Friday, February 19, 2010

Green Paper Products

So, today's post is all about the ins and outs of green paper products, and how to reduce your consumption of paper products. (As an aside, check out the candied grapefruit peel in progress... isn't it a beautiful color?)

We're currently in the transition in our home from standard paper products to recycled, in some cases. However, before we began thinking about this, we tried to reduce our comsumption of paper products as much as possible. Here's how:

1) We always use fabric napkins. They don't get ironed (unless we're having fancy company) and we try to use the same one for several meals. Since we always sit at the same place at the table (or on the couch if it's a movie night), it's easy to keep track of which napkin is Benny's and which is mine. We have several sets, some even handmade by Mom or old ones from my grandmother's house, so we're not ever without and they get thrown in the laundry with the towels.

2) As I mentioned in the cleaning post, we use rags and newspaper for almost all of our cleaning. This means that we don't have to use paper towels much (I think a roll of paper towels has been known to last us three months or more.) Using the newspaper also means that we can compost or recycle it, as long as we use natural and biodegradable cleaners. (Again, the rags go in the laundry with the towels or in a load with the dog blankets.)

3) We use paper plates/cups and plastic utensils as infrequently as possible, opting for compostable corn starch products or 100% recycled paper for parties. We use our standard dishes, even if we're having a dinner party with several couples invited. All of our standard stuff can go in the dishwasher, but we do handwash wine glasses and pottery stuff, because I just feel better about the glazing holding up, etc. Many of our dishes were gifts, so the cost of those didn't come out of our pocket. I did find these cool tumblers in the antique store in downtown Boone for $3 a piece. (Mom went halfs with me on them for a set of four.)

4) We reuse plastic grocery bags in our smaller trashcans around the house. (I think most people do this now.) I'm also working on crocheting a reusable bag out of cut up plastic grocery bags. Here's a pic of my "plarn" roll in the making. (It's still in the planning stages and is something Mom and I will tackle together over her spring break--we now have school, so I'll still be teaching during the day.) Benny found a new use for them while touching up paint... he lined the roller try with two. It didn't work quite as well as the plastic tray liners, but I think it probably used less plastic overall.

5) I take a lunch box to work, rather than a paper bag. (Again, I think most folks do this.) It means that I'm not paying for a school lunch (which is pricey for teachers and not all that nutritious) and I also take my own utensils and will begin taking my own cloth napkin, now that I have a few that are smaller lunch size ones.

6) We started, about two years ago, taking our own bags to the grocery store. Since I have accumulated so many from text book companies and conferences, we now have a set for each car. They're actually easier in the long run, once you get into the habit of getting them out of the backseat or trunk, because it means schlepping fewer bags from the car to the house when we get home. At some stores (unfortunately none in Boone, that I know of), you can even get a small credit for bringing your own bags.

7) I try to purchase recycled content aluminum foil when I need it, and when I use it, I'm sparing. The exciting news here is that some of the big name brands, like Reynold's, are coming up with recycled content products. So, that means coupons! So, not only are we saving the landfill space by using recycled content stuff, but the coupons allow us to purchase it for pennies on the dollar. (I think I paid 25 cents for the last roll of aluminum foil I bought.) Also, if you're careful, you can keep the foil clean and then recycle it, if not reuse it.

We're working on making the transition to recycled paper toilet paper. We still have some of the Scott Extra Soft left, so we'll use that up and then buy the recycled paper. We found that the Seventh Generation stuff has a pretty high recycled content, higher than the Scott Naturals, and the price is pretty comparable. When the Seventh Generation stuff goes on sale, we'll stock up and put some in the basement for when we need it. Seventh Generation is one of the leaders in green products and has tons of products available.

In terms of tissues, I haven't found a recycled content one that I like yet, so if you have any suggestions, let me know. Benny carries a handkerchief every day, so he uses that when he needs to, but I can't figure out how to carry one with as small as most women's pants pockets are. (If I'm sick, the handkie rubs my nose raw more than the tissues, so I generally opt for tissues.)

I've heard about corn starch kitchen trashbags, but haven't seen any on the market in Boone (although I haven't checked out EarthFare.) To fit our budget, we'll use up what we have of the standard ones before purchasing the corn starch ones. (I do feel a little better knowing that we're reducing our over trash as much as we can, so we're not putting as many plastic bags into the landfill as many families.)

If you've got any great green paper product ideas, please post them here! I'd love to know what you're doing and it'd be great to share those ideas with others. Sharin' the green love and savings!

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