When trying to get pregnant with our first child I began to research cloth diapers. While finances were a greater influence than the environment in the beginning, I was shocked to realize how much waste a child created just in disposable diapers by age two, (approximately one ton). So we agreed to use cloth diapers, cloth wipes and washable wet bags and left it at that. But within months of my daughter’s birth things around our house began to change. Money was continually tight and I became very aware of every disposable item in our home.
I resented the cost of paper towels, toilet paper, plastic snack bags and other such things. (I still hate buying kitchen trash bags given that when we put in out for garbage collection it is rarely full). Slowly, as my husband tolerated some of my strange ideas, I began moving forward with a few small changes to save money that have also led to a greener household. When my daughter began eating solid foods I decided that using papers towels or napkins to clean her up were going to be a huge waste and expense. So I used some cheap wash cloths instead. Soon after I planned to buy cloth napkins, but ended up being given some instead. We haven’t bought napkins in over a year. Then I cut up old T-shirts to wipe my daughter’s nose during cold season. We do still buy regular tissues for my husband and guests but I mostly prefer my cloth ones and I think my daughter believes that when I say “get a tissue’ I mean a pink and white striped piece of fabric.
Then, much to my husband’s horror I set my sites on my menstrual products. As someone who has used panty-liners almost daily since puberty I was horrified by how much garbage I had created and sickened by the rising cost of my preferred brand. (I had to buy Always Unscented because anything else made me itch). I did some research and bought a couple different brands, my favorite coming from a great seller on Etsy. A few months later I tried actual menstrual pads.
Again, I was pleased. Finally I bought a Lunette menstrual cup but never had a chance to try it because in the meantime I got pregnant again. I’m looking forward to trying it out once my post partum recovery is over. Other than the few I keep around for traveling or tucked into my purse for emergencies, there are virtually no traditional menstrual products to be found in our house now. I’ve even been trying to go mostly, if not completely cloth during my post partum period.
But things didn’t stop there. Cleaning cloths came next. Old wash cloths and hand towels became my bathroom and kitchen cleaners instead of paper towels. We are almost paper towel free at our house. I recently replaced my disposable Swiffer pads with mismatched or worn socks. Now that my daughter is potty training I still use cloth wipes rather than toilet paper much of the time. (I even use cloth wipes myself sometimes. They are much softer and gentler. P.S. Don’t tell my husband). This past Christmas I purchased my husband a reuse-able snack pack and a Wrap N Mat for lunch box. Ultimately I would like to get rid of all plastic bags, but for now I’ll settle for reducing our usage significantly. There will always be some disposable items in my house. I use plastic bags to freeze meat and homemade bread. But I reuse the ones for bread as much as possible. We still keep some paper towels around for messes involving raw meat or lots of grease and for cooking bacon. But we purchase a roll or two perhaps once a year. We buy very few disposable products anymore and as a result our grocery budget is surviving better than expected as the cost of food rises. But it’s still hard to believe that just three years ago, it all started with cloth diapers.
Bethany V. is the 29 year old SAHM to two and a half year old Althea and two week old Robin. She has been married for almost 9 years and loves providing cloth diaper education to friends and family. She blogs as The Laundry Lady at The Laundry List