Five easy sustainable changes

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I am a big believer in the fact that EVERYTHING happens for a reason—I think it is part of God’s master plan—maybe you don’t, and that’s okay.

But there is NO denying that this time of uncertainty is causing us all to rethink some things. And will/is/has required us to get out of our comfort zone. I know that it certainly has for me.

I  am the mother of the tiger and the dragon and I work as an aid in our local elementary school. So some might say that eLearning (teaching my kids at home) should be within my comfort zone.
They would be wrong.

I believe that the zombie apocalypse COVID-19 outbreak is forcing us all out of our comfort zone. If nothing else we are learning to slow down (no running to 6 different places every evening); be thankful for what you have (maybe a pantry with things we might not be excited to eat); be good stewards of the resources we do have (sharing when we can and not being wasteful); be more resourceful (see my questionable alternative/change below).

So that is really what this post (and some foreseeable future posts) will most likely focus on. Moving to sustainability, so that cleared grocery store shelves, restaurant closings, social distancing is not as panic-inducing.

I’m going to start with everyday items, that we need but maybe are having a harder time finding or might run out of before we are ready to break our self-inflicted or mandated quarantine. And there is little question about it, this could last for months.

I would also like to say, some of these are things I have been doing for years. They are easily sustainable and cost-effective. They are things worth looking into now, and could become very helpful to have in your arsenal during the coming months.

I am also, NOT suggesting that we all become homesteaders, but there are some things on this list that are reminiscent of old times/homesteading.

So let’s just jump into this…

We’ll begin with paper products.


For years people used cloth napkins, in fact, paper napkins did not gain popularity until the 1950s. Although they are incredibly convenient, you have to purchase them on a regular basis. Let’s not make it that you are leaving the house for something as trivial as napkins.
This was first eco/sustainable change I made after having kids and cloth diapering. I replaced paper napkins with fabric (cloth) ones. This seems like such a small thing, but it creates less waste and is a small change you won’t even notice the difference.

The kitchen table with (part) of our stash of cloth napkins.

You can make your own cloth napkins. Go out, but some thin flannel, cut it into 4 x 6 in squares, and a serge two pieces together with your serger machine. We all have one of those, right?

My preferred method was to purchase from Etsy— and even more so right now. Small businesses are always hit hard during times of uncertainty. Head over to Etsy and find some napkins that tickle your fancy—there so many choices in beautiful colors and fabrics. I have had mine for over 5 years and they are still in great condition.

It is worth saying…you should make as many of these changes while you still have a back-up.
Why? You might not like the first replacement product you choose, or you’ll underestimate how long your new product will last…any number of reasons. When we started cloth napkins I had a pack of paper still around and we did have to break into them in the beginning, because I forgot to do ‘napkin’ laundry and we had to use something. But once I got into the routine, that package of paper napkins lasted us about 2 years and ended up being used when we had a neighborhood bbq.


We are not completely off of paper towels but on a day-in-day-out basis, I do find myself reaching for this alternative. For others in my household, this has proven harder.

I am sure I could find flannel ones on Etsy (similar to napkins only larger) but I have gone a different route.

Last Spring, when I was doing my Spring Cleaning I went through and evaluated most of my kitchen hand towels: how they look, if I still liked them, etc. Instead of taking those towels out of rotation and turning them into cleaning rags, I have repurposed them as ‘paper towels’.

Paper towel replacements aka old kitchen towels.

They live in a little basket on my kitchen counter where they are easily accessible to me while I’m cooking/spilling things. And because I already have a ‘laundry’ basket in my kitchen for the napkins, these towels (along with kitchen towels) just get thrown in for easy one-load laundering.

Basket in the kitchen for ‘kitchen laundry’ or dirty napkins, ‘paper towels’, and regular kitchen hand towels.


This is one area I have NOT taken up the cause. But many people have.

And if in a couple of weeks, I can’t find TP on my grocery store shelves…we might be forced to give it a try.

Now again, the preferred method of alternative TP is to cut-up flannel (the ultimate breathing/easy to clean fabric) or cotton tees.

If you find yourself in a bind during social distancing you could always sacrifice an old flannel sheet or a couple of flannel shirts/old tees (ones that your husband loves, but you hate) and use them. 🙂

Cut your flannel into manageable squares and place them into a basket next to the toilet. Have an old plastic trashcan (or coffee container) on the floor -CLEARLY MARKED- for dirty flannel. Launder every evening to avoid smells.

TIP: Make sure everyone in the house is aware of the new reality.
You don’t want flannel in your commode!

To be honest, I am a little surprised I haven’t tried this. After cloth diapered both girls, pee and poo is not something that has never entered our washing machine. There are lots of info out there about how to launder cloth diapers and that is exactly what I’d follow if I were to take on replacing TP.

P.S. I found this video shortly before posting this blog. Flannel TP.

I purchase most of our diapers from Green Mountain (their site has gotten MARKABLY better in 10 years) and this is how I learned to wash diapers.

And that is a great segway to…


There is a MULTITUDE of alternatives to commercially manufactured detergents and I may have tried many of them!

Make your own detergent.

I’ve been making my own laundry detergent for at least 4 years.
Why? It’s cheaper and better for my families well being. And the supplies do not take up too much space, therefore I never completely run out of detergent because the supplies are always on-hand.
P.S. I bet most of these items were left on the shelves in the laundry aisle at your local Wal-Mart.

