Reject Disposables, Keep the Cash

4 years ago

Do you find yourself frustrated with how much trash your family is generating? Feel the same about how much money you're spending? I'm here to tell you that you can decrease the amount of garbage you produce while also saving money. How? By saying buh-bye to almost all the disposable products in your life. (Okay, perhaps not every disposable product, as I am a huge fan of toilet paper.)

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Paper Napkins

If your family automatically reaches for paper napkins, it's time to switch over to cloth. Not only are cloth napkins almost endlessly reusable, but they simply work better than their flimsy paper counterpart. They can be used a number of times before needing to be laundered, and lend decor and formality to any meal. Sure, you can buy them brand new, but I've found wonderful like-new napkins at garage sales, thrift shops and even a free pile or two. And if you're lucky, your mother might even have a couple dozen to send your way.

Menstrual Products

If you're of childbearing age and of the female persuasion, you already know that monthly menstrual products are both expensive and overly packaged. However, there are reusable options that are easier to use than you might think. I invested in a silicone menstrual cup four years ago and haven't looked back since. Yes, it took a cycle to get it figured out, but I estimate that I've saved $60 per year, or $240 since I made the switch. For those who prefer a pad, there are many, many reusable cloth pads options as well. Not having to deal with all that menstrual-related garbage and the fear of being caught without supplies? Priceless.

Coffee Filters

Although I'm a fan of tea, my husband is a coffee drinker through and through. But that doesn't mean that we buy or dispose of filters. Instead we own gold coffee filters for our coffee maker, (came with the machine) as well as a small one for individual cups of coffee. They seem to last at least a decade with daily use, but I was recently able to find a replacement at my local Goodwill. (Yay!) I just love how the coffee grounds pop out for composting, and how we never have to buy and then dispose of the paper filters.

Paper Towels

I stopped using paper towels a few years ago and have yet to regret the decision. In their place I use rags made from stained old T-shirts. But if you're looking for a less ragtag solution, a pack of microfiber cloths can serve as an awesome substitution. Endlessly re-launderable, these lint-free cloths can work to clean windows, wipe up spills and pretty much anything else you would use a paper towel for. And the best part is that you'll no longer have to store that huge pallet of paper towels in your pantry any more. (That, and the trees you just saved from being cut down!)


This may seem like a strange addition to a list of disposable items, but hear me out. How many times have you tossed or donated an article of clothing just because there was a rip or a stain? Yeah, I thought so. By spending some time on stain removal or with a needle and thread you can bring your clothing back to life. And don't worry that you need the skills of a 1950's Home Ec teacher to mend a seam or sew a button back in place. As Bela Karolyi would say, "You can dooo it!"

Gift Wrapping

There's no reason why you should buy (and then throw away) wrapping paper on special occasions. I am the #1 fan of reusable paper gift bags, yet I don't think I've ever paid for one. How? I've received a number of them through the years, but I also save them from being thrown away whenever I'm at a gift giving occasion. Sure, I give more than I receive, yet I always seem to have more than I need. And want to know a great trick for wrapping large gifts? A single color pillow case tied with a pretty ribbon will save you from using up an entire roll of wrapping paper. Just make sure to get it back.

Fabric Grocery Bags

Keep them in your car and make it a habit to bring them into the store with you. I keep an small one in my purse and use it at least four times per week, and since I get a nickel off my purchase whenever I use it, I estimate that it's saved me over 70 bajillion dollars so far. Just make sure to throw your bags through the wash every now and then, especially if you're buying meat.


Yes, we switch over to facial tissue when we're ill, but for those times when you get a runny nose from allergies, going from cold to warm or eating spicy food, hankies are fantastic. Buy them once and create no garbage? What's not to love?!

Image: Joanna Bourne via Flickr

Reusable Water Bottles/Coffee Mugs/Takeout Containers

Don't be that person whose drinking habits are filling our landfills. Bring your own water from home, hand your own coffee mug to the barista and tuck an empty container into your purse for your restaurant leftovers. Want to know a secret? I've noticed that I'll often get more coffee served in my reusable mug than if they'd used their paper cups.

Plastic Silverware

I brought home a couple handfuls of unattractive stainless steel flatware from a free swap a few years ago, and man, am I happy that I did! My family uses these forks, spoons and knives for our work and school lunches almost every day, yet we don't have to worry about losing an errant spoon or two. I love that we're not generating garbage from our meals, and frankly, I prefer the feel of metal in my mouth rather than plastic.

Do you have tips and tricks for avoiding disposable products? Please share your ideas in the comments section below.

~Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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