Tossing Out the Paper Products for Good

Companies and corporations have, in the past few years, shifted their attention to the environment and made the effort to “green” themselves. One major way they do this is by going paperless — utilizing electronic resources over paper ones, reducing the number of pages their employees print and implementing recycling programs.

Over the past few years, my family and I have been making the effort to go paperless — and plastic-less — at home.

According to the Clean Air Council, every year Americans throw away enough paper and plastic cups, forks and spoons to circle the equator 300 times. We use approximately 1 billion shopping bags annually, creating 300,000 tons of landfill waste. And the average American uses about the equivalent of one 100-foot-tall Douglas fir tree in paper and wood products each year.

So, in my house, I’ve tried to eliminate all paper and plastic products, with the exception of one: toilet paper. I just can’t let go of that one yet. I’ve figured out that, for every paper product I use, there’s a nondisposable alternative that’s both better for the environment and more affordable.

Let’s start with the kitchen. I’ve never been a fan of paper plates or plastic cups. I’d rather wash a dish than throw away a paper plate. Even for birthday parties or large gatherings, I’d rather serve guests on reusable plastic plates. You can find cheap melamine ones at Target, or you can search online for brands that are dishwasher-safe and made from more earth-friendly plastics.

I’ve also tried to break myself of the habit of buying paper towels and napkins. And I use kitchen towels and dish cloths for hand drying and cleaning up messes in the kitchen.

When Isaac switched preschools and I had to start sending him with a sack lunch (not in a sack, of course, but a monkey-shaped lunch pail), I initially reached for the plastic zipper bags for packing his sandwich, fruit and veggies. But I hated the idea of throwing away that much plastic, so instead, I packed his goodies in reusable plastic containers with lids, like Take & Toss ones made by The First Years.

I also really love the reusable sandwich and snack bags made by ReUsies and snackTAXI. They’re made of colorful cotton and have a thin waterproof liner inside. You can buy those and other brands online, and I’ve found some zippered snack bags made by Munchkin at Walmart.

I pack Take & Toss reusable spoons with his applesauce and yogurt, and I send him with an infant washcloth instead of a paper napkin.

I bought several packages of infant washcloths when Target had them on sale for $1.50 each, but not for bath time. I use them as napkins, and I also use them as diaper wipes. Since I’m using cloth diapers with Ben, I thought it would be easier to use cloth wipes than disposable ones.

There’s another cloth product I want to use but haven’t yet — mama cloth, which is a replacement for disposable pads and panty liners. They’re better for the environment, and they’re better for your body. A friend who uses them told me her period is lighter and the side effects nearly nonexistent since she stopped using disposable pads, which contain the same toxins and chemicals that disposable diapers do and serve to make your periods worse.

We’ve done other, more obvious things, too: We take our own reusable shopping bags to the grocery store. I’ve been saving and reusing my produce sacks, and I’d like to buy some reusable ones (snackTAXI sells some on its website).

And I’m always open to making more changes. How have you eliminated plastic and paper from your home? Meet me at the Natural Mom blog at and share your ideas.

Categories: Infant/Pre-School, Little Ones