Are you ready to give up disposable paper products?

You know how I love a good challenge.

And I can rely on Small Footprints to set me on the road to living an even greener life with her “Change the World Wednesday” weekly tasks

For a fortnight we’re revisiting a challenge we did a year ago when we were asked to give up kitchen roll.

This was quite a challenge for me because I have occasional bouts of OCD which results in lots of hand washing, crazy phobias and the need for lots of kitchen towel to dry my hands.

However, I’m over the worst of that now and although I do still buy the odd ’emergency roll’ it’s nothing like my original habit of one or two rolls per week!

Eeek! Just thinking about all those trees, water and chlorine makes my conscience want to hide its face with shame.

We’ve also been challenged to give up single use utensils, cups and paper plates – none of which I use.

So what does day to day life without these modern ‘necessities’ look like then?

Spills at meal times

We have a pile of small reusable cloths on the table for anyone to use – we wipe up after pouring and spilling drinks and use them for wiping messy hands and faces. For cleaning the table I use the dishcloth and a squirt of eco friendly cleaner.

Spills in the kitchen

For spills in the kitchen I use a dishcloth and some form of cleaner. For regular spills it’s water and essential oils, for greasy spills I soak up the grease with bicarbonate of soda and rinse away with water and vinegar. I also have an eco friendly cleaner made from orange extract which works brilliantly on the hardcore stuff!

I keep a cloth hanging over the cooker rail and try and mop up straight away if a pan boils over and to be honest that’s the key to all cleaning jobs – if you tackle them straight away they are so much easier to deal with and you can usually avoid the need for strong hazardous chemicals.

Disposable cups

Before we leave the house we take a box with us that contains reusable shopping bags and some stainless steel bottles. We fill these bottles up with water to avoid the need for buying drinks when out.

If I was a coffee drinker I’d use a Keep Cup – you can get this in standard Barista sizes and places like Starbucks will give you a small discount for using your own cup. Win-Win!

Disposable plates

If we’re going out and will be out over a lunchtime we take food with us. This means there is no excess plastic packaging to dispose of, it’s healthier because I know what we’re eating and of course, it saves a lot of money.

Picnics and barbecues

For picnics and barbecues I don’t buy any once-use disposable products. We take our own lunch boxes, wrap sandwiches in brown paper which can be reused them composted and never buy cling film. If we’re having a barbecue we just use our regular cutlery and crockery and wash it up afterwards!

Pet spills

I will admit that when I had an elderly cat who was often sick and missed getting outside to go to the toilet I absolutely had on hand disposable kitchen towel. I couldn’t bear the job of cleaning up as it was, so to do that with reusable items was way off my tolerance level. Sadly our cat has gone to kitty heaven so this is no longer an issue. We have a well house trained rabbit who has peed on the floor a couple of times, but we used a reusable cloth and put it in the washing machine.

I don’t know what sort of lifestyle you lead, but for us, the issue of once-use products isn’t really an issue at all. They don’t come onto my radar and I can’t stand to waste money on something I’m only going to use once; so it’s pretty straight forward for me to avoid these items.

Feel free to ask questions; are there disposable items you’re using that I might not have thought of? I’d love to be challenged on how I could help you find an eco friendly alternative!


  1. Alicia@ eco friendly homemaking on July 10, 2012 at 2:03 pm

    Oh I so totally agree!! We do a lot of the very same things. Disposable items pretty much were exchanged for reusable items several years ago.What a difference this can make. Great post!

  2. Zoe @ecothrifty on July 11, 2012 at 9:21 pm

    Great post – saving money and the environment! We really try to limit our use of disposable paper products, but I can only take it so far. I did read a blog where they talked about giving up toilet paper and replacing it with washable cloths but I haven’t been able convince myself to try that…

  3. Jennifer on July 16, 2012 at 10:09 pm

    I am so with you on the cat mess thing. I keep a roll of paper towels on hand for the rare occasions the cat throws up (after wolfing down her food too quickly…sigh). I could use a towel, but her food is meat-based, smelly, and somehow even worse after a round trip journey to her stomach. Probably the acids. I’m sure I do end up using paper towels for a few other things, since I go through maybe a roll or two a year and the cat doesn’t throw up that much. I should pay more attention to figure out what else I use them for!

  4. Jane on July 17, 2012 at 9:08 pm

    I agree that cats can be tricky to clean up after without resorting to disposable items! If the cat has an accident or is sick, I generally scrape up the worst of it with an old trowel (which is kept for cleaning out the litter tray). Depending on what I am cleaning up, and on whether it is day time or night time, I then either flush it down the toilet or put it in the compost heap. I then finish cleaning up with a cloth. The trowel can easily be rinsed or washed. However, recently the cat had a rather runny upset tummy and I did resort to cleaning this up with a few sheets of toilet paper. On one occasion when the cat was sick in the night a year or two ago and the trowel was not in the house, I cleared up the worst of it with some old newspaper, which I put onto the compost heap in the morning. Apart from that, I do not tend to use disposable items, although I cannot completely wean my husband off them. Like you, I keep cloths available for everyone to use. I have some handy in boxes in the living room and kitchen. I also have a good supply of cloth table napkins. However, I do still have a kitchen roll in the house that my husband likes to use for some things (although I have not bought any for 3 years). Any that is used, I compost if possible (rinsing it out first if necessary). I find that sometimes certain visitors ignore the cloth table napkins they have been given, and the prominently placed box of cloths, and search for and help themselves to a piece of kitchen roll instead. Very annoying! I think I should start hiding the kitchen roll in my bedroom when these people visit.

  5. chris levey on July 20, 2012 at 10:47 am

    You could use newspaper to clean up the opps! of cats or dogs, then put the newspaper in the compost bin. It will decompose and is no worse the horse manure.

  6. Green Steve on July 20, 2012 at 11:27 am

    I’ve recently been on a bit of a campaign in the office as many of my colleagues go to the shops, buy a salad, grab a plastic fork and come back and eat it at their desks, when we have normal forks in the kitchen. Not paper obviously, but another example of needlessly disposable items…