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  1. #1
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    choosing reusable over disposable products

    i was cleaning out my pantry and refrigerator earlier this morning and it occurred to me that we use a lot of disposable products - paper/plastic plates, cups, forks and napkins, paper towels, paper bags, and so forth.

    if we forsake convenience for a moment and consider the alternatives, we could slowly impact our environment in a good way.

    rather than using paper/plastic plates and bowls, use real plates and bowls.

    rather than using plastic utensils, use real utensils.

    rather than using paper towels, use dish towels.

    rather than using paper napkins, use cloth napkins.

    rather than using paper and plastic grocery bags, use the lux from tom bihn or other reusable grocery bags. we can also use these bags when shopping for clothes and other things - not just groceries.

    rather than using plastic produce bags at the grocery store, use reusable produce bags.

    rather buying water in disposable water bottles, fill a reusable polycarbonate bottle with water. i can do this at least at the start of the day. as the day goes by and i need more water, if i am not in a place where i can drink the tap water or get filtered watered, i have to buy water in a disposable bottle.

    when going to starbucks or your favorite coffee house, take an insulated cup with you that you can wash and reuse.

    when eating out, take along a reusable container to take home leftover, specially if you eat small and dine at places with large portions.

    we have to take a practical approach, and this is different for each of us. i think the key is to adopt practices we feel we can follow long term and make them into a habit. we may forget the reusable grocery bags in the car the first few times after we start using them, but they'll become habit soon enough.

    i keep a stack of reusable grocery bags in the back of my car. it just occurred to me that i still use plastic produce bags, so i've ordered these reusable produce bags.

    what are some habits you've adopted that help the environment?

    what products have you used that you can recommend?

  2. #2
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    I use the Red Oxx version of the tote bag. They are plenty durable, come in some very nice colors, and are cheaper than the TB version. I just bought two more for myself. I keep them in my car so I won't forget them but sadly I still do at times.

    On a recent trip to the grocery store I had to make a concession. I had my tote bag with me but the clerk put the steak I had into a plastic bag. At first I was going to stop her but then I realized that it was probably a good idea to isolate the raw meat from my tote bag.

    I just started to use real dishes for when I have the guys over. I was using paper plates until late 2007 when it struck me that I'm just making it hard on myself since I will have to run the garbage out sooner. Using a dishwasher is much easier to me than hauling garbage out (my pet peeve).

    Also in 2007 I started hauling my water back and forth in a 32 oz Nalgene bottle. This actually cases a bag related issue in that it's hard to find a bag to carry a laptop and a large 32 oz bottle without putting them both in the same area.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by pretzelb View Post
    Also in 2007 I started hauling my water back and forth in a 32 oz Nalgene bottle. This actually cases a bag related issue in that it's hard to find a bag to carry a laptop and a large 32 oz bottle without putting them both in the same area.
    I recently picked up this Nalgene 32oz bottle because I liked the size of the opening at the top. I had another bottle of similar capacity that I was using that was slimmer and taller, and fit nicely in the Buzz. The Nalgene doesn't fit in the Buzz, but its opening is closer to the size of most plastic water bottles.

    I tried bottles that have other openings - I just wanted something where the water would flow.

    If you come across a better solution, let me know.
    Last edited by maverick; 01-04-2008 at 12:22 PM.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by maverick View Post
    when eating out, take along a reusable container to take home leftover, specially if you eat small and dine at places with large portions.
    Great post, maverick! And the tip I quoted above is something I would like to start doing. I think I'll use my new Pyrex glass containers (with plastic lids) for this: I much prefer using glass storage containers over plastic ones because I think they're safer and cleaner. Also, the chain Storables carries some really nice, inexpensive glass containers made in France.

    I buy BioBags instead of regular garbage bags or dog waste bags. They're a lot more expensive but it's worth it for bags that are 100% biodegradable and 100% compostable bags. It's too depressing to throw biodegradable stuff away in non-biodegradable bags!

    In the grocery store, unless the produce is really wet and drippy, I throw the fruit/vegetables directly into my basket and bypass the plastic bag. Then at checkout I put them directly into my Utility Tote. The inside of the Utility Tote is pretty easy to rinse out and is very quick to dry so I don't worry about getting it dirty. But I think I will check out reusable produce bags because there are times when they've just sprayed the produce with water and it's wet.

    I think considering what countries the products you buy are made in is important. Some countries have very weak or even no environmental regulations -- imagine how those countries handle the dyes and chemicals used to make various products, and the waste from those processes.

