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Confessions of a Green Swap Convert

Kerri Vilaverde

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I keep seeing an ad pop up on my Instagram for these little reusable sandwich bags.  They are cute and patterned and look adorable. But I haven’t pulled the trigger on them yet.  I’ve always been a devoted ziplock girl. I LOVE ziplock bags. To try to reduce my impact, I wash and reuse them a couple times.  But still…I know…I need to kick this habit. And I know it's not my only bad habit. I know there are other things I shouldn’t be doing but I prefer to ignore that little voice in my brain.  It's time to stop ignoring it.

We all know the various dangers of plastics.  Not only to the environment but to ourselves and our children.  We all ran out and got BPA free bottles when the news told us to and stopped putting the Tupperware in the microwave.  I saw an article this week that says you should also not put it in the dishwasher! I didn’t know that. That was the kick I needed to finish my conversion to glass food storage containers.  And I need to switch the kid's water bottles from plastic to stainless steel. It’s ok to do these things one at a time. Changing a lifetime of habits is hard! (Or saying no to a free plastic water bottle apparently.)

In addition to the above, I came up with a list of ideas for easy swaps we can do around the house to help a little bit.

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  1. Ditch that plastic shower curtain.  Especially if it is made from polyvinyl chloride AKA PVC.  They emit VOCs, phthalates, and potentially lead. Many large retail stores have either stopped using PVC or committed to phasing it out over the course of several years.  To be completely safe you can switch to a cotton or fabric shower curtain liner. Just be sure to wash it regularly.

  2. Paper Towels.  This was a huge thing in the house I grew up in.  We used paper towels for everything. Some of us, who shall remain nameless (my brother), still do.  Bought in bulk so you never run out. It is estimated that one person uses 45 lbs of paper towels a year.  Even if you love the cleanliness and convenience, think of the money you will save and can spend on something else!!!

  3. Plastic grocery bags….UGH.  We all have those reusable bags.  Put them on the front seat of your car so you don’t forget like me!  If you make a commitment to yourself to use them and have to walk back to the car to get them, maybe you won’t forget the next time?  Or maybe you will increase your steps on your Fitbit on shopping days. That’s good too.

  4. Plastic produce bags!  You don’t need them. You can bring your own reusable bag.  Or just put those avocados right in the cart. They are fine.

  5. Cloth napkins!  I’m proud of this one!  We made this switch a while back.  I have to thank friends that had us over for dinner for the idea.  Instead of actual cloth napkins, we used super thick and absorbent face cloths.  It felt so luxurious. I went and bought a package of face cloths in tomato sauce camouflaging colors!  Super-absorbable and cost-effective. To be even more green, you can cut them from old towels too!  

  6. Give up the K cups and go with old school brew.  Or get a beautiful french press and tell your friends it’s a more authentic experience... then invite them over to try it.  Maybe there is something to making coffee even more of an enjoyable event every day.

  7. Greenify your cleaning products.  This is so so soooo easy. Green cleaning products are available everywhere now, and at competitive prices.  If you are feeling ambitious there are lots of recipes on the internet to DIY. Or just let someone else do all the R&D for you.

  8. Compostable dog waste bags.  Seriously, are you putting the most compostable thing on earth into a plastic bag that will never break down?  Don’t quote me on the science there, but you get what I’m saying.

  9. Say goodbye to plastic wrap.   There is a really cool wrap that has beeswax over a thin piece of cloth to make it moldable and you just rinse and reuse.  

  10. Use a dryer ball instead of dryer sheets.  I tried a tennis ball but it made a latex smell all over the house.  I suggest a real dryer ball. Try one made of wool! No plastic or rubber smell to worry about.  Or try line drying if the pollen in your neck of the woods isn't trying to kill you.

If you stuck with me through this list you can see that I have some work to do.  That’s ok. We are all just humans trying to do our best. We can do this together.  What swaps are you going to make first?