Monday Monthly Mission # 21

July 4th, 2011 - filed under: Furthermore » Monday Monthly Mission

On the first Monday of every month, we take on a ‘mission’ – a shift or habit or inspiration – to work on together. There’s strength (and support) in numbers! On the last Thursday of the month, we reconvene to see how far we’ve come.


It’s really all about the little things, ya know?

At the end of our last mission, our 20th mission, I reached out to you guys for some feedback. I wasn’t sure we should continue forging forward in the same fashion, with a new mission each month. To be honest, coming up with new tasks has become increasingly difficult – we’ve done a lot already! We’ve covered dietary choices and health, we’ve become activists, we’ve become exercisers, we’ve worked internally on our growth, we’ve taken on environmental challenges, and so much more.

You know, I’m really proud of us.

But we can still push ourselves farther, can’t we? I really wanted to focus on an eco-friendly theme this month, but after the composting, the line-dried laundry, the reusable femenine products, the secondhand shopping, the driving less, and omg we mustn’t forget the cloth toilet paper for great hippie’s sake. What was left?

Last week I was making my coffee at midnight (I make it the night before and refrigerate it for iced morning java) and I came across the last of my paper coffee filter. And, maybe since it was midnight and I have a wandering mind, it put me to thinking. Do I really need to keep buying paper for my coffee, even unbleached, “natural” paper? Between my daily imbibing and Damian’s morning drip and on the weekend, our afternoon refills, we can go through as many as 3 or 4 of these filters a day. That can really add up! Is there an alternative?

And what else can we replace, or live without?

I remember how much I used to adore lotion. I would slather it over every inch of my body, every single morning. I even wrote about it, a review of all the most “natural” brands. It was the last non-homemade item I held onto, because I couldn’t imagine living without it, and because every time I tried to go off it, my skin dried out.

Well, then I had a baby, and my hormones got all wonky-like, and my skin got suuuuper sensitive, and also, I was really really really busy. There was no luxurious lotioning for me anymore. And when I did manage to get some on, my lovely lotion was giving me rashes, eek! One day I ran out and I just didn’t bother replacing it. No time! And my skin was dry for about a week, and then it balanced out. Now I never use body lotion and my skin is supple and fantastic and NOT addicted to added moisturizers. In the end, it’s so much better this way.

The same thing happened with Q-Tips. I’m not even kidding you, I was working my way through a Q-Tip collection the was 5 years old (Cosco, baby). I always said when it ran out is when I’d go off the Tips, but the truth was that I secretly dreaded it. I hated the feeling of water in my ears! I never felt like I was completely “clean” until I’d wiped my ears out. True story, I’m a weirdo.

Anyway, I’m sure you can see where this is going. I ran out of Q-Tips, I felt yucky and soggy-eared for about a week, and then I got used to it and now I don’t even notice anymore. Except that I’m no longer throwing away sticks of chemically-treated bleached cotton that I’ve shoved into my ears everyday. Q-Tips are really bad for you, anyways.

The point is, sometimes you just have to take the plunge and kick those old wasteful habits to the curb. Think you can’t function without paper towels in your kitchen? You can, I promise. Cut up an old bath towel and keep cloth rags in the cabinet. We’ve been paper-free in our kitchen for years.

You could replace paper napkins with pretty cloth ones (sewing project!)

You could replace disposable bathroom cotton balls with soft washable hemp pads.

You could switch from bagged tea to looseleaf, and use a metal strainer.

There are a million little things all around your house than can be replaced or done away with completely. These little things really add up, and over time it’s the little things that can actually do the most damage. So let’s not overlook them anymore!

Me, I’m starting with my coffee filters, and getting myself a metal mesh insert. I’ll also be keeping my eyes out all throughout my life, watching for ways to tweak and tame the wasteful beast.

What will you do? Do you accept this mission? Share your ideas in the comments so we can all benefit – I’m sure you guys will have some great ones!


Next month will be the first installment of our Bonzai Book Club, which will switch off with the Monday Monthly Mission, every other month. I’m so excited! But I know that reading can be time-intensive, and we’re a very busy bunch of movers and shakes around here. So I’ll always give you the reading assignment a month ahead, at the end of the MMM post, in case you want to get a head start.

