Green Tip – Think Reusable NOT Disposable

by Wendy Gabriel

GREEN TIP: Instead of purchasing disposable products that contribute to our cloth instead of paperwaste stream, buy reusable products.

This green tip may require an initial purchase of some quality items but in the end you’ll save money and the planet.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Cloth napkins instead of paper napkins: You probably already own some and only use them on special occasions. Or, if you don’t, visit your local thrift shop or retail store and stock up on things like cloth napkins.

Some local thrift shops:

255 University Drive, North Fargo 701-232-6641
3201 43rd Street, South Fargo 701-364-9762

Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch Thrift Stores
More information:

Hospice of Red River Valley
1617 32nd Avenue South, Fargo 701-356-2670
More information:
They specify they have crystal, china dinnerware and table linens at their store

  • Use cloth or recycled paper towels instead of chlorine-bleached paper towels:

You can find cloth towels at your local thrift store or retail store. Recycled paper products can be found locally at Tochi Products and Specialty Foods, Hornbacher’s, Cash Wise and SunMart.

  • Use a permanent coffee filter instead of buying paper filters: Some coffee makers come with a permanent filter but you can also purchase them separately.
  • Use glass or stainless steel straws instead of plastic straws: This will ensure GlassDharmayou’re not drinking plastic toxins with your lemonade and reduces the amount of plastic sitting in our landfills.

GlassDharma – The original glass straw. Handmade in the USA.

RSVP Endurance Stainless Steel Drink Straws at

  • Use an old school razor instead of a disposable: Or if you’re nervous about replacing your own razor blade use a Preserve razors.

Preserve Products are made from 100% recycled plastics and 100% post-consumer paper. By using recycled materials, they save energy, preserve natural resources and create an incentive for communities to recycle.

All of their plastic products are recyclable, either through our postage-paid labels and mailers (toothbrushes and razor handles) or at the curb in communities that recycle #5 plastic.

They make their products in the USA, so they can ship them shorter distances, using less fuel and limiting their environmental footprint.

  • Use a recycled toothbrush (Preserve) instead of a disposable toothbrush: Preserve toothbrushPreserve has a wonderful toothbrush subscription program. They will send you a new (recycled) toothbrush every three months. For more information visit:
  • Use rechargeable batteries (and recharge them) instead of disposable batteries: And when disposing of the rechargeable batteries that just aren’t rejuicing like they used to remember to safely dispose of them. Consult for drop off locations.

Locally batteries can be dropped off at:

City of Fargo Household Hazardous Waste
Services are restricted to residents of Fargo only.
This site is open from April to October on Mondays 9am to 5pm, Wednesdays 9am to 6pm, and Fridays 9am to 5pm and is open on the second Saturday of each month 8am to noon.
606 43 1/2 Street North, Fargo
More information:

They will recycle: NiCad Batteries and Rechargeable Batteries

Batteries Plus
They will recycle: Car Batteries, NiCad Batteries and Rechargeable Batteries

Interstate All Battery Center
They will recycle: Car Batteries, NiCad Batteries, Rechargeable Batteries and Single-use Batteries

  • Use reusable sandwich wraps instead of plastic sandwich bags: A good one to try is Wrap-N-Mat, a reusable sandwich wrap and placemat in one. This is an earth friendly alternative to plastic bags. Perfect for sandwiches, cookies or any other snacks. The prints are made of a cotton/polyester blend and the lining is made with PEVA, an alternative to PVC.
    More information:

Do you have any other reusable instead of disposable tips?

My Green Side’s weekly web pick: is your one-stop shop for all you need to know about reducing your impact, reusing what you’ve got and recycling your trash. Get involved in our world by checking in for daily news, reading weekly feature stories, surfing product channels and opting into our weekly emails.

Editor’s Note: Each Wednesday My Green Side brings Simple Tips for Green Living to The Christopher Gabriel Program. We also highlight a favorite green site each week. You can stream the segment at approximately 1020am (CDT) every Wednesday at


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  1. Robin’s avatar

    Here’s my tip on cloth napkins. Keep one good set of white cloth napkins for special dinners when you have guests.

    Then have a whole stack of other napkins for every day use that you wash but don’t necessarily care about getting stains out of. My everyday cloth napkins used to be white but now they are kind of gray with all sorts of tomato stains on them, but who cares. As long as they are clean, it doesn’t matter how stained they are, does it?

