So Long Disposables, Hello Family Cloth {How to Start Using Cloth Toilet Paper}

Disclaimer

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So you’ve stuck with us through this “crunchy” series on cloth alternatives. We broke you in gently starting with cloth bags and wool dryer balls and brought you all the way to cloth pads.

Today is the day you’ve been waiting for or maybe dreading. Today we are talking about another extra special type of cloth. Drum roll please, today is family cloth day!!!! To put it simply, cloth TP, toilet paper you know the stuff you wipe…..

Yes folks, cloth toilet paper. Today is also the day when some of my family and friends, think I have compeatly.lost.it. Oh course I wait to broach this topic about it until I am currently visiting said family. Nothing like perfect timing….For those that are curious, no I don’t bring my cloth with me and yes I miss it.

Don’t forget to check out my interview with three of my blogging friends on their experience with family cloth! 

Getting Started

A couple years ago I wrote an article on How to Waste Less. One of the topics I discussed was cloth pads. One of my readers commented that she used cloth pads, diapers and family cloth. I was sitting around the table with two of my good friends. I asked them what the thought of it. Needless to say they were grossed out. (Hey there Michelle, yup I caved!) I tried to act like I wasn’t completely intrigued but honestly, deep down I was. I had already comited to cloth pads and planned to use cloth diapers with my future kids so really it just made sense. I mulled over it for a couple years but I was still hesitant because I had a room-mate, I had no idea what she would think of it. Well this last year I had the bathroom to myself so this past spring after talking to my friend Mare of Just Making Noise, I took the plung.

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I think that is how it is with most new things, we just need a little encouragement.

The Nitty Gritty Details

In the US, toilet paper was not widely used until the late 1800s or early 1900s. People used cloth, old Sears Robucks Magazines, leaves or what ever they had on hand.

From a health perspective it just makes sense. Toilet paper is bleached and full of chemicals just like pads and diapers. Some brands even have wax and perfume added. If I don’t want it rubbing on babies skin or my own why whip it across my skin multiple times every day?

Cloth in my opinion is softer, more luxurious and cleaner. Some people prefer to wet their cloth. I normally use mine dry. I love that I only have to use one cloth to be clean. When it’s “that time of month” clean up is so much nicer and gentler on those more sensitive areas.

From a money saving perspective it makes sense as well. Think about how much toilet paper you got though in a month. Even though I don’t have a water bill it wouldn’t greatly effect it. I have never heard of anyone washing family cloth by itself. All it is is some tiny cloths added to whatever you were already washing.

From a stewardship perspective, I have read that the average American uses more than 50 lbs of toilet paper per year. That is 50% more than other Western countries. One tree produces about 100 lbs of toilet paper. Imagine how many trees we use to wipe ourselves in a life time!

From a convenience sake, think about how nice it will be to never have to drive to the store again to by toilet paper last minute when you forgot to pick some up. If for some reason you forgot to wash your cloths in time cut up another rag or two to tide you over till you can wash what your stash.

Selecting Your Cloth

You can use just about any kind of cloth you want. If you want/can afford to there are lots of cute cloths on etsy. I bought a few pack of baby wash cloths and cut up some of my larger wash cloths I was using anymore.

You can cut up old shirts, towels, whatever you have on hand. If you have a sewing machine it is nice to hem them but not necessary. You can also make your own from flannel or fleece.

As a single person I probably keep about 40 on hand, that lasts me about a week before I need to wash them. One of the great things is that I only need to use one square each time.

Storage

Clean Cloth

I keep my clean cloth in a small basket next to the toilet. My guests are welcome to use it if they want but I keep a roll of toilet paper out as well.

Dirty Cloth

I keep a small pail by the toilet and toss my used cloth in it. In Mexico most people throw toilet paper away because the septic systems are strong enough to handle it. So for me it’s no different. Most people opt for a trash can with a lid or a cloth bag. Since I am going to have a room-mate again this year I switching to a bag.

