When you go green, you are committing to the pursuit of principles and practices that lead to a more eco-friendly lifestyle. To go green means ecologically conscientious decisions with the goal being to protect our environment. “Going green in a good way” suggests safeguarding natural resources by methods that are not harmful to the environment.
Anything worth doing takes time and practice. Over the years, we have worked towards the goal of reducing waste. Each year we make a little progress in implementing more eco-friendly ideas. There may be areas where we struggle and those where we meet resistance from the other people in our family.
Go green in the lunchroom
Most people start with recycling; after that, we focus on reducing our waste. One of my first purchases was reusable lunch containers, and one of my most popular YouTube videos is a comparison of Planet Box vs. Pottery Barn. You can see how I packed reduced waste lunches here.
Next, I replaced the plastic zipper-style baggies that many of us use for our kid's lunches in with reusable waterproof bags for snack and sandwich packing. Replacing sandwich and snack bags is an easy way to eliminate plastic waste.
The reusable sandwich bags are latex-free, phthalate-free, lead-free, and have a cotton exterior. The lining is food safe and waterproof, yet they are washer and dryer safe.
Go green with hydration
Much has been written concerning plastic water bottles, so I'll just mention it briefly. Filling up your own reusable water containers is super easy.
Next, I stopped buying disposable straws. Take a minute to think about how many plastic straws you have used in your lifetime. Let's say in your life; you eat out three times per week and each time you receive a plastic straw with your drink. If you live to be eighty years old, you will have used 12,480 straws. Did you know, in America, we use 500 million plastic straws daily? Every. Single. Day.
According to the National Park Service, our straw problem would fill over 125 school buses with straws daily. In other words, 46,400 school buses full of straws per year.
Do you recycle your straws? Neither did I. Recycling centers typically don't have straw recycling because they get stuck in machinery.
So we're talking about 500 million pieces of plastic going in the trash on a daily basis. Personally, I find this mind-blowing. The plastic never entirely breaks down, and when it does, the smaller pieces end up contaminating waterways and other wildlife.
Save 25% on reusable straws at Simply Straws!
Join me and thousands of others to stop using plastic straws and buy reusable straws! We've been using glass for several years, and my father-in-law uses stainless steel which he carries with him while he's traveling the US. Take the pledge against plastic straws!
Go green in the kitchen with Unpaper Towels
One area of concern in our house was the use of paper towels. From estimates I looked up, it seems that the average family of four typically uses two rolls of paper towels per week. I would say the average cost per family, per year, is close to $200; but this doesn't include the damage to our environment.
It takes 17 trees to make one ton of paper towels, but in America, we use 13 billion pounds of paper towels yearly, with a steady increase.
Each year, while participating at our local Earthfest (a zero-waste event) we would see the Ecotopia booth with beautiful reusable unpaper towels and more. I would think to myself “this is the year we'll make the switch,” but then we would fail to implement the idea.
You guys, this year, I finally purchased the UnPaper towels from Ecotopia. The experience was terrific, so I wanted to share with the TOM Tribe the details about how we are going green in a good way! update: Ecotopia is taking a break, but I recently got some unpaper towels from another seller on Etsy.
In the past, I had used bar mop towels for dirty kitchen work, and I'll still use those for my iron skillets and really dirty jobs. What I wanted was to be able to replace my paper towels that we use for every day clean up jobs.
Eventually, I will add a few more sets of the UnPaper towels so I'll have more on rotation. Have I mentioned my large family tends to get slightly messy in the kitchen? The best way to stop using paper towels is to stop buying them. I had several rolls from a bulk purchase that I tucked away for extreme issues. (kids or cats get sick – my Achilles heel)
The UNpaper towels can also be custom ordered to match your decor.
I fell in love with Ecotopia's well-made products crafted with carefully selected colors and designs. Some of the embroidered items like the tea towels made with natural, unbleached cotton that I adore. I use mine for drying dishes because they have very little lint. The embroidered tea towels are 24″x24″, so they are quite large.