For our very first BBC we will be reading James McWilliams’ Just Food: Where Locavores Get It Wrong and How We Can Truly Eat Responsibly. I can’t wait!

  • Joselle

    I’m not a coffee drinker but what about one of those fancy reusable filters?

    Ugh, Q-tips! I can’t not put a Q-tip after showering because of the icky wetness factor. But after reading that NPR article, I think I’m going to have to give them up. And I just bought one of those gigantoid 750 Q-tip packs, so, maybe in a year or two I’ll give it up! :)

    I like this mission and I’m game for switching to cloth napkins, which is long overdue.

  • Jacquelyn

    A personal note on reusable coffee filters- let me know how you like the metal one. Kraig doesn’t prefer it- he likes using a hemp filter that he rinses after each use. The natural oils and flavors in the coffee build up a bit and enhance the flavor of the coffee (you want that oil in the cup of coffee!) He brews nearly everyday and each filter lasted a year before he thought it was worn out. So if you see one, pick one up and let me know what you think of that vs. metal :)


  • Kathryn

    This is perfect timing cause my friends and I at university just rented a house, I’m moving in next month so I’m writing down loads of projects I want to do! I’ve got my jar collection going for storage (three cheers for bulk! so much cheaper and better!) and I’m gonna dig through cloth scraps and see what I can make into napkins and towels! So excited!

  • Serenity

    get a coffee press

  • Meghan

    You know, something you might want to consider is a Toddy cold-brew system. I have one and love it (I prefer iced coffee anyway). It has a re-usable filter (that you eventually DO replace, but just not as often). You should check it out– if you like iced coffee and want to do something a little more eco-friendly, this might be a good choice!

  • Ruby

    I am not sure if you have covered this elsewhere or not, but baby-wipes!! We have tried using cloth cut up and wet with water instead of the commercial wipes filled with who-knows-what, but we still end up disposing of the not-so-clean cloth anyway.. do you have any suggestions?

  • Kate

    I’ll have to think of what I can cut out…I’m sure something will come to me :)

    And as for the book…prepare to have your mind BLOWN. I loved it but struggled with it – but it’s a great read.

  • Courtney

    I am going to have to sit down and figure out what to do. There’s a ton I’d love to no longer use, but my hubby’s about at his limit right now. I know there’s got to be something I can replace!

  • Meghan


    I think I might finally do the family cloth this this month!

    I’m not sure I can give up q-tips……. I LOVE Q-TIPS!!!

  • Janine @ Alternative Housewife

    I don’t have much to add except that that is so true about the lotion. My friends and even boyfriends would constantly apply moisturizer and I never did. (I only used oil in the summer.) I always had the softest skin naturally and I think you’re right, it’s a product dependency. Deodorant also makes you smelly and shampoo keeps your hair dirty, etc.

  • Emily

    Every time I run out of tea bags I swear I’ll go entirely on to loose-leaf tea (I have eleven teapots and 4 individual cup infusers, so really no excuse!). I’m going to actually commit this time :P

  • Annie

    I’ve been making my own lotions, body and foot scrubs, bodywash, shampoo (gentle enough to not need conditioner), detangler spray, toothpaste, mouthwash, laundry products, dishwashing products and cleaning products. The personal hygiene ones double as DIY and relatively inexpsensive gifts, and when they’re in nice jars/containers they look pretty teamed with thoughtfullness and effort.
    I’m really keen on doing more sewing and making clothes, or second hand shopping and modifying/improving clothes. I’d also like to sew more stuff like bed linens and cut up old towels and hem them for household wipes etc etc.
    The fortunate thing about DIY, is not only are you reducing your waste and have a sense of accomplishment, it almost always puts a reduction in your grocery expenses. What I like to do when I start a new project and stop buying a product is take that money from my weekly or monthly expenses (depending on how often I would buy the product) and out it into my savings account. As a student I’m certainly not wealthy, and little additions help to compliment my usual savings deposit, as well as giving motivation to persevere.
    One small thing to do: next time you want to go clothes etc shopping with your girlfriends or whatever, why not go around to all the second hand stores in your area. You’ll save money, find unique items and pick up projects (clothes to modify, furniture pieces to repair etc) as well as (typically) contributing to a local charity or non-profit organization.