Washing

I wash my family cloth once or twice a week whenever I do a load of towels. Most families who have babies in cloth diapers just throw the family cloth in the wash at the same time.

Most people use prefer to wash on a hot or sanitation cycle. I only have cold water so I just add a little extra white vinegar to the wash to kill bacteria and germs. 

Rarely does family cloth stain. The only time I have experienced this is when I wait longer that I should to wash. If it does I’m alright with it, after all it’s just being used as TP.

 

How about you? Do you use family cloth? If you don’t would you consider using it?

 

This post in part of Wildcrafting Wednesday, Simple Lives Thursday

Disclaimer
About Katie Mae Stanley

Katie Mae Stanley is the writer at Nourishing Simplicity, where the focus is on nourishing foods, herbal remedies, simple living and faith. Ethnic and Mid-west foods are always a favorite in her kitchen and on her blog. She is also the author of the book Steeped: Simple Nourishing Teas and Treats. Katie Mae spent 10 years as a missionary dorm "mama" for a gaggle (almost 40) of amazing deaf girls at a school for the deaf in Baja California, Mexico. Now she finds herself state side ready to embrace God's next adventure. A cup of tea or coffee and a bit of dark chocolate make an appearance at some point in any given day. You can connect with the Nourishing Simplicity community on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

Comments

  1. What a great article and conversation to follow. I am sitting up in the wee hours with an irritation to my privates that I only today linked to the toilet paper I use. I usually loose track of things I want to look up online when I am away from my computer, but… today I typed in allergy to toilet paper… and realized that it is a thing! holy hanna… its a thing… the bleach and formaldehyde are two culprits used in making TP that can cause irritation. I already make my own laundry soap… my own menstral pads… I react to any kind of pad, but had never connected my itchiness to the TP… i thought I had won the battle with the costco brand of toilet paper only to have them change the product about 3 months ago… So tonight I sat down looking for alternatives… your article is great… so obviouos… but i clearly needed it spelled out for my sanity sake… so this week, I will prepare myself for the transition… I will come back and update you on my progress… specifically getting my husband on board! thanks for your effort in writing this article.

  2. I really want to switch to family cloth…my boyfriend said he’s be ok with it too, the only problem is that we’re living in the school dormitory right now with shared bathroom and I just can’t imagine how I would store the dirty cloths…I’m already using cloth pads, but that’s different because I can always take a clean one from my room and I rinse the used ones a little, then let them dry and put them in the laundry basket with our laundry…but with family cloth it would be different… any ideas how to do it? or should I just wait to get out of school before making the switch?

    • Katie Mae Stanley says:

      If you really want to switch could you carry a small bucket back and forth? That sounds like a lot of effort though. I could see it being possible if it is just a bathroom shared between two rooms.

      • Cloth diapering sites sell wet bags of various sizes, some even have snaps to connect to each other or separate compartments in the bag so one side could have clean wipes and the other hold the dirty. Just a thought! We have been using family cloth since our oldest was a babe, obviously we transitioned because of his cloth diapers (I thought if it is good enough for him, why have I never considered it for me?!), and we won’t ever go back. =) Actually, we eventually even started taking some family cloth when we visit family, because we missed it so much. HA!

    • A cloth diaper wet bag would be ideal. This is how we store dirty cloth diapers, baby wipes and my mama cloth (when necessary) while we are out.

  3. I really have to say, I’m SO intrigued by this whole post, as well as some of the comments. I’ve been trying to think of a way to get away from toilet paper for years, and honestly, never would have thought of this.

    Thank you for sharing your experiences, even if it is considered TMI by some. I will have to give it some more thought, but at least I know it’s an option that is out there now.

  4. I was just wandering if you use water for rinsing…because in this part of the world we always use soap and water to rinse after, so that you can just use the towel to dry yourself afterwards, that will keep your towel clean…and usable for one whole day 🙂

  5. we grew up doing this.

