Disposable Planet: Saving Resources with Reusable Products

With Fourth of July just a few days away, I bet that many of you are getting all geared up and stocked up for a celebration of some sort. Be it a barbeque, a trip, a fireworks display, or some other means of declaring your independence from work, the long weekend ahead will likely require gathering adequate provisions to keep the festivities lively and the revelers happy.

With this certain demand, our faithful suppliers are getting geared up and stocked up as well. So as you head down the aisle of your local grocery store or supercenter or what have you, you are sure to encounter lots of possible choices for what to spend your money on. And I can guarantee that most of them will be disposable. Plastic or paper plates, plastic cups, plastic utensils (including the beloved spork), paper napkins and tissues, plastic garbage and grocery bags, styrofoam or plastic coolers, etc., etc., etc. The list is endless…and this is only for party favors!

I do as much as I can to conserve resources and live sustainably. I remember at one family holiday smorgasbord, I believe it was Thanksgiving, I cunningly hid all of the plastic plates, cups, and utensils in a trunk in the closet in order to force my family to use the real, washable ones instead. No one was very happy with me, though I did convince one aunt to play along and stand up in my defense, but by using the normal stuff we reduced the amount of trash that day significantly compared to usual holidays. (And yes, for you cynics out there, I did indeed help out doing the dishes!)

Despite my ecological consciousness and consumer conscience, and despite my stratagems to thwart the forces of disposability, I cringe at the many disposable items that I still use in my own home. For example, disposable razors. These oh-so-convenient, many-to-a-pack, everything’s-a-dollar mainstays of male grooming seem rather benign at first glance (unless you nick yourself shaving, of course). Yet each one consists mostly of plastic, which is made from petroleum, and after a few shaves that plastic and the metal goes into the trash…and so on then to a landfill where it sits amidst all the other non-biodegradable garbage into perpetuity.

As I stare at my face in the mirror to shave (yes, poor me), my hand starts to tremble dangerously when I really reflect on the fact that I could just as easily use a razor with replaceable heads. Sure, it would cost a bit more money and convenience, but it would cut out the plastic completely and reduce the volume of waste coming out of my home. Or I could even use a straight razor (which would have the added benefit of letting me end it all quickly should the pain of staring at my reflection finally become unbearable!).

And there are lots of other similar disposable items that can easily be replaced by reusable goods. Remember the handkerchief, a.k.a. the “hanky”? I happen to use one, and with every blow I get a head rush knowing that I am not causing another tree to be felled in some place where it is needed much, much more. Remember the cloth diaper? Sure, a pile of these things well soiled and fully odoriferous is not the stuff of sweet dreams, but disposable diapers are terrible in planetary terms.

It is so unfortunate that we live in a “throwaway” economy, where items small and large–from razors to major appliances–are designed in order to be used quickly and then tossed…and replaced with another, newer, better version, of course. Recycling helps to cut back on the resources we use, and reusing products is an even better way to take your stand against disposability. Another fantastic development is “cradle-to-cradle” technology, which takes reusability to amazing new levels with products you never thought could be reused–such as carpet and even car parts.

As you stroll down the aisle to get what you need for this Fourth of July, declare your independence from disposability, fight the tyrannous forces of throwaway, and try to use something you can reuse instead.

You have the inalienable right to a healthy planet free from mounds of trash so large they require their own zip codes. You have the inalienable right to a healthy life free from toxic waste that approaches immortality in lifespan. Although these rights also bring certain duties–washing dishes and hankies and soiled diapers among them–they are your rights and the rights of every other living being on our lovely, non-disposable planet Earth.

Have a happy, healthy, sustainable Independence Day!

Image credit: Nino Barbieri at Wikimedia Commons.

  1. Aurelia

    It’s true that with the holiday coming up, and even in general, most people don’t think about the disposable products they are buying. Consumer society has almost gotten to the point of no return, with on time use products such as disposable mops and toilet brushes (for goodness sakes!). It’s nice to be reminded that despite this, its possible to go back to re-using products, helping the environment and hopefully influencing other to do the same. I know after reading this, I’m going to focus a lot more on making sure I re-use everything!

  2. Caroline Savery


    Very witty, great post. I’m trying to keep my Fourth of July consumption free (minus alcohol)! Instead of buying my own fireworks (what a waste of materials!) I’m going to enjoy the public city fireworks over Pittsburgh’s Allegheny river from the roof of an abandoned house. Now that’s reuse–for scenic purposes–at its best! Enjoy your holiday.

  3. Nikki

    The other day I was looking over a selection of mops on sale at one-stop-serve-all store. As I scanned them deliberately, I had two intentions. Staying within budget and durability. There were several less expensive offerings but this would require me to return through a revolving door to buy a replacement within a few months. And so while I need to keep my floors clean I chose to wait and invest dollars that become more precious each day with a retailer majoring in industrial products substantially built to last. This is how I personally strive to practice sustainability on a daily basis and avoid the addiction to disposabilitis.

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