  • ashley

    i am trying to be better. . . but i do not use paper towels, try to compost most of the time, hang up a lot of my clothes to dry, am saving up for reusable feminine products, keep most of my appliances etc… unplugged or on power strips so i can just shut it off, and use my own bags at the grocery store. on the rare occasion that i do make coffee i use the cold brew method in my french press. i use this method

    and it has worked great for me. although i tend to stick mainly with water, and the occasional tea which i also brew overnight in the fridge.

    this is my first time commenting (been “stalking” for a few months now), but wanted to say i really enjoy your blog. your posts have been very helpful as well while i was transitioning into veganism. i hit 3 months on june 30th and am so happy with my choice. hope you had a great july 4th weekend. :)

  • Sonja

    @ Annie: Wow, could you share some of your shampoo, lotion, body wash recipes? I would love to try that!

    This Monthly Mission sounds so good and I will definitely try to reduce even more waste.

    I’m really looking forward to the book club and will participate as soon as I’m back home in Germany.

    Thanks for never ending inspiration, Sayward!!!

  • Annie

    PS. I think the bike looks like a Clementine, or perhaps Sophie to protect yourself from getting Oh My Darling, Clementine stuck in your head every time you go for a ride :)

  • Kathryn B

    I’m so excited! I have been trying to do this in my home. My house no longer has store bought cleaners (including laundry soap) since I make everything. We do not use paper towels and I’m starting to do away with fabric softer sheets. I’m so excited to see what else I can do around my house.

  • Kathryn B

    @annie, please share some of yore recipes! Also I love the name clementine. great suggestion. Plus you could sing a little tune while going for a ride!

  • Annie

    Perhaps I can email Sayward for a special post on DIY hygiene products? There’s SO many!

  • Beens

    I am up for this! I’m moving into my own place by the coast very soon and I’m keen to see how I can minimise waste and cast a watchful eye over what’s necessary and what’s not.

    Re: coffee. My family is Italian so I have always used a stovetop – the coffee grinds go straight into the compost. Might be worth a try?

  • Emma

    You are so amazing. I wish I saw this post yesterday as ironically the only 2 things I bought yesterday were paper towels and body lotion! Ugh, so annoying. I just moved to Barcelona and have been here a week without them and fine. Oh well, I guess those can be added to the list of things up next. In the meantime I’ll be looking out for as many ‘little things’ as possible to eliminate or do better :) I’d love to read about your hygiene routines without bought products. Hope that doesn’t sound weird!

  • Sonja

    @Annie: Yes, that’s a perfect idea :)

  • Annie

    On the coffee thing, perhaps a stovetop machine (we call them macchinettas in Aus, I think it’s an Italian thing) such as this:
    Or a French Press/’Plunger’ like this:
    No need for filters! Aaaand, you get the French Press things in travel form:

  • sara thomas

    awesome! this is a challenge i needed! we dont use coffee filters because we use a french press. makes such yummerrific coffee!

    my son is in need of some more cloth diapers. my MMM is to make my own out by recycling old shirts, sheets, towels etc. instead of buying new!

    also, (and i am so mortified to even post this awful factoid), i have been asking my husband since we have moved to our house (4 years ago!) to please put up a clothes line in the yard for me. obviously i haven’t been annoying enough because i still dont have one. so i will ask again, and if not, try to make my own! i can’t stand using the dryer when its nice out! especially since we do lots of cloth diapers!!

    i will be trying to go no lotion. i would LOVE to get off the lotion train. it’s super expensive to buy natural & it would be great if i didnt need it anymore!

    good luck to everyone! i hope you are able to meet your goals =)

  • Monika {windycityvegan}

    I was just telling myself yesterday that we need to stop buying Q-tips! I don’t use them often, but when I do, I am so afraid of Nina bumping into me that I climb into our sunken tub to use them. Weird phobia, I know, but . . . ack, it makes my head hurt just thinking about it!

    Re: coffee filters, etc — I have a mesh strainer for my electric coffee pot and I hate it. I really want to get a chemex, but they use filters. But I mostly use my moka, which is probably similar to what Beens has. I LOVE it!

    We’ve slowly been getting rid of all plastic food storage containers and just using my canning jars, even in the freezer. I already have plastic covers for most of my Weck jars, so that’s what I’ve been using. The thing I haven’t been able to completely stop using are plastic storage bags. I’m going to do my best to eliminate them from my kitchen this month!

