We Live in a Disposable Society

We live in a society where just about anything tangible can be purchased in a disposable form. Disposable plastic bottles (water, juice, soda, etc.) can circle the Earth 100 times or more.  In 2013, K-Cups alone circled the Earth over 10 times! Americans generate upwards of 30 TIMES MORE waste than any other country. Have you seen the Great Pacific Garbage Patch? Not something to be proud of.

How long does it take something to decompose?

1 million years:  Glass Bottles
600 years:  Fishing Line
450 years: Plastic Bottles
450 years:  Disposable Diapers
400 years:  Plastic Beverage Holders (they also kill animals by strangulation)
200 years: Aluminum Cans
50 years:  Styrofoam Cups
10-20 years:  Plastic Grocery Bag
1-5 years:  Wool socks
3 months:  Waxed Carton (milk, orange juice, etc.)
3-5 months: Cotton Clothing
2 months: Apple Core
2 months:  Cardboard Box

Want to see more decomposition facts?  Check this out, Recycling.About.Com has great suggestions for recycling all kinds of things.

Here are just a few disposable items that could be purchased in a reusable form or repurposed from other things:

Bottled Drinking  Liquid (use a refillable bottle)
K-Cups (use a reusable, washable filter.  K-Cups are NOT recyclable)
Dryer sheets (use dryer balls and anti-static sheets)
Paper Towels (use washable cloth towels for spills, sponges for cleaning, newspaper for windows)
Paper or Plastic Grocery Bags (use reusable cloth bags)
If you get plastic bags while shopping, reuse them as Garbage bags, doggie poop bags, etc.
Paper Plates and Cups (use washable plates, etc.)
Plastic Cutlery (use washable)
Plastic Sandwich Bags (use washable sandwich containers)
Disposable Cameras (buy only for special occasions as necessary)
Batteries (use rechargeable when possible)
Aluminum Foil (wash and reuse when possible or use a silicone baking mat)
Party Decorations (save them and reuse each year when possible)
Dish Washing Glove (use the durable, longer lasting brands vs. 1 or 2x use)
Toilet Cleaning Products (use a toilet brush, let air dry)
Baby Training Pants (buy washable, use disposable for travel)
Razors (use standard and change the blades when dull)
Cleaning Products (use earth-friendly, biodegradable or simply vinegar and water)

Again, I acknowledge there are times when disposable products must be used for a variety of reasons.  We use them too, just as little as possible.  I basically restrict myself to vacations and big parties for disposable products.

Some will argue that washing all those reusable products is just as bad as buying disposable.  Is it? The article, Top 10 Water Wasters: From Washing Dishes to Watering the Desert from Scientific America gives a great summation of everything from hand washing vs dishwashers and washing the car to drinking alcohol.

Take a look around your home.  Do you have cases of plastic bottled drinks?  Boxes full of snack size foods.  Cabinets filled with canned soups or boxed this and that.  Refrigerators and freezers full of pre-made meals? Don't get me wrong, we have some of those same boxed foods and pre-made meals in our own Kitchen.  There are definitely times when I need something quick and easy to prepare.  BUT, it is always my last resort and quite honestly, I feel guilty even buying them.  And yes, I definitely acknowledge that there are areas where the water isn't safe to drink and there's no choice but bottled options.

WebMD has a very informative article on bottle water vs tap or well water.  It's worth reading.
Eating Well has another informative article on 'healthy' pre-packaged foods.
Men's Fitness tells you how to pick the 'right' can of soup.  (Watch the sodium content!!)

Some time ago I made the switch to cloth napkins.  Think about it, you use cloth napkins at restaurants and for holiday dinners.  You only need to buy them once every few years, or even less if you have a surplus.  You can color coordinate them with your decor.  You can buy them for special occasions with specific themes. You can use them to clean up spills or place them under hot dishes. If you have small children, they can't rip them up and shoot spitballs across the table!  Well, that should be reason enough to switch!  And last but not least, you can throw them in the wash and reuse them again and again!  Ok, that's obvious, just reinforcing my point here.

I could go on about the cost savings but honestly, you can Google it and there are dozens, if not hundreds of sites that will give you a Cost Benefit Analysis.  Yes, it's worth doing if you don't take my word for it.

