Day #55: Cloth Napkins

Many years ago, we stopped using paper napkins. Cloth napkins feel so nice and they dress up even the most informal table. A number of our guests look at us askance and eventually ask something like, “Why would you want to wash napkins?” Well, you know, that landfill thing.

We have white napkins that go with any table setting. Some of our tablecloths have matching napkins, but I love the variety because a tablescape can always look different. And you can sew your own!

And then there’s napkin folding! What a joy! I always reserve five or ten minutes before guests arrive to sit down calmly and enjoy folding napkins. I have a book that I flip through for inspiration but just try looking up “folding napkins” on Pinterest! Wow. Endless inspiration.

I am grateful for opportunities to make everyday life and special occasions beautiful.

Day #49: Glass Storage

Roughly 10 years ago, a dear friend of ours was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her doctor advised her to stop using plastic storage dishes immediately and never again cook in plastic. She relayed this to us and even gave us several glass dishes to substitute for prizes from a lifetime of Tupperware parties. We took her seriously and I am grateful for her advice. As we could, we switched over to using Ball canning jars to put up food in the freezer. (We donated our Tupperware—and my mother’s and grandmother’s—to Goodwill.) We switched to Pyrex for other types of storage. (Pyrex has plastic lids but they are sturdy, haven’t cracked, and don’t need replacing as other brands have.) We don’t fill either the jars or glass storage dishes with less than an inch of head room, so we’ve never had an exploding jar or cracked dish (and the plastic doesn’t touch the food). Smithsonian magazine wrote about Pyrex on its 100th birthday in 2015. 

Ball jars and Pyrex

Day #23: Composting

composting

As we cut up vegetables for a winter stew this morning, I find myself grateful for composting! It’s not hard to do.

If you don’t enjoy getting your hands dirty, you can make a one-time purchase of a turnable compost bin (which can be placed right outside your back door … and you can roll it away if you don’t like it out for company).

Inside the house, a compost pail receives all your food scraps (no meat, no bones, no invitations for raccoons and other foraging critters). You can even purchase biodegradable liner bags for the pail so you can lift the scraps out and take them to the compost bin. No mess!

Turn the compost several times and wait until it becomes black gold. Spread it over your garden as a marvelous soil amendment. If you don’t have a garden, cast it over your lawn. Your lawn will find it yummy. And if you don’t have a lawn or a garden, many areas in the country have a community compost service.

We keep trying to reduce what we put into the waste stream. It’s all about saving our Earth and every little bit each of us can do will help.

Day #19: Straws

A practical tip for this day: straws. Another form of plastic that contributes 500 million straws into our landfills every single day in the US. We only use them when eating out and we often ask the wait staff to skip the straw … but sometimes that glass doesn’t look friendly. Consider taking along your own straw. These bamboo or stainless steel versions are affordable, tuck easily into a purse or backpack or portfolio. By request, I’ve included manufacturer names so you can order your own. I am grateful for the ingenuity that is finding practical ways to lessen our impact on our Earth. For more info, The Last Plastic Straw

bamboo straws and stainless steel straws

Day #11: Brushing My Teeth

With that title this can only be an everyday gratitude statement. When we made the decision to eliminate as much plastic as we could from our lives, it began to bug us that we were throwing toothbrushes into the landfill so frequently. Plastic handles and bristles—surely there had to be a better way? After some research, I discovered bamboo toothbrushes with nylon bristles, delivered in a paper box. I’ve ordered Weinisite toothbrushes from Amazon.com for a reasonable price. Now there are many more options available. Bamboo toothbrushes last for a long time with careful rinsing, they’re comfortable, and they get the job done. One billion toothbrushes go into American landfills each year. If we all switch to toothbrushes from a natural, renewable source, then we’ve removed one more non-degradable item from our waste stream.

Day #3: Beyond Paper Towels

Today, something more mundane. We have been working for 30 years to reduce our consumer impact on the planet. It was hard to give up paper towels. I am grateful for these huck cloths. Washable, lint-free, the right size, they can do everything a paper towel could do … and did I say they’re washable? We color code them: pink for the bathroom, green for the kitchen, yellow for the laundry room. It’s further progress toward our goal to lessen our household impact on landfills. I know my grandmother would approve.