I’ve been doing this for several years, so I have some ideas of what works and what doesn’t. Some things are just not practical for the average American human being. But some things are not only environmentally friendly, but economical and USEFUL! Several products that I am pretty much in love with that cut back on the waste we produce:
Hemp dish towels – I’m totally not kidding. These things are awesome. They’re actually a hemp/cotton blend that is soft, absorbent, and virtually stain resistant. I have the natural color (undyed, unbleached). It has yet to show any type of stain. I wash mine all the time and they just get softer. I like these better than terry cloth dish towels because the terry cloth seems to get raggedy-looking faster and then I get the jonesin’ for a new pretty dishtowel. These things are rugged! But they have kind of a rough linen look, so they aren’t embarrassing.
Reusable cleaning cloths – I use these instead of paper towels for basic cleaning. I haven’t been able to find them online, and I’m not sure what brand they are or what they’re called, but you can find them in nearly every grocery store near the dishsoap and sponges. The ones I use come in a stripy pattern and are usually yellow or green. The great thing about them is that they are thin, so they are easy to rinse out and they dry fast, and are so cheap that if they get stained or ripped you can throw them away and buy new ones. But they’ll last much longer than paper towels and are machine washable! And if you get a whole bunch of them and put them on rotation, they will last a good long while. I’m still using ones that I got the summer before we got married. So… yeah… they rock.
Reusable shopping bags – I have a bunch of cotton string bags, and they’re OK. But I have one special bag that I got for myself as a treat once, and I’d love to treat myself several more times and phase out the string bags. The Chico Bag. It is a sturdy nylon bag that folds up into its own stuff sack that condenses it small enough to fit in a purse, or hang on a belt loop with its handy clip. I keep mine in my car. The hardest thing about reusable bags is remembering to bring it back out to the car after you’ve unloaded your groceries. But if, like me, you have uses for a small amount of plastic bags, making a few grocery runs without a reusable bag isn’t the end of the world. It’s also available on Amazon.
Biodegradable laundry products – I use SA8 Bioquest, which is better for the water supply because it breaks down into carbon dioxide and water instead of leaving all sorts of chemicals for the water treatment plants to get rid of. And in all honesty, it cleans better than any detergent I’ve ever tried. Yes, the price will probably scare you, BUT it is very concentrated so that the box lasts much longer than a box of equal size from a store brand. And it comes packed in cornstarch packing peanuts which you can dissolve in your kitchen sink (pretty entertaining). The Trizyme presoak does a fantastic job with any type of organic stains (food, grass, blood, etc). The All Fabric Bleach also does a fantastic job of fighting stains and general discoloration of clothes. With no chlorine or hazardous chemicals. This stuff is about as non-allergenic as you can find.
Awesome mop – We’ve got a Vileda Ultramax mop. It has the same basic idea of the Swiffer, except the pad is machine washable! It just snaps on and snaps off, and then you toss it in the wash with your towels. It comes out of the wash looking pretty darn near pristine. How this works, I do not know. All I know is it rocks my face off. I don’t have an icky dirty mop sitting around, but I’m also not throwing out a pad every time I mop up a little spill. You’ll need the mop, a pad, and the bucket (which does a great job at wringing it out).
Additionally, I’ve been phasing out all the harsh toxic cleaning supplies from my house. For someone with odor-triggered migraines and allergies/asthma, having gentle, non-toxic cleaning supplies is a requirement. I pretty much use vinegar, dish soap, a few Clorox wipes and a Mr. Clean Eraser for absolutely all my cleaning. If you want more details about cleaning with vinegar, let me know – it does a reallly good job and cleans stainless steel (and glass) with no streaking or water spots.
Aaron still uses toxic toilet bowl cleaner, and I let that go, so long as all the lids get shut so Retarded Cat doesn’t drink it. I also have a supply of LOC cleaning products (from Quixtar like the SA8 laundry stuff). It’s very gentle, and if you dilute it as directed, you don’t have to rinse it off. The glass cleaner does a great job without smelling like ammonia like Windex does. I don’t recommend their wipes though, so far they’ve been too sudsy for me and leave streaks.