    Oh, and I am really excited about the BBC! I’ve been meaning to read the book you selected, so now I have no excuse not to get started on it. :)

  • Sara Ann

    I am really really excited about this monthly mission and the book club. Please post some diy personal hygiene products!!!!

  • Sierra Dawn

    I’m in! I’m totally a guilty paper towel user. I’ll be cutting up an old bath towel today:) great idea. Super excited about the book club! Yeah! I love so much to curl up on the couch with a good book, but haven’t in soooo long. I’m always whizzing around the house like a Tasmanian Devil trying to “get it all done”, ha. A book club is just the thing to get me to slow down and take a little me time. Thanks, Sayward:)

  • Sayward

    Hi everyone, great response! I’m so glad I didn’t scrap the MMM. There’s obviously a lot of interest, which makes me so happy. I’m also very excited about this mission!

    Great advice and tips so far. Thanks to everyone for sharing your thoughts. About the coffee, right now I’m using a simple ceramic drip set-up and I really like it. I’ve been using the mesh basket out of my old electric coffee pot, which works okay but lets a lot of sediment through while also producing a weaker brew. I’m going to pick up a washable hemp filter like Jacquelyn suggested, I think that will work best for me for now. I’m really interested in cold-brewing though – it’s on my summer list of projects!

    I think it’s a great idea to focus some of my posts this month around the mission. I’ll think about how to best do that, but it will definitely include some diy cleaning and hygeine stuff.

    @ Annie – Please email me! I’d love to have you do a guest post.

    @ ashley – Thanks for the link, and congrats on going vegan! If we’re really being honest, reducing (eliminating) animal consumption is the SINGLE GREATEST thing we can do to minimize our environmental impact – more powerful than all the rest put together! So congrats to you, and I bet you feel great too. =) Hope it was a great veggie-rific fourth!

    @ sara thomas – Ooh let me know how the homemade diapers go!

    @ Monika – Getting rid of kitchen plastic is a huge one! I use repurposed glass for all my tupperware needs and I love it. It also takes a little getting used to but now I can’t even imagine going back. And it’s free! Highly recommend anyone give it a go. =)

  • T

    I bought an awesome Bodum french press travel mug a couple of weeks ago. I was tired of filling up my reusable travel mug and paying $1.37 a day for coffee. So I bought the Bodum french press travel mug. You brew your coffee and drink right out of it, its so awesome! It’ll pay for itself.

    A regular french press might work for you guys too. I tried using a metal filter in my automatic coffee maker and I didn’t like the coffee grit that seeped into the coffee. French press uses coarse coffee grinds so you don’t have that problem.

    You know what erks me and makes me want to cry? When people brag about their Keurig coffee maker and their disposable k-cups that it uses. Gross, I can’t think of anything more wasteful than that. All that packaging! The ones I saw aren’t even recyclable!

  • Danika

    I am still really busy with summer classes and the kids this month, but I love this challenge. I have been meaning to start making my own laundry and dish detergent, so I will take that on this month. I will also plan my laundry time better so I can hang dry–HATE doing laundry for 6 people, but hopefully hanging it on the line outside will make it more enjoyable. I don’t use paper towels or napkins, but I am also trying to make the switch to class jars instead of plastic containers. Does anyone here pack lunches for work/school, and what do you pack them in? I am out of plastic ziploc bags and do not want to buy more, but they are so convenient. Any suggestions? Thanks for this challenge, and I am excited for the book club. I have two weeks off of school in August, so I am game for this reading.

  • T

    @Danika I use 2 cup Pyrex or Anchor brand glass storage containers for lunch and plastic reusable Ziplock containers for bread/sandwiches. The glass sandwich containers are probably available too. It does cost a bit up front, but you’ll have them for years to come. They are freezer and microwave safe too.

  • Elle

    Hi there!

    I’m intrigued what you could use instead of Q-Tips. I have eczema of my inner ear and I need to have dry ears after swimming or showering or I get headaches, earaches, ear infections or itchiness. I don’t like using so many as I do but I don’t know of an alternatives.

    I’m definitely going to look into replacing a lot of stuff. Especially the cotton pads!

    I also plan of making my own lip balm when I run out. It’s one of the very few products that I have left that I still buy. I don’t use lotion either unless I am in the sun all day and I feel dried out.

