Monday, March 31, 2008

What I Did to Save the Earth... Giving Up Paper

Last week, I gave up paper products. Well, kinda. Read on.

We already use cloth instead of things like paper towels, paper napkins, and swiffer-type things. Most American families use these items on a daily basis, adding considerable expense to their grocery budgets and sucking up valuable resources. If they just tried a week without them, I think they'd find that they can live quite comfortably. To prove this, I decided to go a week without the few paper products we use, which are diapers, wet wipes, toilet paper, and note paper.

Giving up diapers was an issue. Disposable diapers are ultra-absorbent, so I let my baby fill'em up before I change them. I couldn't find plastic pants in my area, so our cloth diapers were leaky and soggy after a half hour. I only have four, so I would use them in the morning, wash and dry while baby napped (in a disposable), then use them again in the afternoon. I also used dispsables on evenings, nights, and excursions. Altogether we saved two diapers and thirty cents a day, but used that thirty cents and more in electricity, water, and soap.

If you, like me, don't think cloth diapering is necessarily the answer, you can find earth-friendlier disposable diapers at Amazon. Bought by the case, they are just pennies per diaper more than other namebrands.

Wet wipes were easy. I used baby washclothes, which I already had on hand. I just held them under warm water for a second. It is so easy, and so comfy on the baby's skin, that this is a habit I will keep.

Then there's toilet paper. Ahhhh, where do I begin? I cut up old t-shirts into TP sized squares and put them in a pretty gift bag. The used ones went in a covered garbage can. I decided to use the cloth just for number one, so this was a female only project. I also decided to leave regular TP out for non-family members--there are some things my friends and I don't need to share. And ya know what? It was not as bad as I expected. We had the normal flow of guests throughout the week and they didn't seem to notice. There was no noticeable increase in laundry and we saved a roll or two over the week.

For notes, to-do lists, and rough drafts, we use recycled paper from my dh's office. I originally intended to give that up because I figured most families don't have access to this. But then I realized, they do! Every office goes through tons of paper. Ask your boss, lawyer, doctor, or friend to give you the leftovers.

Someone asked me about feminine products. This wasn't my week for experimenting with that, but if it had been... well, I would consider it.

Why do this? Unfortunately, many of our everyday paper products come from 100 to 150 year old virgin forests in Northern Canada. When virgin forests are cut down to supply our paper needs, they can no longer help process the gases which are warming our planet. It's worth a try.


adrian2514 said...

Hey thanks for the great blog, I love this stuff. I don’t usually do much for Earth Day but with everyone going green these days, I thought I’d try to do my part.

I am trying to find easy, simple things I can do to help stop global warming (I don’t plan on buying a hybrid). Has anyone seen that is promoting their Earth Day (month) challenge, with the goal to get 1 million people to take their carbon footprint test in April? I took the test, it was easy and only took me about 2 minutes and I am planning on lowering my score with some of their tips.

I am looking for more easy fun stuff to do. If you know of any other sites worth my time let me know.

Joyce said...

Good job! I wondered how you would manage, with only four diapers!

I actually raised four kids in diapers, even though disposables had been invented, because of the expense. When I had two children in diapers at once (which happened a couple of times, adding up to about 3 years total), I had 7 dozen diapers to use. I double- diapered the toddlers, and of course used plastic pants. I washed diapers about every other day, and line dried them in the summer. Yep, it was work. I don't want to make a virtue of necessity, but with the right supplies it is doable. We used disposables when we were travelling, and also on Sunday for the church nursery, since other parents didn't like dealing with the cloth ones.

I realize that washing them is also energy consumptive, but I guess I'm glad I didn't send all that stuff to the landfill.