    I use wheat kitty litter instead of clay scooping or nonscooping kitty litter because it's better for the environment and safer for my cats. And it also works and smells a lot better than the clay stuff. I've tried 10 different kinds of clay-alternative litters and I've found what I think is the best brand but I can't remember the name of it so I'll post it later.
    Current Carry: Skookum Dog Citizen Canine prototype, Founder's Briefcase (every day carry), Small Cafe Bag (every day carry), Shop Bags (groceries, extra random stuff), Aeronaut 45 (travel), Synapse 19 (day hikes), Smart Alec (longer day hikes), Skookum Dog Road Duffel (Medium) (travel), Clear Organizer Wallet, Travel Stuff Sacks, Organizer Cubes

  5. #5
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    Here in Hawaii, they are considering banning plastic shopping bags (like in SF), but I think that until we get a real recycling program going state-wide (I think they are still "trying it out" in two neighborhoods) that WORKS, it really doesn't solve anything - because we reuse those shopping bags as garbage bags to throw our (mostly recyclable) trash away in.

    If they ban plastic shopping bags without doing the recycling thing, we will just be buying those Glad trash bags and putting our trash in those. (BioBags doesn't seem to make regular trash bags - because most places have recycling programs!) Basically, making no real difference besides the whole "plastic shopping bags blowing away into the ocean" issue.

    Note that that issue, while worthwhile, is still a smaller issue than the "burning trash, or throwing trash into landfills, which may not even be on our islands and hence our trash gets SHIPPED to places like Oregon or WASHINGTON to be dumped into landfills there" issue.

    Sigh.

    On brighter notes:

    The reusable produce bags are nifty!

    SIGG bottles instead of Nalgene bottles! Leaching! Plus, SIGG bottles have those caps that you can put a carabiner through, and then you can hook that onto your bag strap, or anything!

    P.S. Thanks Darcy, for the link to reusablebags.com! I just received my SIGG bottles in the mail from them! Much cheaper shipping than the MySIGG site. Local vendors didn't have the selection =(

  6. #6
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    Second the biobags for dog waste, Sigg bottle for water, reusable everything. (On the leaching front, those office watercooler bottles are polycarbonate too, so beware. Plus they're abysmal for the environment, all those horrible Sparkletts trucks hauling water all over the city.) We get takeout (mostly burritos) too often, and they always give us too many napkins, so i stick the extras in my bag & we don't have to buy napkins any more. But we also tend to tear napkins in half along the fold and only use half at once, and reuse that one until it's nasty, which not everyone might like When you do get take-out, take recyclables home with you, like burrito foil or plastic containers. Decline bags everywhere! Composting is incredible for reducing your trash, if you have a yard/patio/balcony that makes it possible (or if your city has yard-waste pickup). Make your own coffee at home/work and carry it in a reusable mug, take a reusable mug to the coffee shop, or switch from coffee to tea b/c it's easy to make tea at work if you have a faucet, mug, & microwave. Buy some inexpensive dishes & utensils (Ikea!) & stick them in the office kitchen -- it was the only way I could get people to stop using styrofoam like it was going out of style. In public restrooms, dry your hands on your pants or by running them through your hair. Just use less stuff. Cotton clothes are awful for the environment b/c of all the pesticides, so buy nice stuff that will last, not lots of cheap stuff. (Works with bags too!) Fewer cosmetic products, with all their plastic packaging. Don't buy bottled beverages. Squeeze your own OJ, and don't get trended into buying a couple of bottles of wine a week when you wouldn't dream of buying bottles of soda or bottled water!

    Get yourself off of catalog lists and other mailing lists. I've contacted a lot of catalog people directly, as well as the enviro & other groups I belong to (amazing how much paper the enviro folks mail out in a year), and recently read about this site: https://www.catalogchoice.org/. You can also get yourself off the ValPak list here: http://www.coxtarget.com/mailsuppres...uppressionForm but I don't think there is anything you can do about the grocery/drugstore circulars that the mail carrier is required to put in everyone's box. This site stops those pre-screened credit card offers, except for the ones that come from airline mileage programs you belong to: https://www.optoutprescreen.com/?rf=t Call or email your credit card company & they'll stop sending you those "convenience checks," which are dangerous anyway b/c they could get stolen from the mail & used. Go paperless w/ all your billing, w/ your auto insurance policy papers (Geico at least offers this, we just have to remember to print our proof of insurance every 6 months so I put a reminder in my computer's calendar), etc.

    A nifty new product, for those with little ones, are gDiapers: http://www.gdiapers.com/. Only the plastic-free liner is disposable, and you can flush or compost it. And you can practice Elimination Communication to reduce the number of diapers you use of any sort (and, I've been told it makes things more interesting than mindlessly changing diapers all day). Welcome hand-me-downs, b/c most kid stuff barely gets used before it's too small. (But car seats should be new b/c they break down over time, & don't put your kids in polyester clothes b/c they get treated w/ toxic flame retardants since they can melt. Also avoid polycarbonate and PVC/vinyl products for kids -- more leaching!)