  • Kristin

    Ooooh I love this mission! I’ve been working on coming up with things I can do away with or replace with reusable items, you’ve already given me so many more ideas! The first thing I want to do away with is shampoo and conditioner (baking soda and vinegar baby!). I’m already out so I’ve been using dr. bronners every 2-3 days to try and wean my hair off slowly so it doesn’t freak out and get all greasy on me and so far its working really well. I’m going to make a list of all the things I can replace or get rid of.

    Also, I’ve become obsessed with saving glass bottles/jars/containers to the point where I will no longer buy a food product that comes in a plastic container. I was thinking about buying another set of glasslock containers but now I don’t need to because I have a stockpile of reused containers. Nothing beats free!

  • Monika {windycityvegan}

    @T: I’ve been debating whether or not to get one of those bodum travel mugs; just added it to my wish list. :)

    @Danika: In addition to using my canning jars for storage, I reuse all of the jars/bottles/etc that any packaged item I buy comes in. My husband and I actually have a rule that we don’t buy anything that’s packaged unless we know specifically how we will reuse the packaging. (We’re also considered the family weirdos because we wash and reuse baggies until they’re falling apart!)

    Re: Keurig coffee makers, a friend of mine has one and she ordered a Keurig mesh K-cup for her machine – so she just uses her own ground coffee and doesn’t buy the disposable K-cups. (Which are horrible on so many levels!)

  • Monika {windycityvegan}

    @Danika: I meant to add that all of those funky-shaped bottles and jars are usually the perfect size for single servings of something for lunch and are easy to fit into my thermal lunch box or my work tote.

  • Amelora

    Reading that post made me want to clean my ears, so I am not sure how I am going to do with no q-tips, but I sure am willing to try.

    we just switched to acrylic to-go cups and straws – I love getting organic iced tea when I am out. Everywhere I have been they are more than happy to use my cup, it has been great. I have also bought some fancy glass straws. That was a big one for me.
    I also just bought a bunch of mason jars from a yard sale and I am using them to port stuff around while I am out – ie juice, fruit salad ect; I am really trying to lessen my dependency on plastics.
    We also just got a removable drying tree. So worth the effort. And we switched from a gas mower to a push one- honestly not that much more effort, I was surprised.

  • Meghan

    Oh! I also ought to sew myself a straw-holder for my new glass-dharma straws so that I can carry them in my purse with me. I bought them to use at home… but since I never used straws BEFORE at home, it isn’t really reducing any waste. :-P

  • Kathryn

    Just noticed that I’m almost out of dish soap. Time to make my own!!! I have been using your homemade laundry soap since April. LOVE IT!! Not only does it clean my clothes but it saves me so much money!

  • Valerie

    I have tried to reduce my use of paper towels, but I have not been been successful. My goal is to never buy paper towels again. The cloth napkins we have are rather large so I will cut them down & hem them. The other thing is that I know that Q-tips are bad for you & I’ve been meaning to give them up. I am going down to the library to pick up the book for next months book club asap!

  • Danika

    @Monika and T: Thank you for the ideas! I do wash and reuse all containers of the food I buy, but the cupboard that houses the re-purposed jars and containers is at child level so *somehow* the lids of everything get lost. Where do they go? There must be a black hole in my home. Maybe I’ll do some rearranging and move them up in a top cupboard. I haven’t been washing and reusing baggies, but if I decide I have to buy more I will definitely start doing that.
    Also, I have never tried freezing things in glass containers–that really works and the food stays good?

  • Krista

    What else can you use that’s ecofriendly to cut down on ear wax? My hubby as waxy ears, what do you do?

  • Jen

    Cool! I made a bunch of cloth napkins from fabric I found in the remnant bin at the fabric store.My husband is addicted to paper towels, and without a washer or dryer it is hard to go without, but we use dishtowels as much as humanly possible. I think I just need to make more for between laundromat visits.

    Lately, I’ve been assessing my stock of old fabric and sheets and wondering what I can make instead of buying.

  • Danika

    @Krista: They make drops that people with ears that build a lot of wax can use every night or morning. You put 1-2 drops in every day and it helps to break up the wax so it can drain itself out. I can’t remember the name of the drops right now, but they are sold OTC at pharmacies. Plus, using Q-tips can actually push most of the wax further into the ear which makes the wax build up a bigger problem. For any was that’s visible, just wipe out with a towel. Hope that helps.

