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People tell me that I’m a hippy now, and while I don’t feel that I fit in with the stereotype in my head, I can see where they draw that conclusion. I began recycling mostly as an effort to reduce our monthly expenses so that I could quit my job and stay home with the kids.

Now it’s a labor of love and I find myself bringing stuff home from my parents’ house (they don’t recycle) just so it doesn’t get thrown in the trash. While recycling is a very good thing to do, I’m a much bigger fan of re-using.

It’s a great way to save money since you’re no longer throwing money away every month with disposable items. This also lessens the environmental impact even more.

Here are a few ideas for replacing disposables.

Diapers

This was huge for us. And before you say, “I could never cloth diaper,” just hear me out. Disposable diapers (and wipes) are convenient, yes, but they take FOREVER to decompose.

And you know you’re supposed to empty the poo into the toilet before tossing them, right? Not to mention the fact that there are dozens of toxic chemicals being absorbed by your precious baby’s mucous membranes all. day. long. Yuck.

Cloth diapers (and wipes) are easy to use, adorable and only cost a one-time investment, saving you hundreds to thousands of dollars since they can be used for more than one child. And no, it won’t add a ton of money to your water or electric bill.

I add bac-out to the wash with my diapers and run a rinse cycle. Then I wash with homemade laundry detergent. And I do it all in cold water. Then hang them to dry. No more excuses.

Breastpads

All you breastfeeding mamas out there know that it’s a total drag when you’re ready to feed your baby but baby isn’t ready to eat yet. Enter breast pads to prevent those lovely circular wet spots on your blouse.

Unfortunately, most of what you’ll find in stores are disposable pads (that stick to you when they dry. ouch) or the super bulky, “everyone knows you breast feed without having to see your baby” reusable pads.

Fortunately, that’s not all their is. I recommend checking etsy or hyena cart or fresh moon for some cute, comfortable, more discreet breast pads. I used the hemp/cotton ones from fresh moon when I had Isaiah and I loved them.

Toilet Paper

Just kidding! Well, not really. If you’re into it, you can definitely save money on toilet paper by switching to “family cloth.” These are just small washcloths that you use for, well, what else do you use toilet paper for?

They’re just tossed into a special family cloth receptacle and washed every other day or so. I haven’t gone this far, but I won’t be afraid to if we ever run out of tp and I can’t get some from mom and dad before I go to Costco again.

Water Bottles

Getting enough water to drink is really important so I think everybody should take a full reusable water bottle with them everywhere (remember that Nina!). And it should be BPA-free, because we get enough exposure to carcinogens everywhere else.

But wait, if you go right out and buy a nice BPA-free water bottle, it’s not going to save you any money, is it? Well, I didn’t say you had to go out and buy one. There are probably lots of glass containers with lids in your home that you can use.

I love mason jars for this (especially cool if you have a Cuppow). For the kids, I bought some stainless steel water bottles for Christmas one year at a huge discount using Groupon. There are lots of options out there.

Napkins and paper towels

After getting several requests from Ian to buy paper towels, I finally broke down and bought him some the other day. He got one roll. The sweet man wanted them to clean toilets with. Yes, my husband is awesome.

It was only after I bought them that he reminded me that after he asked he realized that cloth prefold diapers are great for cleaning toilets with (among a myriad of other tasks). Why was that such a big deal? We just don’t use them.

Reusable napkins are so much more absorbent and cheaper in the long run that I just stopped buying them a year or two ago. There are some WAHMs (work at home moms) who make unpaper towels that snap together into a roll. So. Cool. I want some.

Shopping bags

I really, seriously dislike plastic bags. Hate them even. You need so many to haul your groceries home and then they just take over your counter. It’s like they breed while you’re asleep. Or maybe the sock gnome that steals the socks from the dryer exchanges socks with a plastic bag fairy. Hmmm.

Where was I? Oh yes, plastic bags = not cool. Reusable bags, on the other hand, hold lots of stuff. Even lots of heavy stuff. My favorites are the Trader Joes bags and the Flip and Tumble bags that roll into a little ball. Super handy and the company also makes reusable produce bags. The trick is to remember to take them into the store with you…

Feminine products

Let’s face it, disposable pads and tampons are extremely wasteful. But what do you use instead? Let me introduce you to mama cloth and the moon cup. Two fabulous, comfortable alternatives.

Mama cloth pads are made from soft, comfortable cloth – like flannel, hemp or velour – on the top. Nothing beats bamboo velour. And the bottom is waterproof – I’ve seen PUL, fleece and wool. And then there’s the moon cup. I use this one because it’s not made out of latex.

I’ve also seen Keeper cups (they make the moon cup in the USA) and the Diva Cup. I bought one two years ago and I’ll never use disposables again. Unless you want to pay me. Then I might think about it. There is a certain “ick” factor, but once you get used to it, you’ll wonder where it’s been all your life. The fact that it only needs to be replaced once a decade is pretty nice, too.

While disposable sometimes have their place – disposable diapers are great for trips and we have a package of one-time use water bottles in the car for emergencies – finding items that can be reused will be better for your health, the environment and your wallet. You just can’t beat that.

What disposable items have you said goodbye to? What do you use instead?