Reduce, reuse & dispose?

When I was a little kid, one of my greatest joys was going to the recycling depot with my dad. I know that this may not be normal—I was also really into Lego and Barbies and climbing trees—but I just thought it was so cool that our old bottles and boxes and cans could be recycled into something else.

To be honest, I still think it’s pretty cool. Most of us don’t think a lot about where our stuff goes on recycling day, and that’s fine. If recycling has penetrated our collective psyche enough that we no longer question its importance, that’s amazing.

The only problem is, in the consumer world, we have a long way to go. Drink companies have worked their way through the deposit system, and computer companies are exploring trade-ins for what’s being called e-waste. Even dairy products come in plastic containers that can be reused. And all that’s great; but what about the companies that make cleaning products?

I’m not sure exactly when I first saw a commercial for Swiffer, but I’m pretty sure I wondered what the big deal was. To be honest, I thought it was a fad that was going to die off.

However, instead of going away, it took over almost every aspect of what cleaning now means. Instead of using a broom, we use disposable cloths—ditto for mopping. There’s even a disposable toilet brush attachment and companies are promoting disposable wipes for counters. Paper towels are even being marketed as a disposable dishcloth.

Seriously, what has happened to us? In one half of our mentality, we buy products with recyclable packaging, support eco-friendly manufacturers, and put our recycling on the curb once a week. In the other half, we’re seduced by the word “disposable.”

Don’t kid yourself—these products aren’t very good for our landfills or our waterways. Even paper towel, which will at least biodegrade, has been bleached and treated with chemicals.

Even on an economical level, how is buying Swiffer refills every few weeks cheaper than buying one broom, once? Why use disposable dishcloths when you could buy a nice cloth one that you put in the wash once a week?

We profess to be a generation who are fighting global warming, so why are we letting manufacturers get away with this? Consumers have the power to dictate what gets produced and what sells, and if we’re serious about changing our environmental future, we’re going to have to raise our voices.

There are plenty of competitively priced, environmentally friendly cleaning products out there. It may seem more expensive to buy a few tea towels and a package of washcloths, but compared to your monthly expenditure on paper towel and disinfectant wipes, you would be saving a bundle.

In fact, not only would you be keeping a little more money in your pocket, you would be backing up your weekly walk to the curb by rocking the first of those all important Rs: reduce.

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