A popular topic in many zero waste social media sites concerns common products that people do not buy. I don’t particularly like following trends, but this topic is of interest, as it allows me to reflect on my progress in my sustainable lifestyle, and may inspire others to reconsider some of their shopping habits. In this post I will focus on common household items, related mostly to cleaning products and food storage.
Liquid dish detergent: I haven’t used liquid dish detergent for years. I use a 1 kilogram bar of Savon de Marseille to hand wash my dishes. For the dishwasher, I use earth-friendly dishwasher tabs that I buy in bulk from a local store.
Sponges or brushes: I use a Swedish dish cloth to wipe kitchen counters and cupboards. These cloths last several months, can be washed, are biodegradable, and can be placed in the compost once they become too worn for use. I use a locally-grown luffa to hand wash dishes; I simply wet it, swipe it over the bar soap, and clean the dishes.
Plastic wrap: I hate plastic wrap with every fibre in my body; it’s wasteful, frustrating to use, and unnecessary. I use my grandmother’s method of placing a plate on top of a bowl to store food, or use glass containers from jam, etc.
Plastic zip bags: I use the same methods as mentioned above under plastic wrap. I use glass jars to freeze food.
Aluminium foil: I use a reusable silicone mat to line baking and roasting dishes. I’ve used this mat as well to cover items in the oven (e.g., lasagna).
Paper towels: I use my wet Swedish dish cloth to wipe surfaces, and linen dish cloths to dry them. For messy spills, including cat vomit (cat guardians will understand), I used dish cloths that are very old and soiled, or simply rags made from old t-shirts.
Toilet paper: I use a hand-held bidet and small cloth towels. I’ve always thought that toilet paper was unhygienic and ineffective. A good way to think of it: If you smeared peanut butter on your arm, would you simply use a tissue to wipe it off? I have individual toilet rolls that I buy unpackaged from a local store for guests but I need to buy them only once a year.
Liquid soap and body wash: I’ve always disliked liquid soap and body wash, as I find them very wasteful. People generally use up far more liquid than they actually need. Instead, I use good old-fashioned bar soap.
Liquid shampoo and conditioner: I use solid shampoo and conditioner bars made in New Brunswick, and available in some local stores.
Liquid laundry detergent: I’ve been using Tru Earth laundry strips for a year now and have never looked back. So much space and water are saved.
Fabric softener and dryer sheets: I’ve never seen the point of these products. I air dry most of my laundry, including my bed sheets. I use the dryer only for the mattress pad.
Chlorine bleach: I don’t see the point of this product either. I’ve never been obsessed with sanitizing surfaces, as this lasts for only a few minutes. To whiten laundry, I use baking soda.
Specialty cleaners: I use Sal Suds concentrated cleaner to clean all surfaces. I simply mix a little bit of the concentrate with water in a spray bottle. Sal Suds is safe for all surfaces (and floors), including stone, marble, and granite. I clean windows and mirrors with a solution of 1 part water and 1 part isopropyl alcohol (which doubles as a disinfectant for cuts and scrapes). I use a simple combination of olive oil and lemon juice to nourish and polish my wood furniture when it needs it.
Bin liners: I don’t use bin liners in any of my kitchen or bathroom garbage bins; I simply toss items in the bins, then empty the bins weekly into one central garbage bag. I wait until this one bag is completely full before I toss it in the building waste container.