How Frugal Families Create Less Waste
Good news: You don’t need to overhaul your life to help the planet. These simple changes add up to big love for the world—and your wallet.
Simple changes can make a big difference to your wallet and the planet.
Save at Home Use only cloth napkins.
“In our family, each person is assigned a colored or patterned napkin and uses it for two or three days before tossing it into the wash, cold and flu season and epic messes aside,” says Haverford, Pennsylvania, mom Lindsay Wetmore-arkader. When your napkins get too ratty for public display, they can move to the cleaning-rag pile—a great way to cut back on paper-towel use. (You can still keep a roll for yucky tasks like handling raw poultry.)
Switch to bar soap.
“This will help you reduce the amount of waste entering your home,” explains Peter Seney, digital PR coordinator at Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics, whose company even makes shampoo in bar form. Not only do you avoid the singleuse plastic packaging, which could end up in our waterways or a landfill, but research has found that ounce for ounce, liquid soap has a larger carbon footprint than bar soap. Look
for unwrapped or paper-wrapped bars instead.
Stop using disposable straws,
especially if you are a smoothie-a-day clan. Try sturdy stainless-steel ones ($7 for four; crateandbarrel.com) instead, for drinks at home and on the go, suggests mom of two Sheila Morovati. She successfully lobbied to ban plastic straws in restaurants in Malibu, California, her hometown.
Skip dryer sheets and fabric softeners.
Courtenay Hartford, home-keeping blogger and author of The Cleaning Ninja, prefers wool dryer balls over dryer sheets because they soften and fluff fabric and are more economical over time. Avoiding softener and dryer sheets keeps towels nice and absorbent too, she says.
Save on Mealtime Invest in the ultimate lunch box.
After trying all kinds of reusable containers, Melani Bolyai, a mom of three from San Rafael, California,
IF YOU BREASTFEED OR PUMP, YOU’RE ALREADY REDUCING WASTE AND SAVING MONEY!
landed on Hemrly silicone collapsible, leakproof bento boxes (top right on previous page, $17; amazon.com). “They are lightweight and dishwasher-safe, they seal well, and they come in fun colors,” she says. “Now we never have to buy sandwich bags, plastic wrap, or even aluminum foil.” When there’s leftover water in their bottles after school, Bolyai’s kids know to water the plants with it instead of pouring it down the drain. Awww.
BYO small glass or plastic container
to restaurants when you know you’re going to have leftovers, suggests Wetmore-arkader. “It’s a nice feeling not to have to take single-use plastic or Styrofoam containers, since they are a big part of the plastic problem in our oceans,” she says.
Buy kid-popular items in bulk.
Opt for the tub, jug, or jumbo bag for items like cereal, baby carrots, yogurt, and applesauce, then divvy them into portions using reusable bags and containers. We know that can be a hassle, but consider this: Individual cups of Greek yogurt and snack packs of cheddar crackers can cost about 50 percent more than the same brands sold by the tub or box—and that’s just at the regular grocery store. You can save even more at a discount club like Costco.
Bring a reusable coffee mug.
Many coffee shops will give you a discount for using your own cup instead of a disposable one, including Starbucks (10 cents off) and Peet’s Coffee (10 cents off).
Stop buying bottled water.
In most places, your tap water is perfectly safe to drink, but if you—like Florida mom of two Jen Hansard— don’t love the taste of your area’s water, invest in filtering. “My family has been using a Berkey water filter ($249 and up; berkeyfilters.com) for seven years,” says Hansard. “It has saved us so much money, since we change the filter only once a year, tops.”
Save on Shopping Say yes to secondhand buying.
“I have saved so much money seeking out secondhand clothes and toys on Craigslist, Facebook, and Instagram for my toddler son,” says Queens, New York, mom Alexa Weitzman, who suggests subscribing to your neighborhood’s Listserv or Facebook group to find postings. You’ll save the most when you buy a bunch at once, set aside what you want, and repost or donate the rest to keep things out of the landfill.
Use your library for more than books.
Increasingly, libraries across the country are offering loans on items from prom dresses to museum passes. The next time your family hits up storytime, stop by the information desk to find out what gems could be lurking. Jennifer Wark, a librarian at the Ludington Library, in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, says its cake-pan lending library has “just exploded” with more than 60 cake pans in circulation. Most popular? Heart-shaped, holidaythemed, and Star Wars.
Make upcycled wrapping paper
from the piles of school art you feel guilty about throwing away. “My girls are proud to see their art elevated to gift status—and I’m spared having to secretly bury their work in the garbage,” says Holly Johnston, a Chicago-area mom of two.
Say no to plastic bags at the store.
Even if your town doesn’t charge a fee for bags yet, this is an easy way to reduce waste. Feeling like an activist? Campaign to get your municipality to pass its own plasticbag tax or ban.
Call companies to cancel catalog deliveries.
Not receiving all those catalogs will make a big dent in your recycling pile—and decrease the temptation to buy new things. Tear the backs off them as they arrive and recycle the rest; when you have a full stack, set aside 20 minutes to cancel them en masse.
A YUMMY CREATE WAY LESS TO GARBAGE: ORDER ICE CREAM IN A CONE INSTEAD OF A CUP.
Bar soap has benefits. Reuse and save! Bye-bye, brown bags! How earth mamas do iced coffee Put dinner napkins on repeat.
Psst! Kids’ artwork makes pretty gift wrap.