    On the electricity front: Compact fluorescent lightbulbs make a huge difference. LED christmas lights for holidays/yard lights. Put your appliances on a power strip & switch the strip off when not in use to prevent the standby power drain. We put our TV, DVD, etc. all on the same strip & it cut our electricity bill by a third, which was mind-blowing. Did the same thing with kitchen stuff (coffee maker & toaster, which have clock/lights) although with a small toggle-switch we could plug in instead of a big power strip. Same for under my desk where my laptop & the printer/scanner plug in -- gets turned off every night. Unplug your cell phone once you see that it's charged. Turn off lights when you're not in the room. Wear a sweater, get an extra blanket. Move to a nice climate where you don't really need heat or AC (That's how I convince myself that being part of the LA sprawl doesn't make me a bad person.)

    For water (& gas for heating the water): We got a $12 low-flow shower head at home depot that has a little lever on it so you can pause the water while you soap, shave, or step out to get something you forgot. It's pretty cool, b/c the water temperature stays the same since it's just paused, you don't have to fiddle w/ the knobs. Wish I had my own place & could get a front-loading washer We have a Brita filter on our kitchen sink & one of its non-filter settings is a shower-like mode, which you use less water volume with. Always turn water off between dishes, etc.

    Don't let the dryer run too long, let some heavy things finish air-drying (e.g., towels you're going to hang up anyway), or line-dry outside if you have the capability.

    Don't dry-clean. Terrible for the environment & your health. I have yet to ruin a garment w/ hand-washing plus air-drying. Sweaters and other wool garments can be gently washed in shampoo (wool is hair! but don't use conditioner), placed in a towel & rolled to safely squeeze out the extra water, and dried flat; silk can be washed in castile soap like Dr. Bronner's, which is good for person-washing too; and synthetics can be hand-washed in detergent.

    White vinegar is practically the only thing you need to clean your home (windows, hard-water stains in the bathroom, etc.) and/or get cleaners from Seventh Generation (I like their mint toilet cleaner) and Bi-O-Kleen (like their soy solvent cleaner for floors & their soy cream cleaner for sinks & tiles). Seventh Generation dish liquid is good too, and I like their powdered laundry detergent for whites, sheets, & towels, but it makes colors a little dingy so I still use cheer free for those loads and for hand-washing.

    That's all I can think of for now. Happy new year!

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by slinstar View Post
    Get yourself off of catalog lists and other mailing lists. I've contacted a lot of catalog people directly, as well as the enviro & other groups I belong to (amazing how much paper the enviro folks mail out in a year), and recently read about this site: https://www.catalogchoice.org/. You can also get yourself off the ValPak list here: http://www.coxtarget.com/mailsuppres...uppressionForm
    On that note, has anyone tried GreenDimes.com? You have to pay for this service ($20 per year, I think), but they plant trees on your behalf in addition to stopping your junk mail.

    Quote Originally Posted by slinstar View Post
    Put your appliances on a power strip & switch the strip off when not in use to prevent the standby power drain. We put our TV, DVD, etc. all on the same strip & it cut our electricity bill by a third, which was mind-blowing. Did the same thing with kitchen stuff (coffee maker & toaster, which have clock/lights) although with a small toggle-switch we could plug in instead of a big power strip. Same for under my desk where my laptop & the printer/scanner plug in -- gets turned off every night.
    That's an awesome idea! Must try to work this setup in at home.

    Btw, I was looking at some dryer balls while Christmas shopping, but apparently they are REALLY, REALLY BAD.

  8. #8
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    I really like the Sigg bottles. I might have to get one of those soon. I've switched over to an old double-edge razor (see my other post in this forum). I've also begun carrying Baggu Bags to the grocery, which are easy for me to hide in a jacket or pocket until I need them. They're obviously not the quality of the utility tote, but they meet my needs.

    I've also been trying to reduce my consumable goods in general wherever possible. I really appreciate all the great ideas in this thread, and I'm looking forward to expanding my efforts to conserve and use reusable products. Thanks for the thread!
    Proud owner of the sapphire/steel Buzz, crimson Aeronaut, steel/crimson Empire Builder, two Absolute Straps, steel Brain Cell, quarter convertible packing cube, and a variety of other packing cubes.

  9. #9
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    nice thread

    I can't think of anything to add at the moment. Some of my favorite things that others have already mentioned are:

    TB Utility Tote!
    cloth bags for produce that needs to be bagged
    cloth dinner napkins!
    Sigg bottles
    glass containers (never microwave in plastic)

    I didn't know about getting off credit card mailing lists, so thanks a lot for that info.

