It seemed crazy to me a month ago that I would consider replacing some of my most-used disposable items like diapers and paper towels with reusable ones. That is, until I did the math and realized that if I ditch disposables I could be saving a lot of money.
Case Study: Paper Towels
I felt like most of the items we clean up with paper towels (sticky baby hands, food particles, the bathroom, etc) is really stuff that should go straight into the garbage, so it seemed unsanitary that a regular towel could do the same thing.
Many savvy people have written about the benefits of flour sack towels and I’ve always wondered if I could make the switch. The other day, I discovered that the towels Nathan’s grandma had given us for our wedding almost ten years ago are flour sack towels! I got to do a product trial without investing anything in the equipment.
I have to admit, when it comes to jobs I normally do with paper towels, they are amazing. It’s not as gross as I thought because I’ll generally use one towel per job, then rinse it out, hang it up, and wash it. They are so much more durable than paper towels and our baby loves them because they’re softer on her skin when we need to wipe her mouth and hands. If I had invested in a set of flour sack towels, they would have cost me $15 for a pack of 12. You break even after replacing just two six-packs of paper towels. After that, I’d save around $9 every 1-2 months.
Case Study: Diapers
I’ve used cloth diapers before (this is something I posted about them on an old blog), but decided to go back to disposables with our second child once a majority of my diapers started inexplicably leaking. What I just realized is that instead of spending money on diapers for my oldest daughter, who only uses them at night, I could use the 3-4 diapers that don’t leak for her. That is saving me $15-$20 a month. I plan to potty train daughter #2 in a couple months, but if I weren’t, I could reinvest in new diapers. Cloth diapers come in packs of two for $35.99 (and many times you can get them cheaper). It costs us $30 a month for disposable diapers. Having around 12 cloth diapers on hand is good practice so if I invested in 12 diapers up-front, it would only take me seven months to break even and most kids are in diapers at least two years.
Case Study: Snack Bags
I’ve also bought an Itzy-Ritzy 7×7 inch snack bag. It keeps all kinds of snacks in and can be machine washed or hand washed. I use this every day with lunch and simply wash it out by hand and let it dry overnight. At this rate, I’ll break-even after 50 days and save myself around $3 thereafter on snack bags. Not huge savings, but the bags are sturdy, cute and I feel like I’m making a big difference for the planet.
More Ideas to Ditch Disposables
Here is a good list of common disposable items and their reusable counterparts. The book The Zero-Waste Lifestyle: Live Well by Throwing Less Away by Amy Korst is also a treasure trove of reuse ideas.