Your mission, if you choose to accept, is to find one way to use the real thing instead of disposables on the table OR to make a reuse habit.
It’s a Choose Your Own Adventure Monday Mission.
Click each idea for more details; they are more or less in a Baby Steps –> Making Strides order, easiest first and getting more involved.
- No more disposable plates at dinner!
- Finger tip dabbing napkins get used more than once.
- Use real utensils, paper plates at your next gathering.
- Use real dishes at your next gathering.
- Yes, pitchers and cups; No, plastic water bottles!
- Use cloth napkins
- Hankies instead of tissues
1. No more disposable plates at dinner!
What can I say? If you’re regularly using disposable plates, bowls, cups, utensils, ETC. at normal meals in your home, please consider the earth and switch to the real thing. (Unless you’re Michelle Duggar and have 18 children. Then, you do what you have to do to survive!) It pains me every time we eat at my in-laws because their dishwasher sits there in perfect working condition while we eat off thick, plastic plates and then throw them away.
2. Finger tip dabbing napkins get used more than once.
How often do you throw away a napkin that has a small dab of food residue on it, because that’s all you needed it for? Or worse yet, a napkin that was just used on someone’s lap because etiquette said they should put it there, but they didn’t even use it?
If you aren’t hosting guests, and your family always sits in the same chairs at dinner, keeping the same napkin all day (or for a few dinners if that’s the only meal eaten at home) is quite a simple thing to do. It’s just a matter of being conscious of what you throw away. Only throw it away if you mean it!
3. Use real utensils, paper plates at your next gathering.
In my opinion, the thick plastic disposable utensils and sturdy plastic or styrofoam plates, while convenient, make an awful lot of waste when tossed. Plastic takes a loooooong time to biodegrade, and I believe it’s rather costly, environment-wise, to produce.
If you’re hosting a big get-together anytime soon, I challenge you to use real utensils, which aren’t all that hard to toss in the dishwasher or even clean by hand. I also vote the hassle of floppy paper plates over the waste of plastic. Even if you switch to the thicker, cardboard-style plates instead of plastic, keep the earth in mind when you make the purchase.
UPDATE: I was reminded by a reader in the comments about the corn-based biodegradable plates and utensils. You can find utensils at 3 Green Moms for starters. They’re a bit pricier than standard, but if you’re serious about the Earth and about not doing dishes after a party, this is one way to go.
4. Use real dishes at your next gathering.
I had disposable plates on my shopping list when I hosted a Pampered Chef party a few weeks ago. It wasn’t until it became a hassle to purchase them that I realized: “Duh, Katie. You’re trying to save the earth here. Serving 15 women on real plates isn’t going to be that hard!” I thought of paper plates because that is the status quo for hosting a party. It’s time to change the definition of “normal” and make a statement by using real plates.
I even took it one step further and had fun serving with my good china. I absolutely love the pattern we chose and received for our wedding, and it gets used once a year or less. Why not make it a fancy PC party and just enjoy it? I stuck them in the ol’ dishwasher without rinsing, made sure they were completely cooled before removing them to preserve the gilded edge, and you can see how awesome the food looked:
(I grabbed these photos from Donielle’s post of my party. Thank you for taking better pictures than me!)
Yes, this generated more dishes, some of which had to be done by hand. Yes, if you know me at all, you know how I feel about dishes (they’re right up there with the proverbial root canal, and, say, my house burning down). This night I was pleased to have made the “green” choice and remembered to offer up my time in the kitchen for good prayer intentions. It was worth it.
5. Yes, pitchers and cups; No, plastic water bottles!
I almost cry when I see single-use, single-serve plastic water bottles being used when a sink is mere yards away and cups- even disposable cups! – are available. The tiny 8 oz. bottles nearly give me fits, because people always need more than one with a full meal. So much waste is generated by plastic water bottles, whether they’re recycled or (as is the case at most parties) not. The fuel needed to transport the (very heavy!) water to the store is only one part of the story.
The next time you’re responsible for the drinks at a party, try a pitcher and cups, whether disposable or not. At least do your part to avoid plastic water bottles if they’re not absolutely necessary. Look how gorgeous the presentation was with a real pitcher and fancy glasses at my aforementioned party:
6. Use cloth napkins.
Now, I know, we’re talking more commitment here. I read about people using cloth napkins when I first got into blogging a year ago, and I immediately thought: “There’s one bridge I’ll never cross.” I thought it was way too much work to make napkins and keep them laundered.
It was Valentine’s Day when we made the full switch to cloth, and we haven’t looked back.
I fell into cloth napkins by accident: I used my daughter’s baby washcloth, meant for her face, when it was closer than the napkin holder. That got me thinking: why couldn’t adults use a little washcloth or something similar at their place? It sure would cut down on a lot of napkins being thrown away. I began to ponder what I already had in my house that could take the place of cloth napkins. I don’t like to do a lot of work if I can help it!
I finally decided that I would try a no-cost, no-risk experiment and cut up an old crib sheet that had torn and wasn’t usable anymore. The “napkins” were flimsy, primitive, and immediately stained, but we didn’t use them for company and they worked fine! Our standards are pretty low.
My mother, who is incredibly supportive of this real food journey, caught wind of what I was doing. She took two old tablecloths, cut and hemmed the edges, and presented me with a basket of my very own cloth napkins for Valentine’s Day when we visited. Awwww. I love my mom.
We use one napkin for at least a whole day, toss them in with dirty dishcloths and wash them in the towel load, and don’t care if they’re stained as long as they’re clean. My 4-year-old son inherited the job of folding napkins, so it’s no extra work for me, and every so often, when I think of it, I soak some of them in water with oxygen bleach. That does a great job getting almost all the stains out, even after going through the dryer.
I didn’t use cloth at my party, not because I wasn’t that generous, but because we were at a rare time when there weren’t enough clean.
The funny part? My son thinks cloth napkins are, or should be, the norm. He will ask his grandma (my mother-in-law), “Where are your cloth napkins?” and tell her that she really needs to get some to be like us. *cringe* She kind of thinks I’m off my rocker with all this tree-hugging stuff, but I have to snicker when I hear him pull stuff like that!
7. Hankies instead of tissues
I just started this “experiment” this month. I read somewhere that a baby receiving blanket is just right for cutting up into hankies. I have quite a few, and I know they’re good for little beyond being an oversized burp cloth, since they’re much too small to wrap a baby. I used pinking shears and cut one up into squares.
We haven’t had any colds in the family yet to see what happens when they’re really put to use, but here’s what I love about “hankies” so far:
- So soft on the nose.
- Most moms need a tissue in their pocket on a daily basis. At the end of the day, it has become a little ball of solid matter that can no longer be used for blowing a nose. It gets thrown away without even being used. I am going to save a lot of “emergency” tissues with a cloth hankie!
- When my son forgets to empty his pockets and I miss that one pair of pants that had a tissue in it…no shredded pieces in the dryer!
At what level are you tackling your disposables this week? I know it’s Christmas, but next week is the perfect time to cut up a blanket or start a new habit of reusing napkins, so put “decrease disposables” on your to-do list for the time between Christmas and New Year’s. Thanks for saving the earth with me!
See all of Decreasing Disposables in December here.
The next Monday Mission will focus on disposable cleaning products and ways to avoid tossing paper towels all day long. We’ll start with a Skoy Cloth product review and giveaway tomorrow!