Moving from Disposable to Reusable: 5 Ways to Reuse and Refine

In our disposable and fast-paced society, it sometimes seems hard to work around.  With a little planning and re-programming, it is possible to begin and/or increase the practice of using reusable items such as bags and bottles.

Let’s start with moving from disposable to reusable with a few suggested items to get you started.

Plastic water bottles/juice boxes TO stainless steel water bottles.  A no brainer for many, but still lots of opportunity for others to save money and reduce the waste by incorporating the use of aluminum or stainless steel bottles and reusable mugs for all beverages.  With so many options and sizes out there, it’s easy to find the right style to fit your needs.  I have a couple of large aluminum bottles I keep filled up and in the fridge to grab before my early morning workouts and throughout the day, as well as smaller 20 oz bottles for when my kids are on the go.  BPA free is the key feature to look for.

Paper/plastic bags  TO reusable totes. With a little willpower, you can kick the P&P habit.  With over 300 – 400 billion plastic bags distributed every year and 60,000 used every five seconds, that’s a lot of excess stuff going around. Plus the recycle rate is not that great so we see bags flying around the road, in the trees and ocean.  With reusable bags being sold just about everywhere, it’s getting easier to implement.  Or get crafty and make a tote from an old t-shirt!

Paper napkins/towels TO cloth napkins/towels. You probably have a few around the house anyway so  just start using what you have.  If not, go to the dollar store or second hand shop for inexpensive options or treat yourself to a nice, new set if that will help get you in the mood!    No big deal to toss in a few cloth napkins or dishtowels with the regular laundry.

Plastic baggies  TO reusable glass containers and snack/sandwich bags. Though I’m not totally free of plastic baggies, a few favorite items that have helped along the way are these great Fresh Snack Packs for sandwiches and snacks.  With their envelope style and velcro closure, it’s easy to pack and clean.  Add a fork and cloth napkin for a functional place setting to go. 

Plastic straws  TO stainless steel straws. With kids, I  used to buy gigantic packages of straws but once I got turned on to these stainless steel straws that was the end of that.  The kids love them too.  Easy to clean, they now have a spot in the drawer with the rest of our stainless serving utensils. 

As with any change in behavior or habits, a little concentration and willpower is needed.  But once you get in the swing of things and begin to notice the absence of all this waste, you will soon wonder how and why you ever used these kinds of items in the past.   Just remember to ask yourself if a disposable item is truly needed.  In some cases, it may be but you’ll be surprised at how often you can overcome and get the same result with a much more refined way of doing so.


For recommended products to help you move from disposable to reusable, check out our curated collection here on Ecoavenue.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kai March 5, 2010 at 4:29 pm


We use unpaper towels made from birdseye diaper cloth. We’ve also designed a counter top “towel house” to contain and dispense them. (And they’re cute too! 😉 The towels go straight from the dryer to the “towel house.” NO FOLDING! It’s helped us in our transition away from paper towels tremendously because the towel house is no larger than a paper towel dispenser, and sits in exactly the same spot on the counter top. No big routine changes here. We just toss them in a basket under the sink to be laundered later, instead of the trash!

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2 Jeanne March 11, 2010 at 8:49 am

Very clever – I love it and may have to give a try. Thanks for visiting!

3 BagInspiration September 28, 2010 at 11:09 pm

I only purchase eco-friendly, eco-chic handbags. I also love my new reusable produce bags. It's been fun finding eco-friendly, good looking bags to use. I get a lot of comments and feel good about what I'm wearing.

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