  6. Borax is also a great disinfectant. I use it regularly in my laundry.

  7. Christina Bass says:

    We use an empty diaper pail to store the used cloths. Makes it easy to control any smell (which, to be honest, I’ve never even noticed), keeps the baby from being “curious” with the dirty ones, keeps the dog out, keeps them out of sight, and is easy to haul down to the basement and dump in the washer. I highly recommend it. I picked one up off a local swap for $3. For cloth, we had a cotton hospital blanket (the white ones they use in the emergency room) that they let my little girl bring home when she was sick and cold. I cut the whole thing into cloths and surged the edges. They have lasted us almost TWO YEARS and are still in amazing shape. We save about $25.00 a week with five of us using them. My husband and children never quite caught on that you don’t need three yards of toilet paper every time you wipe. It has been a fantastic transition! It only took a week for my germaphobe family to be OK with it. After all, toilet paper never gets you 100%clean and we all wear underwear :/

    • Katie Mae Stanley says:

      You brought a smile to my face Christina! So true, we all wear underwear! 🙂 What a great idea using the hospital blanket. I love that you brought up the savings, so many think that it’s not going to save them anything.

  8. For anyone that doesnt care to sew but wants their woven cloth to last many washings, I’d recommend picking up a pair of “pinking sheers” to cut the clothes with.

  9. Cherilynne says:

    I bought some lint free dish clothes, the ones that are not supposed to leave fibers behind and cut them into 4 pieces. They do not seem to stain, even thru menses. My sink is right next to my toilet, so I rinse each time. My husband has not been too keen on the bucket next to the toilet yet, but my two girls will use the cloths. The glass cleaning cloths work nice, they are micro fiber and when you cut them up, they don’t ravel out. We bought a bunch of them cheap at the Auto parts store. A soak in Peroxide will clean them up good too.

  10. I still don’t know what you do to wash off the chunks of poop?

    • Katie Mae Stanley says:

      I don’t, but there normally aren’t chunks of poop (for me at least). I just throw them in the bucket I put my used cloth in. Some people add water and vinegar to their buckets to loosen anything that might be stuck on the cloth. Everything washes out in the washing machine. Sometimes the cloth stains if you wait too long to wash the cloths. I hope that helps.

  11. I’m so excited about this idea. Since I live in a rural area and somewhat remote, I try to keep certain necessities on hand in case there is a disruption in supply for whatever reason.

    In my preparedness preparation, toilet paper is an area which I didn’t have a good long term solution for. When I came across this article, I thought there’s my solution.

    I had some flannel I was going to use for cloth pads, but had since found another type of fabric I liked better. I almost put the flannel in a yard sale several times because it was taking up so much space in my fabric drawer.

    I cut the flannel to size and was able to make 140 family cloths. Two stacks fit neatly into a basket I had on hand. I was amazed on how little space they take up.

    I still have to sew them and work out my laundry routine since I don’t have super-hot water and I can’t use bleach because we’re on a septic tank. So I won’t be using them for poo wipes until I have some experience to see what works best for me.

    • Alicia Bailey says:

      If anyone is concerned about germs, add a cup or two of pine-sol to them when you wash. Even if you wash in cold water the pine-sol will kill the germs. Do an extra rinse- some washers (mine) has a extra rinse setting. If you’re doesn’t, just wash a second time to get off any detergent and pine-sol residue that may be left behind. Vinegar would work too, it’s acidic, therefore would kill bacteria. No liquid fabric softener, or dryer sheets. I have found some wipes on Etsy that I really like. They’re made for babies, but great for people of all ages! Single ply or double ply are available.

      • Katie Mae Stanley says:

        I use vinegar. I’ve never had worries about them being germ riddled but so many are! Thanks for sharing your tips!

    • Katie Mae Stanley says:

      It’s always great to do what works best for you! I’ve found that vinegar and cold water do the job of cleaning them just fine!