  2. karen’s avatar

    I just found your blog thru Twitter (it was a RT from another tweep). Great site.

    I posted on my blog last year about single cup Keurig coffee machine’s coffee cartridges. HOW WASTEFUL ARE THEY???? But no worry. The company sells refillable cartridge that you can fill up with your own coffee.

    Here is my post.

    My other pet peeve (and there are many) is Swiffer. I mean, come on people, have you heard of a MOP??? Why do we need to use those disposable one time swiffers when you have old fashion cotton mops? I cut up old stained torn cotton t-shirts and use them to get the dust off the floors. Stupid simple but affective time and time again.

    I’ll get off my soap box now.


  3. Alison Kerr’s avatar

    I never heard of glass or stainless steel straws. Straws are rarely used in my house, but these sound neat, tempting even.

    I’ve been using the same set of reusable plastic picnic gear for about 19 years. It still looks fine and works great.

  4. Gina’s avatar

    Wendy – these are really great tips. I just shared some similar ideas on reusing/recycling on my Change Becomes Change blog last week too. With less disposable income these days, people are looking for non-disposable items that can be reused.

    In our home, we don’t use paper napkins, paper plats, plastic cups or plastic utensils. Even though we send hot lunches to school 3 to 4 days each week, the children have a cloth napkin (that’s big enough for them to use almost the entire week – especially since I’ve learned that they rarely wipe their face!) and our everyday utensils. If my 3 year old can manage to bring it all home – any child can!

    Thanks Wendy!

  5. Marghanita’s avatar

    These are great tips Wendy. Love Robins tip on the cloth napkins too.
    I bought a packet of organic handkerchiefs that I’ve been using for years. It’s these small changes that collectively make a difference. Thanks for sharing Wendy.

  6. karen’s avatar

    I hate it when I misspell things… should be “effective” and not “affective”/

  7. Adam’s avatar

    Great article Wendy. We’ve been using cloth napkins for almost five years now and the really cool thing about them is that they replace paper towel for mopping up spills.

    Here’s something about plasticware (disposable plastic silverware) that a lot of people don’t realize. They are dishwasher safe and reusable. The last get together that we had at the house was a “bring a dish to pass” kind of thing and of course everyone brought plasticware to dish their dishes. All this stuff ended up in the dishwasher and then in the silverware drawer, where it still gets used over and over. I cant bear to throw it away.

    Furniture – a lot of people even consider furniture as disposable, especially the cheap stuff from places like Ikea (icky’ya) that’s helping decimate forests in the Amazon and Pau Pau New Guinea. I did an article ( A loong time ago) called Adventures in Refinishing Furniture. that shows ways that my wife and I have given second life to antiques, curbside finds and Salvation Army Pieces.

    Coffee – Shade grown, fair trade organic beans from Trader Joes and a french press. No better cup o’ joe around and no filters used.

    Thanks again for the great article Wendy.


  8. graceonline’s avatar

    Haven’t tried this yet, but I’m thinking of carrying a clean bento box to restaurants for leftovers so I don’t have to use their take-out containers. Haven’t quite got over the mostly emotional stumbling blocks yet. Plus, I’m so tired of carrying one more thing and yet one more thing in my bag. Still, with careful planning, this might work. Can you see I’m using your comment section as a way to talk myself into this? What do you think of the idea?

  9. dee dee’s avatar

    Great article. I’ve written about the same topic on my blog. Cloth napkins have been a given in our house since we were married nearly 37 years ago. We rarely use any disposable products. I’m a real estate agent, and when I host broker open house lunches, I take reusable picnic plates, real glassware and stainless utensils that I have collected especially for this purpose. I leave nothing in the trash when the event is over…it’s a little more work, but no waste which is important.
    I’m also big on reusing clothing – actually repurposing – taking out of date things and remaking them into something more stylish. I’ll look forward to reading more of your articles in the future

  10. Lisa @Retro Housewife Goes Green’s avatar

    Reusable water bottles, travel mugs, and glass food storage are good things to have around as well. has a lot of great reusable items.

  11. My Green Side’s avatar

    I think the idea is fabulous. Feel free to use my comment section to talk to yourself anytime! 🙂

  12. Brenda’s avatar

    I am new to trying to live a green lifestyle, and it is surprising how much of it is just common sense. Cloth napkins would be at the top of the list. I am finding out about all kinds of wonderful food reusable items in my research.


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