Reusable Products That Can Save Your Health, The Environment and Your Wallet
With the amount of waste and plastic growing more and more, reusable products have been becoming increasingly popular. In fact, plastic waste is a huge contributor to land and water pollution. The other problem with some plastic, like PVC and vinyl, is that they contain dangerous chemicals and toxins that can be detrimental to our health. PVC contains phthalates and heavy metals and also create dioxins when they are burned. Many companies have started making reusable alternatives to products that would usually be thrown away. Not only is it good on your wallet in the long run, but by using these products, you can help save your health and the environment.
Everybody knows the term “reduce, reuse, recycle.” While reusing plastic products is a good way to keep from those products ending up in a landfill somewhere, it is better to reduce the amount of plastics all together. Buying reusable products, while they may be a bit more expensive in the short term, it will save you money in the long run. Reusable products like water bottles or K-cups, allow you to refill them as many times as you need. All you need to do is wash them out and you are good to go. Some of the benefits of reducing and reusing are that it, obviously, prevents pollution by reducing the need to harvest new raw materials, saves a lot of energy, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, helps to sustain the environment, saves money in the long run, and allows you to use products to their fullest potential.
The last point is very interesting because when you buy a regular water bottle, for instance, you are limited to whatever is sold in that bottle. If you get a reusable bottle, you can put whatever you like into it, whenever you like. Protein shakes, flavored water, energy water, anything you want, within the parameters of the bottle, of course.
Reusable Shopping Bags
Reusable bags are making great headway in today’s society. Many companies sell bags that you can use for any need. Reusable grocery bags, reusable produce bags, bags for shopping and more. These reusable bags are an amazing alternative to plastic. As said before, plastic is one of the leading causes of land and water pollution. Plastic bags are a serious blight on the ecosystems.
These bags do not biodegrade, which means it can take years for them to break down naturally. While they are breaking down and decomposing, they are releasing chemicals and toxins into the earth. That is if they end up in a landfill and not mistakenly end up in the water, like many do. It is estimated that one million birds, 100,000 turtles and other marine and water creatures die each year from ingesting plastic. Some animals can tangle themselves in the plastic bags, hindering them from maneuvering properly.
Types of Bags
Reusable bags come in many different shapes, sizes, and can you can use them for whatever your heart desires. It seems that many tend to go for the bags that resemble the old brown paper bags, with the flat bottom. These allow some added stability when packing food or other materials in them. Some even have a long enough handle that allows you to carry the bag on your shoulder, freeing up your hands to do other things.
The most important thing about these bags, and most reusable products, is that they are eco-friendly. Etsy, an online store where you can find many handmade products, is a place where you can find hand knit shopping bags. However, there are other materials that the bags can be made from as well. The best bet are cotton bags or canvas (best choice). These materials can be washed and are also biodegradable if you end up throwing them away if they get damaged. There are other reusable bags that are made from polyester and other synthetic materials. While they are more durable, they are made from natural gas or oil and are not biodegradable. However, seeing as they are a reusable product, you will not be throwing away any time soon, it may be a good investment. You can even mix and match different types of bags for different situations.
Reusable K-Cups and Coffee Filters
Another hot item in the reusable world is K-cups and filters for coffee makers. K-cups are small plastic pods that fit inside of a Keurig coffee maker. Normally, these pods are pre-filled with coffee sometimes flavored. how these coffee cups work is very simple. All you have to do is put them into the slot on your Keurig, close the lid, and push a button. Then presto! You have coffee in seconds.
However these K-cups have shown to be very bad for the environment. In fact, in 2013, Green Mountain made 8.3 billion coffee cups which is enough to wrap the equator 10 times. These K-Cups are usually thrown away and not recycled. Also only 5% of your current coffee cups are made out of recycled plastic. It probably does not help that the coffee that is in the pre-filled K-Cups, though delicious, is usually not the best coffee for you. The brand named K-Cups are also much more expensive than normal coffee grounds. For those who drink coffee every day, buying the pre-filled K-cups could cost you $200 a year.
Why Use These?
Most new coffee makers include a reusable plastic coffee filter. With older coffee makers, you have to buy your own coffee filters which are then thrown away at the end of each use. While trying to reduce waste, these reusable coffee filters are wonderful. reusable K-Cups work essentially the same way. all you have to do is add your own coffee into the cup and use it like a regular K-Cup. Another advantage to the reusable K-Cups, is that it only makes enough coffee for one person. Regular coffee makers normally make a pot of coffee big enough for multiple people. However if you were living alone or you’re in a college dorm you only need coffee for yourself or maybe one other person. in these instances K-Cups are very advantageous.
While the brand Keurig does sell their own form of reusable K-cups, you can buy copies from other vendors, at a much cheaper price. The Keurig K-cup adapter costs initially $80, but you can fill it with whatever coffee you want. Also available are stainless steel reusable K-Cups. So if you are trying to stay plastic free as much as you can, these might be a good option.
