Travel Mug: Five things you can happily live without

Do you buy things just to throw them away? Eco-friendly living is as much about what you don’t buy as what you do. Reducing your consumption, especially of one-time-use or plastic items, is vital to reducing your ecological footprint.

It’s time to rethink disposables. Here are four common disposable household items you can cross off your shopping list without even missing them.

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1. Paper Towels

Even if you are buying unbleached or recycled paper towels, you’re still part of the buy-use-throw-out cycle and it’s best to just avoid using these one-time wonders altogether. A dishcloth, rag, or “unpaper” towel works perfectly to wipe up any messes you would typically use a paper towel for, and you avoid purchasing and throwing it out each time. Washing kitchen dishcloths and rags in hot water helps clean and sanitize them for another round.

2. Dryer Sheets

Did you know that dryer sheets work by coating your clothes with perfumed animal fat? Yuck! It’s not just vegans who would benefit from making the switch to a greener alternative. Wool dryer balls are simple to make and naturally fire-retardant. Just toss two to four dryer balls in the dryer with a load of wet clothes helps to fluff them and dry the load faster.

3. Zip Top Bags

If eliminating zip-top plastic baggies seems impossible, just remember that our grandmothers didn’t have them. Heck, our mothers probably didn’t have them. I promise you, life did exist before these magic little zip-top bags! Substitutes are easily found by using glass containers for leftovers, zippered fabric sandwich bags for school lunches, and beeswax wraps for cheeses, cut veggies, and virtually everything else.

4. Disposable Razors

Ditch the daisy razors! Invest in a proper double-edged razor and whatever you plan to shave will thank you. These razors are elegant, efficient, and have nary a piece of plastic on them. With your metal safety razor, not only do you keep from sending mountains of disposable razors to the landfill – but the replacement blades take up hardly any space in your cabinet, which you can’t say for those plastic disposables.

When you really think about it, doesn’t it seem sort of silly to buy things for the express purpose of throwing them away? Choose the reusable substitute for these four items and I guarantee that Mother Nature — and your wallet — will be thanking you in spades.

Feature image courtesy of Sarah G. Originally published on November 11, 2014, this article was updated in December 2020.

By Madeleine Somerville

Madeleine Somerville is the author of All You Need Is Less: An Eco-Friendly Guide to Guilt-Free Green Living and Stress-Free Simplicity. She is a writer, wannabe hippie and lover of soft cheeses. She lives in Edmonton, Canada, with her daughter. You can also find Madeleine at her blog, Sweet Madeleine.