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Tips from the Green Girl
Sarah Banzhof, Falls Free Press, 3-25-2019
How to Be Environmentally Conscious in Your Everyday Life

Stephen Mulé
The paper products aisle at a grocery store.
Sarah Banzhof is a Cuyahoga Falls resident and the owner of The Natural Body, a Falls-based company that sells natural beauty product alternatives that are free of parabens, silicones, sulfates, and harsh chemicals. She also runs a Facebook group dedicated to “living life and learning from one another how to lessen our carbon footprint, be kinder to Mother Earth, and make small (or large) changes for the greater good of our inhabited planet.” She offers environmentally friendly tips in this regular column for our readers.

Hello from your city Green Girl! This edition of “Tips from the Green Girl” is about reducing paper use in your home. Paper is made from trees, and the process uses chemicals and lots of carbon energy for production and distribution—it is neither organic nor truly bio-degradable. While recycling junk mail and other unwanted paper products is better than throwing them out, not using household paper products (or moving towards using less) is even better. Here is a breakdown of some alternative options:

1) Paper Plates are convenient, but they don’t recycle well because of caked-on food, etc., so it’s best to use washable, reusable dishes.

2) Paper Napkins: Ditch non-recyclable napkins and opt for cloth napkins to use over and over. You can purchase them or even make some yourself using cotton fabric. Most food stains are easy to remove and the cotton is much softer than paper anyway. Cloth napkins can also be switched out each season to complement dining room décor!

3) Paper Towels: Grab old t-shirts, dishrags, etc. and designate a use for them. In my kitchen we have two drawers for cleaning rags, two for out-of-season cloth napkins, and a drawer for cloths used to wipe little hands and faces. Microfiber cloths work well for cleaning glass and mirrors, and terrycloth towels are good for cleaning in the bathroom. Wash everything together in hot water to prepare for reuse.

4) Wet Wipes are tough for parents to give up because they have a lot of uses, but when historians look back at our convenience-obsessed society, they will more than likely identify them as one of the most detrimental throwaway products on Earth. Wet wipes have quickly become one of the fastest growing causes of pollution on our beaches, and they are clogging up our sewers besides creating noxious waste flooding and even allergies! They are made of a combination of wood pulp, plastics, and cotton, and whether they say “flushable” or not, they take decades to break down—if they break down at all. If you were to remove only one item on this entire list from your household use, wet wipes would make the biggest impact. Instead, use cleaning products and one of the aforementioned rags, with or without antibacterial spray. Kids can be cleaned up with cloth wipes.

5) Digital Billing: Go paperless for any bills that offer it. This saves companies in labor, as well as money for paper, ink, and postage. If you are afraid of losing records, wait 6 months and combine all statements into a single printed sheet.

6) Post-it Notes, Grocery Lists: Smartphones are finally good for something! Keep ongoing lists on your phone instead of on paper. Chalkboards and whiteboards are also great for keeping lists in the home, such as meal plans, etc.

7) Tissues: It may seem like it is getting harder to eliminate items on this list as it goes on, but you can use a handkerchief instead of tissues. Some are even super soft and would feel much better on a sore nose.

8) Toilet Paper: In my house, we have yet to institute the “family cloth” system of reusable cloths in lieu of toilet paper, which basically entails using cloth wipes instead of toilet paper and running them through the wash after use. We do use cloth wipes for our baby, though, so there isn’t much difference. If you want to give family cloth a go, you would need a small pail in each bathroom to deposit used wipes, and if you use them for number two—some do, some don’t—you definitely want a good seal to keep the odor in. Using family cloth only for number one might seem more reasonable, but some people retrofit their toilets with bidet units so they can just pat their bottoms dry with cloths, which then go in the pail. If you are not willing to give up toilet paper, I recommend the brand “Who Gives a Crap.” Their toilet paper is made from 100% recycled bamboo—a more sustainable choice for regrowth—and the company donates 50% of its profits to provide toilets and sanitation to the developing world.

Moving from a lifestyle based on convenience to one of sustainability takes dedication and a lot of trial and error to see what works best for your family. Life without paper products may be hard to imagine, but do we want to leave future generations a world that continuously buries itself in stripped, oxidized trees? You have what it takes to make a difference!

  
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