I've never been one to use kitchen sponges, but I tried some samples of the ecotopia washable sponges. I can see myself using sponges that are washable now that I've tried them. In the past, I used a small dishtowel, but I'm finding the sponges are convenient as they are more absorbent than dishrags. Time to ditch the stinky bacteria-laden disposable sponges in favor of washable sponges, you guys!
Zero Waste Mini-Workshop
This 7-day project is perfect for individuals, families, and even classrooms. Anyone can implement the steps outlined in this starter project to reduce waste. In fact, it’s laid out in such a way that you can’t go wrong! I’ve eliminated the “where do I start” and will empower you to say, “I started my Zero Waste Effort TODAY!”
Parents teaching children at home will find this is an excellent Earth Day project. Just download the project plan, watch the video, and get started.
Go green at your dinner table
I have a collection of washable napkins. There's just something so elegant about having cloth napkins. But for everyday dinners, consider using small washable napkins.
After spending some time browsing the site, I custom ordered some beautiful Thanksgiving napkins. I paired them with some decorative napkins. They look gorgeous and feel so lovely. Here's my place setting with my new napkins.
Go green in the laundry room
We have used wool dryer balls for years as they are much more efficient, less toxic, and frankly, I think they do a better job. Fabric softener liquid and sheets contain chemicals and fragrances which contribute to poor indoor air quality.
Using washable cloths instead of paper creates maybe one extra load of laundry per week, two at the most if you have a large family. I keep a separate basket for mine in the laundry room; when it's full, I wash. Downstairs, I keep a small bucket in my pantry where I toss my kitchen cloths when it's overflowing I take it up to the laundry.
Go green with your beauty routine
My team spends a lot of time doing research to find the cleanest beauty products on the market. We make this a high priority because going green in your beauty routine isn't just about the environment, but it impacts your health. Macey, our beauty advisor, looks at each ingredient carefully before recommending a product, so I trust her guidance.
She created an ultimate skin care routine that I follow, which includes removing my make up every night. In the past, I have used cotton pads and jojoba oil to remove makeup; therefore I wanted to replace the disposables with a washable option. Now I have a couple of sets of makeup remover wipes from theEcotopia.
They feel amazing! I love the way they are double layered; flannel on one side and certified organic bamboo velour on the other. Bamboo velour is heavenly. It is incredibly soft, hypoallergenic, absorbent, anti-microbial and perfect for those of us with sensitive skin.
Once per week I just pop the makeup remover pads back into the baggie they came in and toss them in the washer. According to the tag, they can withstand hundreds of washings. If you choose to keep a pack next to your nightstand for those nights, switch to a biodegradable one like Kaia Naturals Juicy full of vitamins for your face or RMS Beauty infused with raw coconut cream.
Go Green in the bathroom
The unpaper towels can be used in the bathroom to dry hands. When you are using a public bathroom, try to use only ONE paper towel. After I watched the following TEDx video, I realized my son Harm does this naturally and I've adapted to his method.
Many moms have switched over to washable wipes to go with the cloth diapers. When I used cloth diapers, I made some of my own washable baby wipes. A plumber also told me that the “flushable” wipes are an environmental nightmare and to please never flush those down the toilet.
A few years ago it crossed my mind that if they were good enough for a baby's butt why couldn't adults make the switch? I remembered reading about it in a book many years ago called the Tightwad Gazette. Later, I searched the internet and guess what? It's a thing.
Those who have listened to the “Potty episode” of A Healthy Bite Podcast, know that I use washable wipes and why it works for me even though no one else in our family does so. The key is that I have a bidet, which my daughter and I talk about in the potty episode.
I know many of you will think that is NOT a way to go green in a good way. You don't have to be that extreme; just do what works for you. If you can just switch out a few items like paper towels and straws you'll be making a huge impact for good.
Other simple ways to Go Green
- Support local business by giving them your business
- Shop for gifts from local artisans
- Support local farmers by shopping farmer's markets (by the way, talk to your farmer to make sure they actually grow their own produce and are not just resellers)
- Source your meat, eggs, and produce from local farmers
- Learn the signs of greenwashing
- Borrow or rent instead of buying items that you will only use a few times
- Walk when you can, reduce trips, plan your route to avoid backtracking (saves time and gas!)
