5 Reusable Items I Actually Use (and a Few I’d Like to Try)

Going zero-waste is ideal, but let’s not pretend I’m Lauren Singer. I’m not even close, but I do try.  When I shop, packaging waste is something I consider, riding my bike is my daily form of transportation, and I recycle like most people in California. Hey, look at me—I’m helping! As Ed Begley Junior says, “You don’t have to eat garbage or be famous to help save the world.”

Often you see those lists of “green” products you can buy (great, more spending and packaging), but how realistic are they? Do they actually work, and can you use them in your everyday life?

Here’s a list of what I use all the time and how effective they are for me.


Water Bottle. Nowadays, this item is ubiquitous and it’s the quickest and simplest way to reduce your plastic waste. They come in all types of materials, from plastic (less ideal), glass (now that’s a little better), and metal (my favorite). I’ve actually got one of each, just in case one breaks down, but I’d have to say my favorite is the one I got for my birthday. Why? It matches my dog, so it’s personal and I probably won’t lose it. I’ve left it at my gym a couple of times and because it’s so recognizable, it’s less likely to get stolen and more likely to be returned to me.

Pros: One-time purchase, can be personalized.

Cons: You have to actually remember to bring one, you can’t always fill it up when necessary, and some places (sporting events, concerts) don’t let you take it inside.


Stainless Steel Straws. These aren’t as universal as water bottles (yet), but to me disposable straws are more destructive than plastic water bottles. Why? Bottles can be recycled, and people sometimes reuse them. Straws are usually used once for a few minutes and thrown out, and they are dangerous to wildlife. When is the last time you heard of someone actually recycling a straw? Probably never. My stainless steel straws came in a six-pack so I can have a few at home, one in my purse, and one at my desk. Worried about a metallic flavor (although I’ve never experienced that)?  You can purchase reusable plastic (less ideal) or glass straws—some even have carrying cases. Every time I use one, I feel a little better about not endangering the life of a sea turtle.

Pros: Safe for wildlife, one-time purchase, glass ones can be personalized, stainless steel ones keep your drink cold until it reaches your mouth, easy to clean, great for children and people with medical issues who find it difficult to drink straight from a cup, inexpensive, dishwasher-safe, no aftertaste, can be color-coordinated.

Cons: You have to remember to bring one, and glass straws can break.


Reusable Produce Bags. You probably already bring reusable shopping bags when you visit the grocery store, but if you want to up your game, get some reusable produce bags as well. I purchased some mesh ones last year, though you can purchase or make bags of any fabric type. The reason I use mesh bags is because it’s easy to see what’s in the bag and the checker can still read the code on those pesky produce stickers. You can keep your produce in the bags in your refrigerator, or you can empty the contents and store your produce and reusable grocery bags together. If I do forget them when I shop next time, well, I just let the produce roll around in my shopping cart—I’m sure the checker appreciates that a lot.

Pros: Reduces plastic waste, you can wash them, they come in different fabrics, inexpensive.

Cons: They can stain, and they’re small and therefore easy to forget.


Cardboard-Free Toilet Paper. Tubeless TP is life! If you don’t have cardboard tubes, how will you do arts and crafts projects, you ask? You can buy cardboard tubes online! For those of us who don’t want that pesky toilet paper tube, you can purchase rolls without it. Sure, the cardboard is recyclable, but why bother when you can just eliminate it altogether – along with the energy expended and pollution generated when creating it. The toilet paper itself is just the same as any other brand, and the roll definitely holds up and can still be put on a spindle—plus, you get more toilet paper because there’s no roll.

Pros: No cardboard roll equals less to throw away or recycle, and there is more toilet paper to the roll.

Cons: Not available at most stores (yet!).


Yoga Mat Sandals. I don’t wear sandals or flip-flops much, but when I do, these are great! They’re comfortable and squishy, and they are made from recycled yoga mats. What more could you ask for? While a little pricey for a pair of flip flops, my opinion is they’re worth it. They’re also vegan, in case you’re into that.

Pros: Made from recycled materials, comfortable, high-quality, long-lasting.

Cons: While they are recyclable, they are not easily recycled. They’re also pricey and only come in whole sizes.

OK, so these are only five items in a long list of zero-waste, greener, more environmentally friendly items I could use. I’m aiming to expand this list with the following items I’d like to try in the near future:

Reusable dryer sheets/wool dryer balls for fluffy, static-free clothes (I currently use hedgehogs)

Reusable potty pads for Olive, the less-waste pup posing so well in the photo above!

Reusable cotton rounds to remove makeup

Unpaper towels for kitchen cleanups

Beeswax wrap to keep food fresh

Stay tuned for my experience (or misadventures) with these new options!

—TC Clark

— TC Clark
Posted on Aug 28, 2017

Summary: Going zero-waste is ideal, but let’s not pretend I’m Lauren Singer. I’m not even close, but I do try. When I shop, packaging waste is something I consider, riding my bike is my daily form of transportation, and I recycle like most people in California.