How about plastic bags and aluminum foil?  Oh don't get me started on this!  BPA-free plastic containers or glass are perfect for food storage

Here's MY bottom line and why I switched:

First, I'm eco-friendly.  IN A BIG WAY.  Our family of 5 produces just ONE 10-gallon bag of trash per WEEK.  The rest is reused, composted or recycled.

Second, I'm frugal.  Ok, let's face it, I'm cheap. I've had to learn how to stretch a dollar much farther than it should be, which is okay, because I value every penny that comes into the house and give a lot of thought before I let it back out.

The best deals I found were always at Kohl's.  They always have a clearance section with napkins in it and since I don't care about 'every day' napkins being color coordinated, I bought 4 for $2 PLUS used a percent off coupon (which they always have).  So for about $5, I bought 12 assorted colored napkins that I keep in the Kitchen.  On another trip (I believe after Halloween), they had a huge pile of solid black napkins for about 50 cents each (4 for $2 plus the discount coupon).  I keep those in the Dining Room.

As for holidays, just hit the After Sales.  Kohl's will discount holiday merchandise up to 90% AND you can still use the discount coupon!  Really, you can't beat that.  Whenever I'm at HomeGoods, Kohl's or Target, I always check the clearance shelves for food storage containers, napkins, etc.  I'm a very patient person and with patience comes big savings.  That works for me!

In the end, just do what you can.  In today's world, it's very hard to be eco-conscious ALL the time. Implement new strategies in your family if you don't have any already in place and stick to them. You'll be surprised how quickly it will become a regular habit that you will feel good about.

If you need a little does of reality, watch this documentary; TOXIC: Garbage Island.  "Located between North America and Asia lies an island the size of Texas. This island is made up completely of human garbage: a sludge of plastic, metal, and decapitated Barbie dolls – and the island is growing."


  1. What a great post! I agree with you on all counts. I am a HUGE fan of cloth napkins. I love buying them, using them, and believe it or not, ironing them. I'm also a fan of the fun napkin fold. I love the little piggy that you use for holding yours. What a great idea.

    1. Thanks Pattie! Kudos to you for ironing too! That little piggy was found on a Target clearance shelf for $3! It's perfect for the napkins.

  2. Awesome tips and ideas! So happy you shared it with Thursday Favorite Things blog hop!

  3. Good, solid ideas! I think most of us just need someone to point out which household items we could switch over to reusable. Was happy to share and pin - thank you for joining From the Farm Hop today!

    1. Thanks and you're right Tessa! Sometimes just a reminder is all you need and knowledge of how it helps us all.

  4. Great tips. We sure do live in a very disposable society. My mom taught me to reuse plastic bags so I do that all the time and it is very natural after awhile. I have a ways to go on some of these things but as you said "Do what you can."
    Thanks for posting at Wildcrafting Wednesday.

    1. That's right Jennifer, do what you can!

  5. It's good to know I'm not the only one. I'm not always perfect at using reusable products but for some simple things it just makes sense. I've been using reusable water bottles for years now I hate buying water it's free out of your tap. Also use hand towels and cloth napkins instead of disposable...real cloth is more absorbent and the way I drop and spill things I would go through a roll of paper towels in a day. Don't even get me started on K-cups...so annoying. Hawaii (where I live) just initiated a plastic grocery bag ban (it's not 100% effective there are some loopholes, but it's a start).

    visiting from Freedom Friday link party

  6. Thanks for your comment Joy! I do buy paper towels - 1 roll every 2 months or so (for puppy 'spills' lol). Happy to hear about the plastic grocery bag ban; starting is the first step; let's hope there'll be more following soon!

  7. It really is startling! I recycle some things, but not so good with others. Definitely need to improve! Thanks for sharing with SYC.

    1. Thanks Jann, remember, do what you can. Everything helps!

  8. GREAT tips on reducing trash! I took the cloth napkin plunge 8 years ago, and it has steamrolled since. Of course, we aren't "perfect" yet, but each step we get better!

    1. Thanks Heather! It's all about 'do what you can'! We're not perfect either but every little bit helps.

  9. Love the name of your site. Great article too. Good job

  10. I did an activity with my Girl Scouts last year where they had to guess how long it took certain household items to decompose we were all amazed by some of the answers. Great post!

    1. I LOVE that idea Aileen! I bet they were quite surprised at the answers!


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