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.

Parents (USA) - - Contents - by JES­SICA PRESS / pho­to­graphs by YUNHEE KIM

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; crate­and­bar­ 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,


landed on Hem­rly sil­i­cone col­lapsi­ble, leakproof bento boxes (top right on pre­vi­ous page, $17; ama­ “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; berkey­fil­ 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.


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.

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