Thursday, January 27, 2011

Like Tweet

Cloth: It's Not Just For Babies

How Cloth Diapering Helped Me Think More Sustainably All Around My House

Sure, I love cloth diapers on my babies, but using cloth diapers and eliminating disposables has also helped me think about how I can reduce the use of other disposable products around my home.  After making the switch completely to cloth for three of my little people, I was instantly amazed at how much less money I spent on disposables and how much less trash I was hauling out of the house on a daily basis.  The little wheels started churning in my head... I know that there are many other ways that I could live with less and reduce my carbon footprint so I decided to start brainstorming some ways to reduce waste and help my family live more sustainably by using more cloth.

Babies: Cloth diapers really can't be beat in my opinion.  However, once I started using cloth diapers, it seemed a little silly to be using disposable wipes.  After a quick trip to the grocery store to purchase a small spray bottle and some rummaging through my cloth remnant basket, I had a new system to take the place of disposable wipes.  In addition to homemade wipes, I also purchased a few Kissaluvs organic cloth wipes and found a few thin baby wash cloths at my local discount store.  I filled my small spray bottle with nothing but distilled water and I also purchased some Kissaluvs Diaper Lotion Potion to be used as needed.  In all honesty, I never missed disposable wipes again.  The wipes stay folded in a top drawer in my changing table or get tucked in with my clean dipes in my diaper bag.  When I wash my cloth diapers, the wipes get washed right along with them.  

Big Kids: Once I saw how easy it was to replace disposable wipes with cloth wipes, I decided to replace all of our disposable napkins and paper towels.  With four kids and two dogs, we seem to go through paper napkins and paper towels like water.  And so I found myself back to the cloth remnant box and my local discount store... For starters, I decided to start sending my big kids to school with cloth napkins for lunch instead of having them bring paper napkins or use the paper napkins in the cafeteria.  For cloth napkins, we just used fun cloth remnants cut into 9 x 9 squares with the edges serged.  I also found a variety of cloth napkins for practically pennies in the clearance section of a local store - these napkins don't need to match a theme or a holiday - the funkier the better!  The kids love grabbing a cloth napkin or two from our fun selection and sticking them in their lunch bag with their reusable food containers - waste not, want not - right?

In the Kitchen: Obviously the beauty of disposable paper towels is the germ-free factor.  I, like most people, do not love germs.  However, do not fear cloth towels because you are worried about keeping your kitchen sanitary!  I keep quite a supply of cloth towels at the ready and do not hesitate to toss any soiled towels into the laundry hamper (or at least in the general direction of the laundry hamper).  I always start the day with clean towels at the ready.  We use sponges less frequently, but did you know that your sponges can be tossed into the dishwasher when you clean your dishes?  What a great and easy way to keep your sponges germ free!

In the Dining Room: If cloth napkins work in lunch boxes, they work even better at the dinner table.  Why use cloth napkins just for company?  I like to keep on the lookout for dinner napkins on sale at discount stores, bed and bath stores, and even yard sales.  I never ever iron so I like to look for cloth napkins that are not 100% cotton so that I can toss them into the washing machine and my kids can pull them from the dryer and fold them - ready for the next meal.  (Bonus: cloth napkins do not fall off your lap like a paper napkin does - live sustainably and encourage better manners!)

Around the House: Everything has a second life (or more!) in our house.  Beat up t-shirts and boxer shorts from my husband's drawers get cut up for rags, single socks are the perfect size for kid-friendly dusting and cleaning projects, and we use worn pillowcases to neatly tuck away off season clothing for the next year or the next child who can use it.  It was incredible to realize that we could make so many little changes around the house that help us save a lot of money and create a lot less trash.  Next time you buy a case of paper towels - check out the price - aren't there better things you could do with that money?  I am sure that we have room for improvement around our house, but I think we are off to a great start.  Cloth: it's not just for babies anymore... 

By: Erin Brighton, MPH, M.Ed. - Charlotte, NC

16 comments:

Amanda said...

And don't forget about the fabric shower curtain liners!! I just made the switch to those. I couldn't stand it anymore throwing out the vinyl ones.

Laundry Lady said...

I had a similar experience. Since I started cloth diapering I've cut down or eliminated use of paper towels and tissues. I've even started trying out mama cloth.

*Ross and Katy* said...

I love using cloth napkins :) My grandmother has a TON of linen ones that have to be ironed so we use those for fancy dinners, but the rest of the time we use plain old cotton ones so I can fold them right out of the dryer!

Tammy said...

I completely relate to this story, the cloth journey was only the beginning of the process for us as well.

We also now use, cloth napkins, towels instead of paper towels in the kitchen, and for cleaning. We have almost completely stopped using plastic baggies, and we no longer buy bottles of water.

To think that cloth diapers was our gateway change...lol! We have saved so much $$ around the house, I figure I can buy as many diapes as my little heart desires ;-)

Jennifer said...

We've switched to using rags for cleaning everything except cat puke... which, for some reason, is sooo much grosser to me than baby poop! Just wash & reuse, again and again. And related, those steam mops are great (got one for Christmas). They use only plain water and come with washable cleaning pads... genius! I will never need to buy floor cleaning stuff again!

Stephanie said...

Where do you keep your cloth napkins so they are accessible to the table? Also, a great place to pick up cloth napkins and placemats is THRIFT STORES! I can buy a 5-6 setting set for 75 cents! :-)

jessicawiant said...

All good ideas. The last time I ran out of sandwich bags, I started using reusable containers for everything and realized I could really do without them.

As for the shower curtains - you can wash those with a couple towels and they really look cleaner and will last a lot longer. Since learning that I haven't replaced mine again.

I also, kind of by accident, started using our homemade wipes for tissues too and they work great :)

Anna said...

I should try some cloth napkins, what kind of fabric do you find works well?

Jana said...

What about cloth menstrual pads. I made the switch and love it. I got a great deal on etsy for a pack of 32 (8 overnighters, 8 heavy, 8 regular, 8 panty liners). Made from pul and flannel.

Megan said...

I have tried to get my husband on board with this but he thinks it's gross. How it can be worse than a dirty cloth diaper, I will never understand, but hopefully soon we will be an all-cloth family!

Amy said...

@Amanda - would love more info on fabric shower curtain liners... I've never heard of them. where do you get one and how does it work?

Amanda Mock said...

I have been wanting to get more ecofriendly around my house. Thanks for all the great ideas!

Jill said...

Same thing with us, we use cloth napkins, and we bought a pack of plain white washcloths for our daughter's 'clean up' after meals. Paper ones just stick to your hands. We use old/holey towels to clean up messes, wipe up spills, scrub the pee from the potty training toddler off the carpet, etc. It all 'comes out in the wash' you know!

Donna J. said...

We do rags instead of paper towels and I love it. Saves us money and makes me not feel so wasteful.

Debbie M said...

I am trying to cut down, too. The kitchen is my first stop. The next is convincing my hubby to use less paper towels!! I do use cloth for cleaning and always have.

Jillian said...

I started using Mama cloth and love it! I also started using cloth instead of TP, well for number 1 at least. A roll of TP now lasts almost a month! Pretty rad!