We all want to live lighter upon the planet, but let’s face it, greener living takes thought and, well, effort. With busy lives, we often have good intentions to do our part, but it’s so easy to forget our reusable bags at home or to toss food scraps into the garbage because we don’t have a compost bucket within easy reach. Here are 10 of the most common obstacles to going greener — plus solutions to try!
1. The problem: You want to quit using single-use grocery store bags, but you don’t want to buy them or you keep forgetting your reusable sacks at home.
The solution: Make bags from old T-shirts.
These bags are no-sew and too cute to forget! Get the kids on board to help with this fun project and check out the complete tutorial from the Scattered Thoughts of a Crafty Mom blog.
Or, try this set of six extra large reusable bags. Each bag folds into a tiny attached pouch, and can be hooked onto your keychain or tucked into your purse so you never forget them.
2. The problem: You can't believe how many plastic produce bags accumulate from just one trip to the grocery store!
The solution: Reusable mesh produce bags.
Not only can these be tucked into your purse, but the mesh allows for airflow, so that you can store your veggies in the bag in the refrigerator. If you prefer organic cotton, try these. Or, try these mesh produce bags that come in three different sizes.
3. The problem: You want to compost your food scraps, but you don’t want a stinky compost bucket in the kitchen.
The solution: Try a compost keeper with a charcoal filter.
Some composting containers are cute enough to leave out in plain sight, and the filter keeps odors in the bucket, where they belong!
Here are four great options:
- Stainless steel compost bin
- A bin for the counter top or under the sink (available in two sizes)
- White vintage herb compost bin
- White ceramic compost bin
4. The problem: You’d like to cut down on using paper towels, but don’t like the look of a stack of old rags sitting on the counter.
The solution: Try decorative unpaper towels ...
Or, try a reusable replacement for disposable disinfecting wipes with this recipe from the blog Live Simply. These look pretty and smell nice!
5. The problem: You’ve thought about replacing paper napkins with cloth, but you aren’t sure where to buy them or how to wash them, and you certainly don’t want to iron them!
The solution: Check out some low-maintenance cloth napkin options:
These beautiful napkins are available in 26 colors and are crafted from soft, durable cotton.
Or, here’s another option for colorful cloth napkins from Amazon. Try storing folded napkins in a basket or regular napkin holder on the table, then have a bag handy for tossing in used ones until you get enough to add to a load of laundry. And for heaven’s sake — don’t iron them! For everyday use, napkins don’t need to be perfect!
6. The problem: You’ve switched over to unpaper towels and cloth napkins, but where do you put the wet, used items until you have time to do laundry?
The solution: Try a hanging wet bag.
A wet bag is a bag with a waterproof or water-resistant interior. Many feature straps and snaps for hanging in a convenient place in the kitchen.
Try this cute wet bag custom-made by the Etsy shop EcoCleanandPreen. Each bag is made with designer fabric on the outside and waterproof fabric on the inside. It even has two straps so you can hang it where you need it. Or, try this hanging wet bag from Planet Wise, available on Amazon.
7. The problem: You are worried about the chemicals in dryer sheets, but you don’t want staticky laundry.
The solution: Replace dryer sheets with wool dryer balls or homemade reusable dryer sheets.
Recipes for homemade reusable dryer sheets are plentiful on Pinterest. Here’s an easy one to try: Add one-half cup of vinegar and eight drops of essential oil (whatever scent you like) to a resealable container or jar and mix. Next, add pieces of cloth to the solution. You can use cut-up T-shirts, washcloths, whatever you have on hand. Close your container and use these in place of regular dryer sheets.
8. The problem: Cotton rounds and cotton balls are useful for removing makeup and cleaning your face, but they add up fast in the trash can.
The solution: Replace disposables with reusable cloth pads for facial cleansing jobs.
They look pretty in a small jar or bowl next to the sink. Just machine-wash the used pads (in a lingerie bag so they don’t get lost in the laundry), then reuse.
These cloth pads from Etsy Shop Fenit Line are made of cotton, extra large in size and come with a washing bag. Or, try Lamazuna Lingettes Organic Reusable Makeup Remover Pads, made of an ultra absorbent fabric so all you need to do is wet them with water to remove makeup.
9. The problem: You want to stop packing the kids’ snacks in plastic bags, but what else do you use?
The solution: Reusable, washable snack bags, of course!
Try stylish bags made of cotton fabric with a water-resistant interior that is food-safe. They come in three sizes and offer many designs to choose from. Or, check out this set of cloth zipper bags from Bumkins on Amazon.
10. The problem: You know those disposable K-Cups aren’t good for the environment, but they are sooooo handy!
The solution: Replace those disposable cups with a refillable variety and save both money and the planet.
Editor's note: This article was first published a few years ago and has been updated for 2023.