Happy Waste Reduction Week fellow Canadians! I’ve been enjoying a bunch of random YouTube videos lately, including in the “things I no longer…” vein, and while I’m definitely not going to be starting a YouTube channel anytime soon (but I’ll never say never!) I’m loving a lot of these trends and want to write blog posts about them. So here are things that I don’t buy anymore now that I live a low(er) waste lifestyle!
So this one will probably gross a few people out but I basically never use tissues. If I’m out and I’ve forgotten to bring a handkerchief with me and there’s one available then I will, but even then I typically try for toilet paper or a napkin (these are compostable most of the time). Tissues, even though they are made of paper are not compostable because of all the coatings and treatments they have to make them nice to use. To be honest though, last time I was sick (which I think was 2019 thanks to masks, no travel, and social distancing) I did buy a box of tissues because I could not keep up the laundry with how much I was blowing my nose. But for typical use, hankies are the way to go. And they actually wash up super well, and then because I’m a crazy person I iron them; it makes them nicer to use and helps them hold their fold so they sit nicely in my desk drawer.
Also even though they are white I have used them for nose bleeds, which I get quite often in the winter, and they have washed up very well!
There are a handful of alternatives that I use for this. For dishwashing purposes I have a small assortment of dish brushes that I use daily. I love my Redecker long-handled dish brush for normal use, I then have a bottle brush for getting down in to reusable water brushes and a skinny straw brush for, you guessed it, reusable straws. This one is likely completely unnecessary but the thought of something staying in there and growing stuff and then sucking up a drink and getting a side of mould is just too disgusting to risk.
This is part two of my sponges alternatives. I am obsessed with Swedish Dish Clothes. I use one for wiping down kitchen counters, and then when that one gets gross I move it to the bathroom, and then once it’s too gross for the bathroom it becomes the pet mess cloth. It can take a while for them to make their way through this system because you can wash them in the dishwasher or the washing machine. You can also spray them with bleach or vinegar if you want to give them a bit of a sanitize.
These are actually one of the best things. They are such an easy swap and are so useful!
The next swap here is rags, I use old towels, microfibre cloths, old tea towels that aren’t pretty anymore. Specifically, I like linen ones because they clean windows really well (they’re good for cleaning glass in general, no streaks!). I used to use paper towels to clean windows, clean up spills and messes. And there are times, hairballs and heating up food in the microwave in particular, when I miss paper towels, but my Swedish dish cloths and assortment of rags are doing a great job at making up for them!
I love a good ear wipe out. I know it’s not something that you are supposed to do, but I feel so much cleaner and better when I dry my ears out after a shower. I bought this Last Swab about a year ago and it definitely doesn’t feel quit the same as a Q-tip, it doesn’t have the same drying effect post-shower, but it does the job.
They do make a pointed version for makeup, but I haven’t really worn eyeliner or eye makeup since January 2020 so I haven’t needed it. I also don’t keep eye make up remover besides a balm cleanser as part of my double cleanse routine so there wouldn’t be much of a point to buying one.
Now I know that this is a swap that nearly everyone and their mother is aware of this swap if they haven’t done it. But I have not bought a cotton pad since maybe 2016? As I said I don’t use makeup remove anymore, but when I did I found that they washed very well, I still have my original ones and they aren’t stained black from mascara and eyeliner from when I was still using a micellar water. Now I mostly use them for toner application, and unlike socks they don’t seem to vanish in the washing machine.
I bought wool dryer balls last summer and have not looked back. I hadn’t been using dryer sheets for a while, but I hadn’t replaced them with anything until last summer. These are really great, they reduce drying time by continuously fluffing up and bouncing between the stuff in the dryer so that they ball up less. They’re really excellent.
Items like these are one of the reasons why so many zero waste people will tell you that going zero waste can save you money. If you never “use something up” then you never have to replace it. The other benefit to reusables is a thing that most zero waste bloggers don’t talk about, but that is that every product we consume has a ton of waste before it even gets to us! Every item that is made requires inputs and there could be waste made at any point, from the packaging that the cotton seed comes packed in, to the packaging wrapped around thread as it is transported to be made into fabric, then shipping all these materials from factory to factory as the cotton is made into thread, then fabric, then the good and then to the store where you purchase it. So every time we reuse an item we are preventing another from being made, creating less manufacturing waste, using less water, and in general creating less demand for consumer goods. Buying some of these products may have a higher upfront cost than a bag of cotton rounds or a box of tissues, but if you continue to reuse these items for years, the cost per use drops far lower than a disposable ever could!
We don’t have municipal compost in Sioux Lookout, or in most small towns across Ontario, but there is a local couple that is picking up compost once weekly in town and taking it to feed their animals or compost. You can also easily do your own compost with a pit or a barrel or a counter-top digestor. This really reduces how much garbage I put out, I typically take a bag to the curb about once monthly, and nearly eliminates the smell!