Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Waste Not: Energy and Paper Products

As I'm not an authority on all things Energy-related by any stretch of the imagination, I'm just going to point you toward a favorite resource of mine I found on our energy provider's website:

101 Easy Ways to Save Energy

If you're an energy-saving expert, I would bet that there's at least a couple things in that link you either hadn't thought of or aren't already doing; if you're more of a novice:  Don't be overwhelmed.  We've been slowly decreasing our waste over the past several years, executing one or two new waste-reduction measures at a time.  Maybe pick one of the things in that list, and do that.  You'll find how easy it is, try something else new in a month or two, marvel at how simple these changes are and how good it feels to waste less, then before long you'll be that annoying person that sneaks into your friends' houses to install aerators on all their faucets and sorts their trash for recycling.  IT'S GONNA BE GREAT.

Now, how about a list about paper?

  •   I won't talk about all the wasted paper that comes home in one of our children's backpack (SO.MUCH.PAPER.), but I will mention another of our children who, if you look at the backside of most of his preschool creations, you'll find junk mail and such the preschool teacher is obviously reusing.  How much paper do we immediately throw away after opening the mail?  I've started setting aside the paper that's only been printed on one side for our children to use, as they're heavily into coloring and painting and creative wastefulness.

  • Paper towels.  This is one we've been working on decreasing, although I do still keep a roll under the sink.  My darling mother was kind enough to buy me some Norwex cleaning cloths, which I use for cleaning the bathroom sinks, mirrors, all our windows, and just about any other surface other than the toilet.  I'm ashamed to say I still use paper towels on our toilet, because I'm a little eeked out about using my fancy cloths on there, especially with three males in the house whose aim is often less than stellar.  I'm working up to using some of our cheap terry cloths on the toilets- I got them from Wal-Mart around eight years ago, and they've held up really well.  After all, if people can wash cloth diapers in the washing machine, I suppose I can handle washing a cloth used to clean our toilets.  I guess.  Probably.  We'll see.

  • Napkins. We, apparently, are a nasty, nasty family, as in general we neither own nor use even paper napkins, although we do on occasion make use of those dreaded paper towels if we're eating spaghetti or pizza.  Enter cloth napkins!  If you're like me and have a fabric stash, it's the easiest thing in the world to cut them into squares and hem them.  Or you can get something like a set of 12 napkins for $12 at Wal-Mart for all you fertile Catholic families.  Cloth napkins have the added benefit of instantly making every family meal feel uber-fancy.  I suggest you obey any subsequent urges to start wearing a monocle or carrying a cane for twirling around.  (Sidenote:  it would seem that all my notions of class and fanciness come from Mr. Peanut.  I'm choosing not to ponder too deeply what this says about me.)

  • Kleenex.  First of all, please be aware that I know this is where I will lose some of you.  I may not have known that three days ago, however, had I not waved around my pretty embroidered handkerchief at supper with friends and seen some of them cringe away from me in horror.  I see nothing wrong with using my handkerchief when it's for allergies or for when I'm cold or working out and my nose-faucet forgets how to turn itself off.  Rest assured, when I'm actually sick I still use disposable tissues.  (And I wash my hands a lot on a daily basis, okay?)  But really, I've watched my grandpa use a handkerchief for years, and let's be honest, the world would most likely be a much better place if everyone were a little more like Edgar Von Soosten.  I should note that I have not switched the rest of our family over to handkerchiefs.  I have mixed feelings about our children using hankies, although it would probably be more sanitary than some of the methods of snot removal they currently employ.  And you are welcome for not describing those in detail.

  • Coffee Filters.  I've been looking around my house over the past week, trying to identify paper goods we can replace with their more economical and ecologically-friendly alternatives, and coffee filters was one I just noticed this morning.  I know those filters go into my compost pile when I'm done, but still- it feels more ecologically and financially sound not to purchase them in the first place.  A quick google search led me to mesh filters, which can apparently be found at Wal-Mart and on Amazon for $5 or less (or a lot more, because I guess some people just can't stand not to pay $60 for coffee filters- thanks, Sur la Table!).  Do any of you have any experience with these mesh-style filters?  Do they work okay?  Any complaints about or praise for them?  And yes, I know there are "environmentally friendly" paper coffee filters, but to me, those are still filters that are made from trees and had to be produced by some kind of machinery that uses some kind fuel to run.  I'm sure we could get into all kinds of debates regarding the worthiness of eco-friendly paper filters vs plastic-including mesh filters, but I don't know enough to possibly participate, much less win, this debate, so... someone go research that for me.  Please.

  • Other stuff.  Looking around my house, the only other major sources of paper consumption appear to be toilet paper (which isn't going anywhere, okay?  Well, I suppose it is, right down the toilet, but you know- we're not getting rid of it.  We're just not.) and books, and the only way you'll suggest I switch exclusively to ebooks is if you've been searching for some passive aggressive way to end our friendship.  

Any other paper-replacing suggestions?  I have a feeling I have big blind spots where paper products are concerned, but they seem to be hiding from me, as blind spots are wont to do.  Help.


  1. It sounds like you are very good at saving on use of paper.

    The kind of paper I have the most problem with are papers that purportedly have some useful information printed on them. My desk is often (okay, let's say always) overrun with papers that I am supposed to either file or sign or take some action on, either from school, or church, or my mother, or my aunt. My mother refuses to sign up for electronic versions of banking/investment papers, so periodically she hands over to me a bag of these papers to be shredded, which of course means more usage of energy. I've signed my aunt up for mostly electronic records, but she still seems to accumulate reams of useless papers which get passed on to me.

    Okay, I will stop complaining and get on with my life. Thank you for allowing me this paperless venue in which to rant. Cheerio!

  2. Thank you for these tips. Paper wastage is one of my biggest downfalls (in recycling, not life. That list is quite long.) Thank you!

  3. Before we switched to a Keurig, I used the Krups reusable mesh filter. (I don't know if "mesh" really describes it.) It worked great --never had trouble with grounds coming through or anything. (I've always been a coffee snob and can.not.stand any kind of Mr. Coffee apparatus, so if you're talking about that kind I have no idea.)

    My husband is fondly referred to as the Recycling Nazi, so we've been doing uber-recycling since forever. All of Emma's early artwork was on paper that had already had one use (often we make copies of handouts for our classes and have extras --if they're one-sided, they go in our supply of paper for our home printer. Most of the stuff we print out has something math or geology related on the other side :-) )

    We also shred documents with personal information, and that is used as fire-starter for our outdoor bonfires or burn piles of fallen branches and such.

    We use a combination of paper and cloth napkins, depending on the occasion, but we have kept our kleenex and toilet paper, thank you very much :-)

  4. When I got a new coffee maker, it came with a reusable filter. I have no complaints and really can't tell a difference. Sure, it is a little more work to clean it out but not difficult.


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