      • I’ve setup a system using two small containers, one for used cloths and one as a soaker for soiled cloths. Neither will be in the bathroom for more than a day or two, since the main storage for them will be in the laundry room.

        The soiled cloths will be pre-washed in a small metal container using a plunger and boiling water, then into the washer with the vinegar. That should deal with any germs and what not.

        I’m not sure yet if we will be totally TP free, but in our home there will be a significant reduction of its use. So for that, I thank you.

        • I had big plans when I began and few went as planned.

          Firstly I made my cloths before I read the directions of others. I cut my flannel folded it in half and made cloths about 5 1/2″ square. For me it’s the perfect size.

          I use a plastic baby wipe container stored on the toilet tank to hold my soiled cloths. I enlarged the whole in the top of the container. I simply push the button, drop the soiled cloth in and close the lid. I stopped using a soaking solution once I dropped the container and had water all over the floor; then I realized I didn’t need to soak.

          I wasn’t too keen on using the wipes for bowel movements since I have soft stools. So I re-read the comments. The rinse method seemed to be a good solution. I experimented to find a bottle small enough to get around back, with the right capacity and with an opening to produce the right pressure to get clean. I ended up using a mustard bottle, but I have my mind set on a school glue bottle that is much more flexible. I’ll see if it’s a better solution once the glue has been used up.

          With the rinse method I found I was using to many wipes to dry off. One commenter suggested a dedicated towel, so now I use bar wipe towels which are smaller than a hand towel but big enough to do the job. I just hang it on a hook which is somewhat secluded beside the toilet and the wall.

          I have found I don’t need any extra prep for washing my cloths; I simply wash them like any other under garments. I like the idea of the tea tree oil; it solves two problems that of germs and having the same bottle on hand for far too long. Lol

    • Hydrogen Peroxide beats bleach in most cases and it’s not toxic. Vinegar, a few drops of tea tree oil in water is great too. Look into natural antimicrobial and find one you like.

  12. What about using a diaper genie for your used cloths? Any thoughts?

    • Katie Mae Stanley says:

      I think it would be more effort than it is work. I remember using a diaper genie when I worked in my church’s nursery. It uses plastic bags that get tied of when you pull it out. You would have to untie the plastic bag to wash them. I bet a regular daiper pail would work better. I just use an old gallon bucket from my coconut oil. I plan to switch to a wet bag though. 🙂

    • Alicia Bailey says:

      I think the diaper genie creates too much unnecessary waste. The refill plastic bags are like $6 each, possibly more. Pine-sol cleaner is a disinfectant. Just find a container with a lid, and put pine-sol solution in it to soak the soiled cloths. I do it the lazy way. I throw them in a basket or bucket as they are. No water, no nothing. Wash every couple days. They do get stained, but I don’t mind. We all know what they’re for. There is no smell involved at all. You don’t even have to touch them. Add detergent to washer, dump in cloths. Put on rubber gloves, wash bucket with one cloth, dry with another, then their those into washer too. Wash with hot water, and a downy ball full of white vinegar.

      • Pine-sol is not a great idea as it’s a horribly toxic chemical cocktail.
        “According to The Clorox Company, the manufacturer of Pine-Sol, the ingredients of Original Pine-Sol Multi-Surface Cleaner include water, C10-12 alcohol ethoxylates, glycolic acid, fragrance, caramel, dimethicone/silica/PEG distearates, sodium C14-17 secondary alkyl sulfonate and xanthan gum.”

  13. I am so sold on this idea – my husband not so much. We have eight children that I used cloth diapers on (still doing so with #8). I make cloth pads for my daughters and me. I’m thinking that I should just start by doing it for myself. I can easily toss them in the baby’s diaper pail so the laundry isn’t an issue at all. Maybe if I do it others in the family will be convinced to come on board. Can I just add that using cloth pads significantly decreased my blood loss and sickness from my periods. My oldest daughter gets a little sick for a day or two but nothing compared to what I went through as a teenager. I will never go back to disposable pads. I think I would feel the same if I started using cloth wipes for myself. I think your post has finally given me the nudge to just do it. Thanks.

