Monday, April 22, 2024

Celebrate Earth Every Day

Theme of 2024 Earth Day — Planet vs. Plastics
April 22, is Earth Day, a date celebrated worldwide today. This year's theme is Planet vs. Plastics, 
which advocates reducing plastic dependence. Earth Day includes a wide range of events coordinated globally and celebrated by up to 1 billion people in more than 193 countries. 

It seems that every day should be celebrated this way.

Gaylord Nelson
How it all began. The start of environmental activism, Earth Day, dates back 55 years. It was started by the late Wisconsin U.S. senator and governor Gaylord Nelson, a conservationist and who was recognized as one of the world’s foremost environmental leaders. Nelson organized the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970 enlisting the help of Denis Hayes, a Harvard graduate student and activist, to organize campus teach-ins and expand the conservation movemen. The event was aimed at educating people about environmental issues and ways to conserve. The date of April 22, sandwiched it between spring break and final exams to maximize student participation. Nelson died in July 2005.

Earth Day strengthened the call for environmental activism, which led to the introduction of two laws. The Clean Air Act (1970) is a comprehensive Federal law that regulates all sources of air emissions. The Endangered Species Act (1973) provides a framework to conserve and protect endangered and threatened species and their habitats both domestically and abroad. 

This past weekend, I read several online articles about how to reduce the use of consumables especially plastics and paper as well as posts from fellow bloggers on what they're doing.

Reducing plastics in our home has been underway. In recent weeks, I've been working to reduce the use of plastics and paper as well. These have been small ways, but starting somewhere is better than not. 

Our pantry housed some reusable Rubbermaid® plastic food containers, which were purchased a number of years ago and have held up well  considering their age, but due to aging, the plastic lids were subject to cracking when pressed down. They were taking up space and hardly in use and I switched to glass storage containers, washable, reusable and non-plastic, except for the lids. The former plastic containers left the pantry and went to the recycle bin.

If anyone reading this post has good (or bad) experiences using any of these (maybe all?): wool dryer balls, detergent dryer sheets and microfiber cloths, I am interested in your comments.

Starting with wool dryer balls to replace the use of fabric softener and dryer sheets. I've been using hard plastic ball for the past few years along with limited use of liquid fabric softener and dryer sheets. Reading many recent articles, it seems that wool dryer balls, tightly woven balls of felted wool, have become very popular and when used in the clothes drying cycle can replace both commercial fabric softeners and dryer sheets.

Benefits of dryer balls  . . .
Those I've read about include: faster drying time, eliminates static, fragrance free, eco-friendly and sustainable, non-toxic, biodegradable, natural fabric softener, quieter than other types of dryer balls and, unlike dryer sheets, they are reusable so reduce the environmental impact. Best yet, once a natural wool dryer ball reaches the end of its lifespan, it takes much less time to decompose than a polyester dryer sheet. They are expected to last 1,000 or more loads and replacement is recommended when the outer layer starts to come apart

Staying on the subject of laundry, a necessary chore for all, there's laundry detergent sheets and while I bought a small packet of to use on our travels, I haven't made a switch to home use. My usual practice has been to buy a large detergent container and refill a smaller bottle, which is easier to take to the laundry room. There's no washer/dryer setups in each apartment, instead there's a central laundry rooms on each floor, thankfully, the laundry room is very close to our apartment. 

Do laundry sheets work as well as liquid detergent? There's a lot of pros to support their use. Some online stories claim they are just as effective in fighting stains, removing dirt and grime and preventing clothes from fading as their liquid or powder counterparts.They are take up less storage space, making them ideal for individuals with limited storage areas for apartment dwellers like us.

Another plus is that they come in pre-measured, easily dissolvable sheets, eliminating the need for measuring and the risk of spillage. Detergent sheets seem to be environmentally friendly with reduced packaging, leading to less plastic waste compared to liquid detergent bottles. Their concentrated form requires less water for production and transportation, reducing their overall carbon footprint. What's true is that detergent sheets are space-efficient occupying less storage space compared to large detergent bottles, making them ideal for those with limited storage.