  • Sayward

    Yay, love the discussion going on here! You guys are so awesome. You never fail to restore my faith and give me HOPE! Love you guys. =)

    Re: the Q-Tips, I think that Danika is correct, it’s less about finding a reusable alternative and more about finding a different method all together. Q-Tips *feel* great (believe me I know!) but they really are bad, and they do the exact opposite of what you want them to do. I don’t know much about the drops, but I’ve heard of them. I also know you can get heat treatments to draw the wax out. But for most people, I think we should be doing what we’re instructed to do for babies/children – just a little cloth over the finger tip, and wipe whatever you can grab. If it’s too far in for your finger to reach (gently! no digging!) then it’s not ready to come out.

    But if you *must* have a Q-Tip mimic, what about just getting a very thin wooden dowel from the hardware store, and then draping a piece of cloth over the end and using that like a Q-Tip. Just wash the cloth after using? Might work?

    Re: Glass containers, you can totally freeze in them! I freeze everything in glass, from veggie stock to homemade soups to chopped fruits and veggies I need to save. Just remember that when you’re freezing liquid, leave a little room for expansion and freeze with the lid off. Then once it’s frozen, screw the lid on tight. This will prevent breakage.

    If you want more conveniently-shaped “tupperwares” the brand Anchor Hocking is so so so rad! They are made in America and super eco-friendly, glass “tupperware” with rubber lids. They are on my wish list (I’ve seen them in person but don’t own any yet) and if you’re interested, you can check them out in my store.

    Re: Packing lunches, Damian used to use a little plastic cooler that we inherited. I would pack everything in glass, just repurposed jars. Veggie sticks, leftover noodles, hummus, whatever – it all works in various sized glass jars. The only thing that doesn’t work is sammies, but you can get re-usable sandwich bags! Remember this Bonzai giveaway? She sells them in her Etsy shop . . . or you could make your own!

    Also, hooray for glass straws and push mowers and acrylic cups and cloth pads and all your other amazing ideas. You guys rock so hard!

  • Melissa L.

    As a large family of 8 we decided (inspired by this rockin website) to try to do away with as many paper products as we could. We began this mission last year and I am happy to report that we are not using paper napkins, paper towels, or paper coffee filters at all. We mostly use cloth diapers for the little man. And for feminine products – Diva Cup!!!

    Our grocery bill has gone way down and so has our impact on the environment. Now, if I could only get our family on board with the family cloth idea…

  • Kathryn B.

    @ Melissa L – What is the Diva Cup? I have been looking for natural feminine products and love the idea of cloth pads but don’t want to use them at work. I would love a more tampon type of product that I can use while out and about.

  • Court

    hey yall, try these for ziplocks

    kinda pricey, but a great investment. i put a sandwich in for lunch, then wash it when i get home=perfection!

  • Courtney

    I’ve decided to take the plunge and make my own deodorant. I picked up all the supplies last night and will hopefully be making it tomorrow. If it works half as well here in Ohio summers as it does there, I’ll be happy!

  • Meghan

    @Kathryn B.

    I’m not Melissa L, but I also use a menstrual cup! They are little cups, usually silicone, that you fold to insert. They collect your blood, you take ‘em out, empty ‘em, wash ‘em if you want, and put ‘em back in! They can take a little learning, but I looooooove mine. I have a LadyCup, which is just a different brand. This livejournal community (I know, livejournal, so 2001) is a really great resource, and has size charts, comparisons, helpful tips, and great support!

    I like to use a cloth pad at night for a backup, but during the day when I’m out and about I prefer my cup.

    Oooh, the lj community’s FAQ tag is pretty useful too:

  • Pat (creative spider bite)

    Since Monday I am trying to figure out how to participate, as I dont use coffee filters anyway, we dont use paper towels, we are on board with the family cloth, no need for a diva cup, the wee man is cleaned by old rags and towels….so I will try to find the time to make my own cleaning products this month…we will see how far I get ;-)

  • Kathryn B.


    Thank you for the information! I’m excited to get a diva cup. I’m also going to get a few cloth pads for night like you had mentioned.

    Cheers to a happy “Shark Week!”