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