Rose Brown, whose Zero Garbage Challenge project inspires me to throw away less, writes about just one aspect of her low-impact lifestyle.
You’ve probably already noticed: most of what we buy is made to be thrown away. This includes everything from food packaging to electronics to clothes hangers.
Our usual plastic hangers are not recyclable. Plastic hangers are made with a mix of plastics, which makes them nearly impossible to recycle in current facilities. What to do when they break? In the old days, I would toss them in the recycle bin, cross my fingers, and hope for the best. But the truth is that they end up in a landfill anyway. Metal hangers aren’t much more eco-friendly. The plastic coating that is applied to keep them from rusting also makes them difficult to recycle.
In 2009, I made a decision to stop throwing things away. When I looked around my house, I saw a sea of disposables. I had to find alternatives for all of those old products that I used to take for granted, like toothbrushes, sponges, and pens—just to name a few. Once I got into the habit, I could spot potential garbage before it made its way into my shopping cart or drifted into my home. As any conscientious consumer knows, to reduce waste is to go against the grain of our consumer culture. Everywhere you turn, there is some piece of packaging sneaking into your life.
But there is good news. A quick Internet search reveals creative ideas to replace almost any disposable product. Companies and individual craftspeople are responding to demand, and they’re offering alternatives to all of those items that we’re so used to throwing away. If we use our purchasing power to support the alternatives, we’ll make an impact on the supply of eco-products—and we’ll save money and lots of resources in the long run.
Try it for yourself. It’s fun. You could pick one household item per month and start phasing in non-disposables. Spend 10 minutes researching your options, and pick the alternative that sounds like the best fit. Experiment. See what works for you and then spread the word to the rest of us. How about a homemade sponge? Or a wooden toothbrush? Try switching from pens to pencils. And the next time you clean out your closet, give it a makeover with some recycled cardboard hangers. At the end of their lifespan, they can be composted, recycled, or used in your fireplace.
For information about these alternative products and more, check this out.