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Working towards zero waste: reuse!

I’m back with a blog about the middle “R” in the three R’s: reduce, reuse, recycle. I’ve talked about how these three R’s are in order, and how the first is arguably the best. But reusing has a special place in my heart. (What kind of a nerd must I be to write that sentence?). There are so so many fun options for reusable products at home and on-the-go. Granted, these do require an initial investment of purchasing them to get started - or making them if you’re crafty - but they often quickly pay for themselves. Repurposing has been added as yet another "R" by some, but I'll save that for someone else to cover. DIY is not my forte, which is why I love Etsy, where I can purchase a handmade item from someone with a lot more skill than I have.

Here’s a list of a few reusable products that I use daily:

  • UNpaper towels & other cloth items: There are countless ways to use paper towels in a day. But for almost every time you grab for a paper towel, an “unpaper” towel made of cloth could really do the same job. These can be easily made if you can sew, or can purchased somewhere like Etsy. That’s where I got mine six years ago, and they’re still going strong. Now that it’s cold and flu season, how about using soft cloth wipes that can be washed and reused instead of tossing away a million Kleenex tissues? And you don’t have to reserve using cloth napkins for fancy dinners. We use cloth napkins for each meal. You can keep a wet bag (a cloth bag with a waterproof lining) hanging in or near your kitchen, or in your laundry room. Toss your cloth napkins and unpaper towels there until you’re ready to run a load of laundry. You can purchase any of these items through Marley’s Monsters, a woman-owned business out of Eugene, OR. She has generously provided samples to display at Sustainable Wenatchee events and I have many of her products; they are great quality.

  • The holy grail of cloth? Cloth diapers. I know this doesn’t apply to many of our blog readers, so I’ll be brief. But I’m a little obsessed. There are so many options now! Modern cloth diapers are far from what our grandmothers used. If you’re interested in cloth diapers, Sustainable Wenatchee is working on putting together an eco-parenting workshop, so stay tuned!

Stasher bag, a reusable silicone sandwich or snack bag
Ditch those disposable Ziplocks for Stasher Bags. Photo from
  • Containers for snacks on-the-go: We all know that snacks = happiness. Take a look at how many Ziplock baggies you’re using and think a bit on how they might be replaced with a reusable option. For something that doesn’t need to be airtight, fabric bags with velcro closure can work great. Or, if you want a tight seal, I’m in love with Stasher bags which are toxin-free - made of silicone, not plastic - and can be put in the freezer, fridge and microwave plus washed in the dishwasher. They're great for more than just snacks too. Small stainless steel containers with silicone lids can be a good option too.

  • Finally, the thing that many of us do to “reuse” already: finding pre-loved clothes, household items, toys or books is always more sustainable than purchasing something new. If we can reuse something over and over, then pass it down to someone else, we’re doing our part to make sure it gets all the use it can before it’s worn out. Every spring the Women’s League of NCW (formally Junior Service League of Wenatchee) puts on an amazing event called My Girlfriend’s Closet where you can find quality, used women’s clothes, shoes and accessories (photo below, bottom right). For clothes and items for the whole family, check out local thrift stores like the YWCA’s shop on the Ave (top right photo). There are also some great places to find use kid's clothes if you don't have easy access to hand-me-downs, including Rhea Lana's consignment event that’s held twice a year (both left photos). Other options include finding free items from your neighbors via your local Buy Nothing group on Facebook, or buying used clothing online from an app like Poshmark. If you can, opt for buying higher quality items that can withstand this reuse, rather than cheapy items that will break or wear out quickly.

Next up in my series of blogs on the 3 R’s: finally, recycling! I’ll cover a few tips on what is recyclable in your curbside bin through Waste Management and also some places you can take other items, like styrofoam take-out containers, plastic grocery bags and clothes / textiles in poor condition.

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