- Don't be afraid to buy some items second hand
- Donate or recycle electronics
- Raise your children to be conscious of the environment
- Use chemical free beauty products
- Stop polluting your indoor air
To see if you can recycle specific items in your area, type your zip code and name of the item into the search at Earth911.com
Meet Kelli Kaiser, Founder of theEcotopia; I hope you will click on the links provided to check out her etsy shop and website.
I hope to do a podcast with Kelli in the future to pick her brain about going green. Kelli said, “Over the years I have figured out all sorts of ways to go green, and my customers are often great sources of inspiration as well!”
For now, here's my Q&A session with Kelli:
Are you the founder, if so, when and why did you start Ecotopia?
I am the founder, and everything I make I also design and have been sewing since I was a kid. When I started making eco-friendly things it was to save money in my own home, especially unpaper towels and reusable snack bags. I hate waste, both financially and environmentally. As a child, I was raised with kitchen cloths and washable diapers, and even though disposable things are the norm now, they never felt right to me.
When friends would come over and see my creations in use in my home, they would offer to pay me to make the same for them. Six years ago I decided to try a couple of small craft shows with my own designs, and I received such a positive response I moved to selling online, and at bigger and bigger craft shows.
Right now I do a few large crafts shows a year, and I sell in some brick and mortar shops across the country, but the bulk of my sales come from my online stores. The top half of my home has been converted into my own personal studio, so I have the luxury of a large space to run my business while getting to work from home and raise my daughter. 🙂
I see your original products page, what was your first product?
My first product was my Unpaper Towels. I looked at some early examples online when making them for myself, and played with different fabrics and designs, testing for absorbency (and most importantly) longevity. Very quickly I learned what I didn’t like: flannel (even though the cost to make them was cheaper) because they just pushed the water around on my countertop. I didn’t like exposed, serged seams as they frayed after a few washes.
I wanted mine to look artistic and attractive in the kitchen while still being rugged enough to take a beating in the washing machine week after week, for years. Finally, I found the perfect combination of printed cotton and cotton terry, and then triple stitched them inside and out to be incredibly strong.
My first finalized set was just for me, and I used it for over four years, only making a new set when we moved to a new home with different kitchen colors. And I still use the original set! They just live in a drawer rather than on the countertop.
How stain resistant are the unpaper towels and what do you personally use them for the most?
As with most cloth items, stain resistance comes down to how you treat them. I often recommend to customers that if they plan to clean up red wine, grape juice, chili, or any substances known to permanently stain cotton, they should pick a print that works well with brown terry cloth. My brown terry sets are practically impossible to stain. However, I do have a high demand for cream colored terry, simply because I think it mimics the conventional paper towels we are used to.
I suggest that folks use a little bit of vinegar and a scoop of baking soda in the wash to help eliminate stains from the lighter terry. However, the back side of the towels are more likely to be stained than the front side, and when rolled up, the terry is on the inside of the roll, so it is hidden to the casual guest. My first set (the one I mentioned above) had an almost white terry on the back, and I used that set for everything from cleaning my countertops to cleaning my windows.
After four years they still had very little staining! I truly can’t say what I use them for the most since they have become such a staple in our household. Besides regular kitchen cleaning, I have used them as dinner napkins, coasters, to wash and dry dishes, to wipe muddy dog paws, as take-alongs on picnics and outings, and even for cleaning bathroom mirrors.
My husband requested a set to keep in his car for the occasional spill or on-the-go lunch. I also get quite a few requests for sets to match guest bathrooms, and most recently I made classroom sets for a Language and Arts School and sets for an eco-friendly business office. It’s amazing when I think about the money I have saved over the years on so many disposable paper products with just one set of my unpaper towels!
Do you ever offer coupons, if so when and where can we find them?
I rarely offer sales and coupons, but I always give a 10% off discount code to my return customers. I strive to keep my costs low so that even without a coupon, families of any budget can invest in items that will save them much more money in the future!
You can learn more at theEcotopia. For local folks, theEcotopia offers free local pick up to save on shipping. We love buying local, and Kelli offers Free Local Pick up. So get out there and go green guys!