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How to Make Those Reusable Items Even More Eco-Friendly

Someone washing a reusable glass straw with a brush in a sink.
Kaponia Aliaksei/Shutterstock.com

We’ve all heard that single-use items are a no-no, and you definitely shouldn’t be using those plastic straws anymore. Turns out, though, being sustainable is less about reusable items and more about how you wash them.

Researchers at the University of Michigan looked at the “payback periods” of four kitchen items: straws, sandwich bags and wraps, coffee cups, and forks. The “payback periods” were the number of times an item has to be used (or reused) before it makes up for the environmental impact of a single-use plastic item.

The study looked at three main categories to assess the payback period: energy use, global warming potential, and water consumption. Beeswax wraps, silicone bags, and bamboo reusable straws all tested worse than a single-use plastic item. But why?

Well, when you have to wash a wrap, bag, or straw, you typically do so by hand in the sink and use water. Other items can be placed in a dishwasher with a multitude of other items, which helps cut down on their resource usage.

The study used the most common wash techniques (hot water and soap) in its trial, so if you’re a miracle worker with a wet rag and can use fewer resources, your beeswax wraps might be fine. However, overall, it could be better to stick with items that can go in a dishwasher or not using certain items at all (like straws).

The study did, however, make it clear that switching out your kitchen supplies for more sustainable options is just a small portion of your carbon footprint. Instead of focusing on tiny things like straws, finding greener transportation and energy would be far more effective.

If you’re trying to be more environmentally conscious, there are tons of things you can do—both big and small.

[Via TreeHugger]

Shea Simmons Shea Simmons
Shea Simmons is an Atlanta-based writer who has written about everything from whether Crisco is a good moisturizer to how to KonMari your space. Her work has appeared in Bustle, My First Apartment, and Make It Grateful. Read Full Bio »
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