Ingredients for homemade laundry detergent.

My ‘recipe’ is:
1 bar of Fels Naptha or Zote Pink/ White
2.5 cups Borax
2.5 cups Washing Soda
1 c Baking Soda

Grate or shred the soap with a grater or a food processor. Mix all together in an airtight container. Use about 1-2 tbs per load. This usually lasts me about 3-4 months.

You can buy a whole kit (minus the baking soda) that will make about a year’s worth of detergent on Amazon. But you can buy all these things cheaper at your local store.


Soap Nuts
Soap Nuts, natural detergent.

Soap Nuts are something that seems beyond weird and a little like they are just a scam…they are not.
These are super easy, don’t take up much space, and clean your clothing really well. I used these (some) while I cloth diapered and still used them today for regular laundry.

*Place 2-4 ‘nuts’ in a little cotton fabric pouch (which you usually get with your order of nuts), and put into your wash basin with you dirty clothes, set your machine to your desired wash setting and go! You can reuse those same nuts 2-3 times, then just compost them. Repeat from *

Make sure you get the pouch out of your laundry before you stick it into the dryer.

Sal Suds

Some people want to SEE bubbles when they launder clothes—it is familiar and comforting. I get it. Kinda. But I have too many other things to do, so watching my washing machine to make sure that the clothes look sudsy is beyond my interest level.

Dr. Bonner’s Sal Suds.

However, if you want bubbles, Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds is for you—Suds is right there in the name. 🙂 This one can be hard to find, but I can most-readily find it thru Grove Collaborative.

And with it costing roughly the same amount as a jug of Tide it lasts much longer and takes up considerably less space in your laundry room.

Let me save you from having to read thru ALL the info in the bottle of Sal Suds:
1 tbs/ load in High Efficiency (HE) Washings
2 tbs/load in all others


Fabric softeners aren’t really necessary, but people like them. But remember, you are not supposed to use convention softeners on towels because it can cause them to be less absorbent the same with sportswear and avoid it with flameproof children’s clothes/pajamas.


One of the easiest (and cheapest) alternatives to find might be adding plain old white vinegar to your wash load. Just add it to that little reservoir for liquid softener in your washing machine.

The vinegar doesn’t leave a smell. I don’t really think this does anything to make your clothes feel softer (other beg to differ). However, sometimes I use it on my towels to help if they are getting that mildewy smell.

Plastic dryer balls

These plastic balls bounce around a help things dry faster and reduce static cling.
These are the two different kinds I’ve had for…I don’t even know how long.
Blue Balls and Porcines

Two different types of plastic dryer balls.

Just throw two into your dryer along with your wet clothing.

#3 Wool Balls

Let’s face it…most people use fabric softener for one reason: SMELL. If that’s you, this one is worth investing in.

Wool dryer balls and essential oil.

Most wool balls come in a pack of 4-6, I only use two/per load. And at $6-24 for the balls they are a little more of an investment—especially when you start adding essential oils. BUT the balls last. So your continued investment is just the essential oils, which is a cost comparable to that of 3 months worth of fabric sheets. But the oils take up less space and don’t contain harmful chemicals.

Just put 6-12 drops of essential oils on each ball and place them into your dryer with your wet laundry…some people place the balls in first to give them a ‘head start’.
I don’t.

You can switch up your smells based on what you are drying.
I like lavender for sheets/bedding. But sometimes for clothing, I think Wild Orange is a great smell to invigorate you. That is the joy of this method, you can change it up as much as you like.

It also goes without saying, you can use these without the oils. Just throw them in the way you would use the plastic balls.


There is NO alternative to washing your hands! There are just different kinds of soaps.

CDC still says that hand washing is the best way to fight against the spread of infection.

The question is…what do you do when liquid soaps have been cleared off shelves along with everything from toilet paper to wipes, to hand sanitizer.

Well, Castile soap could be missed by the masses, if you didn’t know where to look for it. Somethings it’s over with the beauty supplies or near the body washes and shampoo (both of which this can be used for).

So, if you can find it you are in luck! Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castille Soap has a whole host of uses—like the Sal Suds (also by Dr. Bronner) if you can read the bottle you can find them all out. Or you can just Google uses for Dr. Bronners Castile Soap and you can find a million videos and blog posts, with how to use it for everything from washing dishes, as a DIY household cleaner, and even brushing your teeth (YES you can BRUSH YOUR TEETH with it).

My preferred method is using it in a foaming soap dispenser. My dispenser is from Grove Collaborative, but if you have a used foaming soap dispenser from a finished bottle of Dial/Bath & Body Works hand soap…repurpose it! It’s the pump and the ratio of water to soap that makes it foam.

The (rough) ratio is 2 parts water to 1 part soap. What does that mean? Two times the amount of water as you do soap. Easy peasy!

Dr. Bonner’s Pure Castille Soap: yellow/orange is citrus scent; pink is rose scent, and green is almond. Far left is a glass foaming dispenser from Grove Collaborative:

I realize that it looks like I am hoarding Castille soap—I’m not. This is from my last month’s Grove order. I will not need more until December.

That’s it…my five (or six) things. Sometimes it takes a zombie apocalypse to shake things up and get us into a mindset where we are open to trying some new things. But give a couple of these a try. It could keep you from taking one less trip out to a grocery store.

And once ‘normal’ life begins again I dare you to tell me that you miss whatever you were using before. But I suppose you can always switch back.

hugs and kisses from Maria

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