Reusable Hand Warmers
The next reusable product available right now are reusable hand warmers. While almost all disposable hand warmers are environmentally friendly, having to keep buying new ones can get costly. Especially if you are the kind of person who either has bad circulation and needs them or you live in an area that is always cold. The way most hand warmers work is by generating heat by a chemical reaction, exothermic oxidation. This is when the primary ingredient, usually being powdered iron, is exposed to oxygen. Other ingredients can include: salt, water, activated carbon, cellulose, and an absorbent material like vermiculite. None of which are bad for the environment or your health, as long as you do not eat them.
The biggest issue with hand warmers is the cost, which also depends on how much you use them. If you are just buying them for a winter sports game, the disposable ones will be fine. However, if you use them every day or so, it can get costly. A box of 40 hand warmers can cost around $20. Averaging a box every month, if you use one or two a day, it can be around $240 a year.
Rechargable Hand Warmers
There are plenty of reusable hand warmers out there that you can either recharge, throw in boiling water or reheat, or even microwave (but microwaves have their own bad effects on the environment). HotSnapZ are a brand of reusable hand warmers that only require you to put them in boiling water to liquify the crystals inside the pouch, then let them cool. When you are ready to use them, simply just push on the center, back and forth, until the crystals begin to reform, meaning it starts to get hot. These are only $35 for a pack of eight. The most popular are the rechargeable hand warmers, in which there are many different brands. Zippo even has their own rechargeable hand warmer. Their brand uses their lighter fluid to give you roughly 12 hours of heat. Others just require you to plug them into a wall or USB to recharge.
DIY Hand Warmers
The last way and by far the cleanest way is to make your own. This version from Wellness Mama, only requires baby or kids socks, any rice (the website suggests organic white rice or jasmine rice), and the option or lavender flowers for an added scent. The instructions are as follows. First, fill each sock ⅓ to ½ full with rice, depending on how full you want your hand warmer. Then add one teaspoon of the lavender flowers, if you choose to use them. Next you tightly tie the end of the sock to seal it. Cut off any excess sock. Then to heat, simply pop in the microwave for 30-60 seconds, or in the oven if you choose, for 10-15 minutes.
The only thing the website does not say is how long they will stay warm for. But if you are into the DIY world and want to try it out, have at it.
Reusable Water Bottles
Probably the most popular and best selling reusable products are reusable water bottles. Since, unfortunately, recycling is still not in the norm yet, only about 23% of plastic bottles actually get recycled. On average, Americans use 50 billion water bottles each year, meaning 38 billion of those end up in the trash, leading to an increase in land and water pollution as well as landfill waste. Using regular water bottles is not only bad for the environment, but also for you health, as you may know. Plastic water bottles can contain the chemical BPA, which has a connection with hormonal issues and can even lead to cancer.
In addition to environmental and health issues, there is also the money issue. Continuously buying cases of bottled water can get tedious and expensive. By using a reusable bottle, you can refill it as many times as you like, with whatever you like. Of course, you can reuse the plastic water bottles, but those bottles probably still contain BPA along with other chemicals.
The Bottle Most Already Own
Many people already know about and most likely own a reusable water bottle. They come in many forms, materials, some with an added bonus like the ability to keep your water cold or a filter for your water. They can be used at work, on hikes, working out, basically for whatever you want. As for the materials, they can be made out of BPA free plastic, metal or even glass. Undeniably, the most popular reusable water bottle in the U.S., their website literally says “the original water bottle, Nalgene. Nalgene makes many different kinds of bottles for whatever you need it for. All out of BPA free plastic. Very popular among Boy Scouts, the Nalgene trademark became recognized by outdoorsmen, hikers and others by the late 1990s. Making it, in fact, one of the original reusable water bottles.
There are an increasing number of reusable products in today’s world, which is great. The more we reuse, the more we reduce. Now if only we could get everyone to start recycling more, we’d have a real advantage. Now, there are some reusable products that are worth mentioning for their usefulness and uniqueness.
Reusable Ice Cubes
Many probably do not think too much about the ice in their drinks. However, it can actually be pretty nasty. Actually, ice can get rather annoying when buying drinks in stores because most of the time the large ice coffee gives you as much coffee as is in a small regular coffee and the rest is just ice. A bit of a rip off. However, besides the overpriced coffee chains, ice in general can be filled with more than just water.
It can contain bacteria, both from the ice tray and whatever was on your hands when you handle the ice. An alternative to regular ice you can buy are ice cube shaped, containers. All you have to do is fill with water and put in the freezer. There you go, reusable ice cubes, as easy as, well, making regular ice really. Just cleaner. Oh, and make sure the ones you buy are, of course, BPA free.
Reusable Pads and Diapers
The constant buying of tampons, pads and diapers can get pretty expensive as neither of those products are by any means cheap. Even though it may sounds a little hippie, cloth pads and diapers have been around for years. Many people have probably heard of cloth diapers because they were the original diaper, well the same goes for pads. The way you use them is basically the same as well. Once they get dirty, simply wash them and reuse them. Pretty easy. In addition, while the initial cost might be a bit more expensive, in the long run, you will end up saving quite a bit of money.