Happy Earth Day!  It’s the only one we have, so we should try our best to take care of it.  When we think of the Earth and everyone that we share it with, it is only natural to feel very small and insignificant.  However, we can still make a difference in how our world looks in the future by making simple changes in our daily habits.

Maybe you have seen the latest viral story in social media or on the news?  A young woman is interviewed and explains how in two years she has produced only enough trash to fill a mason jar. No one can deny that is impressive, if not extreme.  I don’t think most of us want to commit to make-your-own deodorant or give up our toilet paper, but there are some less “painful” ways to make a difference in our environment.

We have a long way to go before we can eliminate trash totally, but there are some simple habits you can swap to reduce your trash production.  Here are some changes we make in the way we manage Dust Bunnies of Hampton Roads as well as in our personal households:

Use Cloth Instead of Paper               

Paper napkins, paper handkerchiefs, and paper towels are all producing waste as well as costing you a lot of money every month.  Why not switch to cloth? Dish towels are great for absorbing spills around the house instead of paper towels.  Have a bigger mess?  If you have old towels on hand that have gotten a little too ragged for the bathroom, keep them handy in the garage for large jobs, or tear them into smaller rags that are perfect for cleaning. Cloth handkerchiefs feel much nicer to an irritated nose than scratchy tissues and cloth table linens and napkins are an easy way to make your table pretty as well as more environmentally friendly.  Just toss them in the washer after each use.

This is one way we reduce our paper waste in our cleaning service business as well.  We use reusable microfiber cloths for dusting, polishing and even windows instead of paper towels.  We also use cloth and microfiber mop heads that can be laundered clean after each use.  Those reusable mop heads don’t just keep unnecessary waste out of landfills, but also make sure that we show up with a freshly laundered mop for your floors, instead of a bacteria filled sponge that has been in someone else’s bathroom first.

Buy in Bulk

Sometimes buying your food in bulk is a way you can reduce the amount of packaging you throw away.  Think of all the single serve food containers and the additional packaging involved in wrapping each serving separately.  In my family, we enjoy shopping experiences like Costco or BJ’s, etc.  Not only is it cheaper to buy a large bag of popcorn, chips or other lunchtime snack, it means my kids create less trash at snack and lunch time.  It’s nicer to eat from a dish or reusable lunch container than from a bag anyway.  Costco also encourages you to bring your own reusable bags to carry away your purchases rather than hand out paper or plastic bags.  If you forget your bags, they will let you use a cardboard shipping tray that they are “recycling” for another purpose.  Once you’re home with your items you can drop it into your recycling bin.

At Dust Bunnies of Hampton Roads we buy a lot of the cleaning products we use in bulk.  Whenever possible we buy a large refill and refill and reuse the original bottle. Buying in concentrate and mixing into smaller, well labeled bottles is another good way to save money and create less litter.

Recycling is great, but reusing is better!

Recycling helps keep items that could be reused or items that will not easily decompose out of our landfills.  However, recycling programs still use a lot of energy.  Items have to be picked up from your home and all over town in gas burning trucks and then taken to a recycling facility where more energy is used to change those products into material that is reusable.  The best thing you can do to reduce the amount of things you throw away, is to reduce the amount of disposable items you use.  One simple fix can be replacing disposable drinkware with refillable cups and bottles.  Instead of drinking your coffee in a paper cup every morning, take a reusable travel mug with you when you pick up coffee.  Stop drinking out of plastic water bottles.  Save money, and the environment, buy carrying a reusable water bottle and filling it at watercoolers, fountains, faucets and drink stations.  The kids can take a small one in their lunch box or gym bag as well. If the kids prefer a juice box, make a pitcher of the drinks they like from a concentrate to refill bottles on the go, and cups at home too.

We hope you picked up a few quick changes you could make to your daily habits that could help create a cleaner environment for us all.  The changes can seem small and insignificant but if everyone pitches in, those small steps can make a big impact to our earth.  Have a Happy Earth Day everyone!