    • Katie Mae Stanley says:

      I understand family not being on board, that can be a hard thing. Did you see the interview we have with three other bloggers and their experience with family cloth? They share a bit about the whole family not being a fan but how they still make it work. It’s so easy to wash with diapers, towels, ect.

      That’s so awesome that cloth pads have been so helpful for you and your daughter. I LOVE my cloth pads (and menstrual cup)! It has made such a difference. I really dislike the few times when I have has to use disposable ones again. I feel the same about family cloth. I’m glad that it was a help for you!

  14. I just started using family cloth. I do use Momma cloth and a Skoon cup. I was introduced to the idea because I cloth diapered and it opened my eyes to DUH. cloth wipes and pads lol Once you try any of it you’ll wish you done it along time ago. It sounds crazy but it’s luxurious. Thanks so much for the info.

  15. Allson Blair says:

    My husband and I just started using family cloth. I wasn’t sure if we would like it so to start I just cut up an old t-shirt no one wanted and tried that first. Put some vinegar and water in a pale with a lid and we put the dirty cloth in the pale till I wash. I could not be happier. I feel cleaner, I am saving a LOT of money, and I feel better about cutting out the chemicals that are in TP. My next step will be cloth pads and diva cups. I always wanted to cloth diaper when my husband and I finally have a baby, but I was so uneducated about cloth for adults! I saw family cloth on a T.V. show and I have been hooked on the idea ever since. 🙂

    • Katie Mae Stanley says:

      I LOVE my family cloth! Right now I am moving so I can’t use it. 🙁 Cloth pads are amazing and well, so is the diva, I use them both. What TV show did you see family cloth on?

  16. I don’t rinse, I don’t do anything special to mine. I have a small wastesbasket strictly for soiled cloths. Clean ones are kept in a small basket. I buy flannel yardage, and make them out of that. I have some that I made over a year ago that still work, although I’m making new ones now. My sewing machines are giving me problems, so I’m hand sewing them now. Right sides together, sew around 3.5 sides, flip right side out, and finish sewing the hole closed. Easy peasy. I was separately, and dry in the dryer, but will probably dry the outdoors this Spring- the sun helps bleach out any stains that might remain, just as in a cloth diaper. You don’t touch soiled cloths, just dump the whole lot in the washer and that’s it. No smell involved, I promise! I first use a wet one to clean well, and then a second one to dry. Better than toilet paper any day!

  17. Keeping with the TMI trend, I have a corn allergy. I was having really bad reactions to TP and feminine hygiene products. I found on a blog about corn products being used in both pads and tampons, so I switched to a Luna cup and have loved it for about for years now. The reactions lessened. I would still go to the doctor thinking I had a yeast infection or an STD. None of us saw it for an allergic reaction. Fast forward through several hours of research and I found that TP had corn, but one brand of TP that was corn free. I was a happy girl for a couple years. This past year though I lost my job. When you suddenly have no income coming in you look at every penny going out differently. On top of that I started having reactions again. So last April I cut up an old towel and made some family clothes. I love them and don’t think I could ever go back to not using them again.

  18. Not for me. I’ve tossed soiled undies from accidents from my kids & spouse. Weak stomach.

  19. I’m just about convinced to start using family cloth. I don’t know that my husband will be on board at first, but my son will have no problem. He has sensitivity issues and as someone mentioned, this is a lot more cost friendly than a bidet.

  20. I haven’t used toilet paper in over 30 years, since I learned about the loda. Originating in India, it’s a bottle of water kept near the toilet (or carried when going outside to pass). I wrote about how to use it if you are interested. I have heard of a thing called a bidet also. Same idea used in Europe, but more complex and perhaps costly.

