By Lisa Poisso
Dispose of Your Disposables!
Is your household trapped inside the box? You know the boxes I'm talking about: Brightly colored vessels containing products promising to make our home and personal lives neat and convenient … boxes we find ourselves purchasing and re-purchasing, throwing out and then throwing out again in each week's trash.
We've become slaves to the boxes that hold many common household conveniences -- paper products, baby products, cleaning supplies and more.
Living outside the box isn't as hard as you might think. The answer is as close as that old stand-by our grandmothers and great-grandmothers relied on: cloth.
Cloth is cheaper. Why buy disposable products every single week when a basic stash of cloth lasts for years? And no, you won't spend more on laundry detergent and energy. Unless you're a professional home cleaner, you'd be hard pressed to use enough cloth for cleaning, personal care and other uses to justify even a single extra load of laundry per week.
Cloth makes a lighter footprint on the earth. Reduce, reuse, recycle … You know the drill. Substituting reusable for disposables is common sense now.
Cloth is just as convenient as disposable. Cloth skeptics often play their cards at this point, claiming that disposable products are more convenient to use than cloth. Consider which is easier: tossing a rag in a hamper or tossing a paper towel in the trash?
Ok, so that part's a no-brainer -- but what about the added hassle of washing and folding the rag? This is where disposable users conveniently overlook the hassle of shopping for paper towels and trash bags over and over, as well as the pain of taking out trash that probably wouldn't exist if it weren't for the crush of used disposable items inside. Truth be told, the convenience issue comes out pretty much a tie.
Cloth performs better. Talk to people who've tried cloth over paper disposable products, and you'll be talking to people who love the way their cloth performs. Cloth is sturdier, more absorbent, softer and safer (no chemicals or residues).
Cloth is healthier. Disposable paper products are full of chemicals: gels to make them hold more liquid, byproducts of bleaching processes, glues and adhesives … And then there's all the plastic packaging. Enough said.
Cloth is more satisfying. You don't see many people raving about paper and plastic diapers, yet there's an entire online culture of cloth diapering mamas who sew and knit their own diapers and covers, collect the latest cute designs, trade and sell, photograph and catalog their collections and more. You don't get a smile of comfort from a paper sanitary pad like you do when you pull out a soft flannel pad in a warm goddess print.
You don't feel the same sense of satisfaction shelving rolls of disposable products that you do stacking your own pile of freshly laundered cloth. Cloth feels good to the touch, comes in prints more personal than coffee cups and holiday scenes, and smells wonderful when fresh and clean. Why not take the time to appreciate the products you use every day? Live a little!
Cloth around the house
Replacing paper products with cloth goes way beyond napkins and paper towels.
Cleaning products Cloth outperforms disposable paper products hands down when it comes to cleaning. Try cloth wipes or rags in place of paper towels and disposable sponges. Use a washcloth or cloth rectangle as a "disposable" wipe with your newfangled mopping system.
Baby care There's a whole world of cloth diapers out there on the internet; be sure to start online and not with the poor selection and quality generally available at local retail outlets. Substitute cloth wipes (try velour!) and a squeeze bottle of homemade wipes solution instead of chemical-laden disposable wipes.
Baby accessories Beyond cloth diapers, consider cloth training pants and swim diapers. And don't get suckered into spending your money on those new disposable plastic bibs -- bring your own cloth bib.
Toilet paper Soft cloth moistened by a squeeze bottle is both gentler and more effective at cleaning than dry, flaky paper tissue. It works for babies, and it can work for you! A flip-top pail with a nylon liner inside keeps things odor-free for a few days until wash time. (Search cloth diapering sites for diaper pail care and washing information; care is a breeze.)
Menstrual pads Incredibly, they don't leak or soak through too fast and they don't smell at all! You can find cute, custom bags for carrying clean and used pads when you're out and about. Soak used pads in a pad pot (custom-made or dimestore found) before wash day.
Table linens Cloth is an obvious answer in place of paper napkins and paper or plastic tablecloths.
Storage/totes Bring your own canvas or string bags to use at the grocery store, bookstore, library and other shops. Keep a few in your car for impulse trips.
You can buy or make your own cloth products to substitute for disposables, or you can press into service a variety of old clothing, towels and rags. There's satisfaction in both.
Either way, avoid polyester and man-made fabrics, which can grab and hold odors. Try dimestore washcloths for basic jobs. Look for hemp and organic cotton if being all-natural is important to you. Nose around online cloth diapering communities for tips on finding household cloth; these mamas know where to find makers of wipes, mop pads, custom bags, velour wipes and more.
Cloth wipes, cloth diapering accessories: SMJAE
Cloth diapers and accessories: Natural Babies
Cloth menstrual pad sampler packages, cloth diapers and accessories: DiaperWare
© Lisa Poisso; first appeared at Vegetarian Baby & Child magazine
Lisa Poisso has performed in ballet and musical theatre, edited magazines, slogged through the world of corporate communications and run a home-based writing and editing business while raising a family. A passionate advocate for attachment parenting and natural family living, she is the founder and publisher of APConnect!, Dallas/Fort Worth’s online resource for AP and natural parenting. She writes for publications and edits for authors specializing in the natural family, attachment parenting, vegetarian and parenting fields.