Some cons to laundry detergent sheets. The sheets may also fail to tackle tough stains and odors as they lack space for active ingredients like enzymes and cleaning agents, commonly found in liquid detergents. Some may not dissolve in all water temperatures causing uneven distribution of detergent. Many of the detergent sheets are subscription-based, which can make it difficult for some to purchase them. While Amazon and other online shopping sites makes it easier to buy these products, many may not be available in stores. Finally, the sheets can be more expensive than liquid detergents, which often go on sale at local grocery stores or have available coupons.

Microfiber Towels. I've been using some of these limited household chores, mainly dusting furniture. But admit to buying paper towels for kitchen use. The flat-top stove is usually cleaned with soap and water and then paper towers sprayed with vodka (the least expensive brand). It really does cut grease, among other household used. It can also be used for drink mixing.

Pros to microfiber towels is that they can be washed a thousand times before losing its effectiveness, it lasts longer than cotton and is said to be more absorbent, uses less water and chemicals than cotton mops and cloths. Also, the tiny fibers pick up more dirt and food residue than most cloths.

Cons to microfiber use. The biggest concern regarding microfiber is microplastic pollution. This occurs because all microfiber products can shed the microscopic microfibers in the wash and can make their way to the ocean.

Plastic Bags.
The state we're living in, NH, does allow the use of plastic bags at grocery stores. 
In total, there are more than 500 citywide ordinances banning plastic bags in the U.S., as well as 12 statewide bans on single-use plastic bag bans — California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. We have tote bags which were being faithfully used until you-know-what when stores here would not allow them. We still use cloth tote bags for short trips, especially when buying anything at a BJ's wholesale store, which doesn't provide any bags, but always has discarded boxes for customers to use.

When we do get plastic bagged groceries, we use them for trash disposal instead of buying the very large plastic trash bags. If we return to using tote bags we would need to buy trash bags.

Biodegradable more eco-friendly than compostable? 
When a packaging company says that a product is biodegradable, what's meant is that it will break down when placed in a land fill.  Compostable means something different. Often, what a packaging company means when their product is “compostable” is that it can be turned into compost. Since it’s broken down into its natural elements, it causes no harm to the environment. The breakdown process usually takes about 90 days. Composting is a faster process, but only under the right conditions. Both of these types of products are better for the environment than plastic counterparts that can take hundreds of years to disintegrate.

Your Turn — Do You have pros or cons to any of these products ?
If so, please share in the comments. Your opinions are valued vs. online reviews


David said...

Hi Beatrice, Never heard of the dryer balls...but I'll run this item past my better half. We still have some plastic storage containers in use but we do prefer the glass ones with the plastic tops. We rarely buy bottled water anymore, keeping just a couple bottles on hand for guests who ask for it. We both use metal containers with screw on lids. I have a metal coffee cup with a plastic snap on top that I use daily...and it's at least 25 years old. Like you we do use the microfiber towels for some tasks, especially when wiping down our cars. Paper towels are still a fairly high use item. For groceries we use the cloth bags with covered cardboard bottoms and have been using them for years now. Any plastic bags we end up bread bags, bags for produce from the store, etc. we either recycle them at the store or re-use them to throw away garbage. Any printed paper I find that is blank on one side that comes with bills, medical statements, etc. I use for notepaper saving money and using fewer trees. As for recycling, our garbage service quit it as there was no market for plastics, paper or glass and it was a money loser. As for recycling plastics, unfortunately such activity is mostly a myth as very few 'recycled' plastics are actually recycled. We do recycle cardboard at a local country run center and they do bale it so it is probably being recycled. I'm not sure what will kill 'us' first, trash or trash talk/rumors on the Internet. Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Emma Springfield said...

I have not used the dryer balls so I have no comment. I love laundry sheets. My clothes do not often get very dirty and the sheets are easy to use. The microfiber towels are wonderful. When they need cleaning I simply put them in the dishwasher with the dishes.

Tom said...

...plastics, I remember to move "The Graduate." The future is plastic!

Christina said...

I missed Earth Day!

I have not heard of drier balls, but have used tennis balls when drying down filled garments or sleeping back as it helps fluff things up. Very noisy though!

I have a trial pack of laundry detergent sheets. Unfortunately, the smell is overpowering and I might not use them all. But will look for an unscented brand. It is weird that some of these more eco friendly options are subscription based. We have a recycled toilet roll subscription!

I have started using a refillable deodorant. I was a bit skeptical at first but really like it now. The plastic to deodorant ratio is ridiculous and hopefully this will make a tiny difference.

