I’m back with a blog about the middle “R” in the three R’s: reduce, reuse, recycle. I’ve talked about how these three R’s are in order, and how the first is arguably the best. But reusing has a special place in my heart. (What kind of a nerd must I be to write that sentence?). 

There are so so many fun options for reusable products at home and for our littles. Granted, these do require an initial investment of purchasing them to get started — or making them if you’re crafty — but they often quickly pay for themselves. Repurposing has been added as a fourth “R” by some, but I’ll save that for someone else to cover. Searching “reuse repurpose” on Pinterest results in lots of great ideas if that’s something you’re interested in. DIY is not my forte though, which is why I love Etsy!

Here’s a list of my favorite reusable products for families:

  • UNpaper towels. There are countless ways to use paper towels in a day, with or without kids. But for almost every time you grab for a paper towel, an “unpaper” towel made of cloth could really do the same job. These can be easily made if you can sew, or can purchased somewhere like Etsy. That’s where I got mine six years ago, and they’re still going strong. 
  • Other cloth items. Now that it’s cold and flu season, how about soft cloth wipes that can be washed and reused instead of tossing away a million Kleenex tissues? For us moms, you can switch from disposable cotton rounds to use toner or take off eye make-up, and purchase some fun washable ones. Just collect them in a mesh bag and toss them in the wash. And you don’t have to reserve using cloth napkins for fancy dinners. We use cloth napkins for each meal. You can keep a wet bag (a cloth bag with a waterproof lining) hanging in or near your kitchen, or in your laundry room. Toss your cloth napkins and unpaper towels there until you’re ready to run a load. You can purchase any of these items through Marley’s Monsters, a mom-run business out of Eugene, OR. She has provided samples to display at Sustainable Wenatchee events and I’ve used many of her products, they are great quality. 
  • And the holy grail of cloth? Cloth diapers. Now, this summer another momma posted about cloth diapers on the Mom Blog so I’ll try to be brief. But like that mom, I’m a little obsessed. I’d imagine most readers response to cloth diapers is: nope, nope, nopity-nope. Or maybe some of you are already all about it like me. But for you few who are cloth-curious, this is for you. Cloth diapers enable you to reuse diapers over and over, until your kid is potty trained. Incredible! I started cloth diapering when my daughter was around 4 days old and continued until she was potty trained during the day. Then I switched to disposables at night since there wasn’t enough to run a load often enough. Fortunately she was a wonder child and was fully potty trained by 2, so we didn’t have to do nighttime ‘sposies for long. We also often used disposables when traveling and camping, depending on how long we were going to be gone and how we were getting there. It definitely doesn’t have to be all-or-none. Some find that cloth just doesn’t work well to last all night and only use them during the day. Some skip the newborn stage and wait till they get in a rhythm before adding the extra work of diaper laundry. If you’re interested in cloth diapers, Sustainable Wenatchee is working on putting together an eco-parenting workshop, so stay tuned!
  • Bags, squeeze pouches, and containers for snacks on the go. We all know that snacks = happiness. For kids and for us. Take a look at how many Ziplock baggies you’re using and think a bit on how they might be replaced with a reusable option. For something that doesn’t need to be airtight, fabric bags with velcro closure can work great. Or, if you want a tight seal, I’m in love with Stasher bags which are toxin-free, made of silicone and can be put in the freezer, fridge and microwave plus washed in the dishwasher. Small stainless steel containers with silicone lids can be a good option too. Finally, for babies and small toddlers, replace those throw-away pouches of baby food and invest in several refillable pouches that you can put your own purees or applesauce in.
  • Finally, the thing that you probably do to “reuse” already: using pre-loved kid’s clothes, toys and baby gear is always more sustainable than purchasing something new. If we can reuse something over and over, then pass it down to another family, we’re doing our part to make sure it gets all the use it can before it’s worn out. Great places to find use kid’s clothes if you don’t have easy access to hand-me-downs are Rhea Lana’s consignment event twice a year, your local Buy Nothing group on Facebook, or buying online from an app like Poshmark. To help in this, consider buying higher quality items that can withstand this reuse, rather than cheapy items that will break or wear out quickly. 

Next up in my series of blogs on the 3 R’s: finally, recycling! I’ll cover a few tips on what is recyclable in your curbside bin through Waste Management and also some places you can take other items, like styrofoam take-out containers, plastic grocery bags and clothes / textiles in poor condition.