    The only comment I have to add is that I have received several compliments from store clerks and shoppers about the TB Utility Tote. I love being able to tell people about it. I always show the back of the care label and tell that the bag is made in the USA!
    Last edited by wildgeese; 01-08-2008 at 03:40 PM. Reason: forgot something

  10. #10
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    i saw some sigg bottles at my local whole foods today and i was impressed. the largest they had was the 1L. i think i'm going to order a 1.5L. the 1.5L bottle is supposed to have a width (i assume that means diameter) of 3.5". has anyone who has the buzz used the 1.5L offering from sigg? i'd like to be able to carry it in the bottle holder of the buzz.

    thanks!
    maverick
    Last edited by maverick; 01-08-2008 at 06:38 PM.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by maverick View Post
    i saw some sigg bottles at my local whole foods today and i was impressed. the largest they had was the 1L. i think i'm going to order a 1.5L. the 1.5L bottle is supposed to have a width (i assume that means diameter) of 3.5". has anyone who has the buzz used the 1.5L offering from sigg? i'd like to be able to carry it in the bottle holder of the buzz.

    thanks!
    maverick
    Just goes to show how you can't win. I do recall seeing the information on the polycarbonate concerns and how that might affect a Nalgene bottle, but iirc, Nalgene is a home grown USA operation. So one the one hand I thought I was being a good consumer but maybe not so much. The Sigg bottles look fine but it's kind of a pain to have to convert from litre to oz to compare to the Nalgene version. I might venture to my local REI and check it out. The sizes do look more compatible for storing in a bag than the Nalgene because they are narrower.

    Oh, regarding the waste bags for pets. I haven't researched this totally but I think that "buyers should beware" when it comes to a bag saying it's biodegradable. Seems like I read that the phrase "biodegradable" is under consideration or that it can mean different things. I do know that one bag I see for sale in Petsmart says something about not being applicable to California. I don't have the answer but I wanted to issue the warning that more research could be required in the case of the pet waste bags.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by pretzelb View Post
    The Sigg bottles look fine but it's kind of a pain to have to convert from litre to oz to compare to the Nalgene version.
    It's not too bad, a liter is basically a quart, so the liter bottle is equivalent to the 32-oz Nalgene. For the questioner above -- the liter Sigg is 3.15 inches in diameter & fits in my old-model Buzz, but it's a fairly snug fit -- you might be able to fit the 1.5 liter but it's not definite.

    Quote Originally Posted by pretzelb View Post
    Oh, regarding the waste bags for pets. I haven't researched this totally but I think that "buyers should beware" when it comes to a bag saying it's biodegradable. Seems like I read that the phrase "biodegradable" is under consideration or that it can mean different things. I do know that one bag I see for sale in Petsmart says something about not being applicable to California. I don't have the answer but I wanted to issue the warning that more research could be required in the case of the pet waste bags.
    That's a good point. I think the little blue rolls of bags in a lot of the pet stores aren't really biodegradable. I have the biobags, which are supposed to be pretty good: http://www.biobagusa.com/ They are pricey though, generally about 10 cents a bag; recently they were on considerable sale at drugstore.com so I stocked up on enough to apply one of their coupons and get free shipping. Also if you put the used bags inside a non-biodegradable trash bag before it goes out to the curb, I'm sure you lose a lot of the benefit. I haven't put them in my compost b/c it goes on edible plants and that seems a little iffy from a germ perspective. So I think they're better than plastic bags when you have no choice but to use something disposable (and I think pet waste pretty much falls in that category), but still imperfect.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by maverick View Post
    has anyone who has the buzz used the 1.5L offering from sigg? i'd like to be able to carry it in the bottle holder of the buzz.
    Hi maverick,

    I just tried it. No, the 1.5L SIGG bottle will not fit in the bottle holder of the Buzz. It's simply too wide around. =(

    However! You can get accessories with the SIGG bottles, like a carabiner or such things, to clip them onto your bag.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Just View Post
    Hi maverick,

    I just tried it. No, the 1.5L SIGG bottle will not fit in the bottle holder of the Buzz. It's simply too wide around. =(

    However! You can get accessories with the SIGG bottles, like a carabiner or such things, to clip them onto your bag.
    Thanks for checking Just!

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Just View Post
    Hi maverick,

    I just tried it. No, the 1.5L SIGG bottle will not fit in the bottle holder of the Buzz. It's simply too wide around. =(

    However! You can get accessories with the SIGG bottles, like a carabiner or such things, to clip them onto your bag.
    I don't know about maverick but I don't like the carabiner approach. I could do with with my 32oz Nalgene (it has a loop that holds the cap to the bottle) but then it would fling around. I've seen people do this and hang them from their belt but how their pants stay up is beyond me. If I did this on my backpack I'd fear it would be like a medieval ball and chain and it would either hurt me or someone next to me (I have been known to be clumsy).

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