Every little helps!

David M. Gascoigne, said...

I can only say congratulations, Beatrice, for this level of commitment and responsibility. I am seriously impressed, and as a committed environmentalist you have my admiration, appreciation and respect. Well done. And thank you.

Bijoux said...

I use wool dryer balls, but they do nothing for static cling. Maybe because I’m in a cold climate? I have permanently switched to laundry sheets, only because they are easier to buy on Amazon and are lightweight and don’t take up much space. They clean fine. They do leave residue on dark clothing, but so does liquid detergent for me. That’s more of a washing machine issue, since all the newer models use less water. My clothes always come out with dry spots on them, so clearly not getting fully immersed, even though there’s a sensor. We’ve moved backwards!🙄

Marie Smith said...

We use dryer balls and find they work quite well. I have found the detergent sheets need warm water to dissolve the detergent. I have always used cold water previously.

Barbara Rogers said...

Sounds like a good plan...and I hope you move to changing just a few things that might be more "sustainable." We people are consuming through food and water, microplastics! It's not just going to the ocean. So I recommend retiring those microfiber things. In my life there's almost no use of paper towels. I have switched to scent free laundry strips, and my second purchase was from a US company though the first came from Canada (and though they're cheaper if I subscribed, I just don't use them enough that that's reasonable.) I have yet to try a wool dryer ball, and it sounds interesting since I quit using dryer sheets ages ago, and my towels are a bit scratchy now. I need to toss those plastic leftover tubs soon as I can get some glass ones.

Michelle said...

I do use dryer balls and use an eco-egg for washing clothes. An egg shaped device with mineral pellets inside that you drop into the washing machine. A British product that is pretty good for light washing. I find it easier to be Earth friendly now that I am home each day. I also enjoy making my own cleaning supplies and hanging clothes on the line.

My name is Erika. said...

Cutting back on plastics is always a good thing. I use microfiber clothes a lot. I know they release a bit of microplastics when you wash them. but at least they are reusable. Last time I bought a big case of paper towels at Costco was back in 2020 and I still have some left. Happy earth day.

Ginny Hartzler said...

I know plastic bags are bad, but trees are cut down to make paper ones. And reusable ones get contaminated all the time and need washed frequently. I have never used dryer sheets, as so many towels and sheets tell you not to. This is all really interesting. Also, there is now plastic in our blood!

DeniseinVA said...

Very important message here. Thank you for all this great information. We have made a consistent effort to reduce plastics and use many of the products you mentioned. Going to bookmark your post.

baili said...

i hope i don't sound much ignorant to say that whatever you mentioned here i am only familiar with plastic bag .even when i tried ot remember from my little hood nothing such thing came in my mind which i would have seen or experienced .

plastic bags are one of the biggest issues on planet and we have been watching DW and Bbc videos over the topic but it does not seem that authorities have found some solid solution until now . only some loose attempts that are followed have been followed periodically once in a while and that is it. wherever eyes go plastic bags are withered and blocking the even open sewerage system badly .
glad you raised the topic and special thanks for introducing Nelson who started the earth day ,what a good job he has done .
best wishes to you both for all the days ahead !

Debby said...

I've used the dryer balls, but didn't really see any benefit to them, myself. I have a friend who gets old sweaters from thrift stores, size, color not important, and felts her own dryer balls as gifts.

Rita said...

I've been using the wool dryer balls for years. You can still get static, but I just deal with it. Never even heard of sheets for the washer. I don't think I'd try them because I use cold water for washing. Been using cloth bags for years. I try to do the best I can. Our buildings do not have recycling trash pickup. After I move, the homes all around by Dagan and Leah in West Fargo have recycling! :)

gigi-hawaii said...

Hawaii passed a law banning plastic bags and utensils and styrofoam containers. Everything is biodegradable now.

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

I have been using laundry sheets and felt dryer balls for a couple of years and they seem to work beautifully. I do occasionally use a stain spray (I'm a messy eater, so usually it's tomato sauce )). I am doing like you and trading my plastic frig boxes for the glass ones and now don't know why I didn't do that years ago. They clean up a lot better! I know I use too many paper towels and am trying to wean myself away from those, but it is hard. I'll be interested to read what you think about the microfiber cleaning cloths.