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Disposable Products Worth Skipping

By Larraine Roulston:

Once disposable products become entrenched in regular use, they are difficult to overcome. People follow what they see others doing. These days, it appears trendy to hold a disposable coffee — and this is what people see.

Realizing, however, that our oceans are dying due to the accumulation of plastic and other debris, it is essential that we modify our habits and strive to skip disposables.

CLEANING PRODUCTS: The biggest downside of relying on disposable cleaning products, dryer sheets and commercial fresheners is their inherent concentration of toxic chemicals. It’s easier and healthier to make your own cleaning solutions with vinegar and baking soda. Save energy by hanging clothes to dry. That in itself will eliminate dryer sheets.

SHOPPING BAGS: My guess would be that about one third of supermarket shoppers have made the switch to providing their own reusable bags. It’s also just as easy to carry your own small cloth bags to gather loose produce. Recently, one cashier commented to me that she is starting to notice others doing the same, as she was peering into my little silk bag to ring up mushrooms.

WATER BOTTLES: Why purchase bottled water when you can use a thermos or mason jar with inexpensive tap water? When on a trip, you’ll find plenty of places to fill it up.

STRAWS: People accept beer or wine without a straw, and sip a restaurant’s hot beverages in ceramic mugs. Despite the habit customers have of accepting straws that usually accompany a glass of water or soft drink, the movement to reduce their use is growing. Many servers as well are beginning to skip providing straws automatically and offer them only upon request. This saves millions of disposable, non-recyclable plastic objects from entering landfills, oceans and lakes. It also benefits a restaurant’s bottom line.

COFFEE PODS: The unit itself is rather costly and takes up more counter space than other coffee makers. Individual pods also cost more than grinding fresh coffee beans. As the pods have not been recyclable and continue to add to household garbage, even John Sylvan regrets the day he invented them.

FOOD & BEVERAGE CONTAINERS: These disposables can be avoided by lugging a mug to public events and venues, and carrying your own light weight metal containers to hold lunches.

DIAPERS: Each year disposable diapers add millions of tons of waste to landfills. The solid waste they hold also introduces pathogens into the environment. With today’s energy efficient washing machines, together with hemp now being available, opting for reusable diapers is the healthier choice for both baby and your child’s future.

PAPER TOWELS: Before the arrival of paper towels, people scooped out kitchen sink bits with their fingers, used dish cloths to wipe counters, and employed rags for other spills. When cleaning out the bottom of the stove, dampen a piece of newsprint, wipe and compost. I will, however, give paper towels their due, as one’s hands do not get covered in newsprint; and when wiping up jam spills and kitchen crumbs from the floor, they all can be composted.

In my opinion, there should be a new eco-provisions approach attached to obtaining a patent — one requiring inventors to be subject to environmental regulations in order to insure that their inventions contain post-consumer content, can be either recycled or composted, are easily repaired, and are manufactured without hazardous chemicals. In other words, inventions should result in “cradle to cradle” or “closed loop” products that are sustainable.

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Larraine writes children’s adventure books on composting and pollinating. To view, visit www.castlecompost.com

About Larraine Roulston

A mother of 4 with 6 wonderful grandchildren, Larraine has been active in the environmental movement since the early l970s. When the first blue boxes for recycling were launched in her region, she began writing a local weekly newspaper column to promote the 3Rs. Since that time, she has been a freelance writer for several publications, including BioCycle magazine. As a composting advocate, Larraine authors children's adventure stories that combine composting facts with literature. Currently she is working on the 6th book of her Pee Wee at Castle Compost series, which can be viewed at www.castlecompost.com. As well, Larraine and her husband Pete have built a straw bale home and live in Ontario.

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