weekly and daily routines use more and more products which we have been led to believe we MUST use to meet the standards that society expects of us, or "to keep up with the Jones’s”.
Standards that were never really a problem decades before, now rule our lives as we feel compelled to consume more and more so that we can be seen as doing the ‘right thing’ for ourselves and for others. This includes such a depth of unnecessary expectations around things like personal hygiene, looking young, being a good parent, and many others that marketers lay the guilt on us about.
However, we can take back ownership of the standards we live by, and choose to live with values like thriftiness, resourcefulness and personal independence, over the behaviours of wastefulness, extravagance and dependence on product use for our worthiness.
Below are just five use-once only products from the many our grandparents (and in fact many people across the world who do not live in Westernised countries) never needed, and ways you can substitute them to reduce waste and live more sustainably:
Tissues: Replace with hankies.
This is one habit I can thank my parents and grandparents for, who taught me to never leave the house without a hanky. Whether it’s one giant 'man-kerchief' that lives in your bag, or a petite ladies hanky that sits in your pocket, I love the fact that I’m never scrounging around for a sleeve or napkin to wipe a runny nose with. Keep multiple hankies in your undies drawer, so that it becomes a daily habit of getting a fresh one out, and at the end of the week, there won’t be a huge addition to your laundry because they are only small and need no special care. Here is a great post from a craft blogger on how to make a no-sew hanky from old t-shirts.
'Fun in the Making' Tissue Project.
Paper towels: Replace with cloths.
.As much as I love the usefulness of paper towels, I hate how quickly you can whip through a roll without even realising you've used so many... Therefore, the wastage of this item is a massive drain on natural resources. I love this post about how to make your own unpaper towels, its a big project, so best for a rainy weekend! My suggestion would be to recycle fabric you already have at home, e.g., old tea towels, hand towels or face washers that are a little worse for wear, and old pillow slips for the cotton side; and if you don’t want to buy a snap applicator, you could mimic the tissue hamper idea above and keep them in a cute basket instead of on a roll. Alternatively, get yourself a supply of recycled rags from the hardware store and keep a bag of them handy for cleaning up spills. Wash and reuse.
'Mommypotamus' Unpaper Towels.
Disposable fanny wipes: Replace with coconut oil.
Warning: we’re going to start talking about poop now! I’m sure by now you have seen the shocking news about how disposable butt wipes are clogging drains, water ways and oceans… A product that we never would have even contemplated needing before, it is now used by billions of people on a daily basis that it is causing havoc due to NOT being as biodegradable as the advertisers lead us to believe. However, if you like the super clean butt feeling, there is a way to get it without carrying around a bag full of face washers… (okay, I admit that is gross, but imagine!). A small amount of coconut oil on your toilet paper will help to clean wipe, and the anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties will get those back bits cleaner than you ever thought possible. Additionally, it’s gentleness won’t interrupt the natural flora of your front bits either.
Check out this blog post for all the benefits and uses of coconut oil from beauty, cooking and household products.
'Wellness Mama' Uses for Coconut Oil.
Wrapping paper: Use a square of fabric.
I love wrapping presents and for years having been using a massive roll of post-consumer recycled paper from my old pattern making days to give a unique eco-touch to gift giving. But in recent years I’ve discovered a way to utilise the huge amount of fabrics I had in the garage and incorporated the gift wrap into the gift. I find it makes the finish so beautiful and adds a different dimension to complete gift giving, with the wrap being reusable, or even a scarf or handkerchief that can be doubly functional.
This blog post shows all the various ways you can use recycled or new fabrics to wrap presents in, with both no-sew and sew options.
'Sustainable Baby Steps' Fabric Gift Wrap.
Note paper: Make your own & Use a pencil!
Okay, this is a super hard one for me to even suggest because I LOVE the feeling of opening a new notebook, the crisp pages, the beauty and energy of somewhere to write, and the flow of a beautiful pen. But sometimes note paper gets wasted by lists, quick notes to remember things or writing down a message or phone number. One way to dramatically reduced your waste of paper is to always use a pencil. Once you don’t need the note anymore you can just rub it out and start from scratch - a perfect idea for to-do lists especially, because once it’s done you can have the satisfaction of erasing it from your list and your mind. Alternatively, for those quick things you need to write down, collect receipts, old mail, paper catalogues, etc and make your own notes-only scribbled pad - alternatively, shred these things down and make your own recycled paper with amazing texture for using pencil on.
Make your own basic notepad with Zero Waste Home. Go fancy and make it gorgeous with Design Sponge. Or do a five minute job like me with some mis-print photocopies, two pieces of string from a shopping bag handle that I hung onto just in case and a pair of scissors: Not pretty, but it’s getting tons of use and it suits the rustic pencil wielding style!
Make your own paper without the proper moulds etc with Natasha. Make your own paper without the blender with Cut Out & Keep. Or do it all the professional way with Paper Slurry.
So, what do you think? Which one of these can you implement this week?
Do you have any other one-use products that you have found an alternative to? Comment below, or join us on Facebook and share with the group there.