  21. I’m thinking all is fine and dandy, until someone has the runs. Lord help us if the whole family ate that same dish that caused it!!

  22. I have been tossing this idea around now for a couple weeks. The recycling the pj bottoms from Goodwill idea has me about sold.

  23. I’ve been using them for three or four years now, and I love them. It’s just my retired husband and me living here, and he won’t use them, but we have cut way back on TP usage. I find super soft flannel pj bottoms at Goodwill stores and can get quite a few cloths from a pair, usually about 4 to 5 inches. I make them double thickness and serge the edges, and to get the most out of whatever fabric I’m using, I’ll make them whatever shape will maximize the fabric, such as rounded areas or pockets; in other words, they aren’t necessarily all squared off. I also use good quality t-shirts. My husband is a painter and goes through many white t-shirts, getting the fronts all stained up, and I use the backs to make my cloths. I thought I needed to keep the used ones covered but found that they get odorous and when I left them uncovered that was not the case. I found a cheap plastic ice bucket and put a plastic grocery bag inside to contain the cloths as I use them. They never have any odor! Of course, I usually give a quick rinse to the soiled ones first, and I sometimes go two weeks before laundering them. If I have guests over, I’ll place the cover onto the ice bucket to save any embarrassment for anyone. When I launder them, I do a small load just for the cloths, and although I usually hang my laundry outdoors to dry, I use my dryer for the cloths, placing one old towel in with them to help them to dry faster. When I first started using the cloths, I washed them every week and would just hang them on my wooden drying rack, but now that I’ve made enough to last more than a week, the rack won’t hold them all, therefore I use the dryer.

    I guess family cloths aren’t for everyone, but I feel so good about using them, and they ARE softer and I love using them!

  24. this is all very interesting and something we plan ‘if things go south…..’ really don’t think I could convince the rest of the family to be interested….but you never know. it makes absolute sense. IF we climb out of our mamby pamby way of living ~ have you figured how much $$ would be saved ? Thanks for having the guts to post !

  25. You have my mind ticking… I know this might be gross… but I need more specifics… Do you rinse your cloth before you stick it in a bucket/bag. Do you soak them? How does it work EXACTLY. 😀

    • Katie Mae says:

      Haha, if they are messy I rinse them first, normally I don’t need to. I wipe my rear with a cloth wipe, through it in a bucket and wash a couple times a week. I don’t soak them.

    • Okay, so not to share too much information, but I tend to have soft stools and I have a toilet “closet”, so if the family cloth gets messy (which is very possible) are you saying to rinse it right away — and if so where? The toilet bowl? The bathroom sink? I can definitely see advantages for using a family cloth, it’s just the logistics I’m curious about.

      Thanks

      • Katie Mae says:

        Well to continue with the TMI since this whole post might be concider that as well, I have gone through periods of time with soft stools as well. If the are too messy which does happen sometimes I rinse them right away in the sink since I only wash my cloth once or twice a week. I rinse my cloth pads out in the sink aswell. I just spray the sink with a little vinegar when I am done and go on my way. I hope that helps! 🙂

  26. I just heard about this idea about a week ago. I don’t know why it never dawned on me, I used cloth wipes for my babies, but this just seems a bit more than most people can (or think they can) handle. Aside from the fact that our most oft-used bathroom is fairly small and the toilet is awkwardly placed very close to a perpendicular wall, there isn’t an obvious or convenient place to put a basket with clean cloths nor a bin or bag for the dirty ones. This idea is REALLY growing on me (Hubs…not so much) but I would absolutely have to wash the family cloth in its own separate load. Washing the towels I’m going to use on my hands, face, dishes, counters, etc. with the cloths that are going to be wiping my heinie… that’s one step toward more eco-, budget- friendly I won’t ever be able to go!

    • i dont understand why people have a problem with washing FC with the rest of your clothing. do you wash all the underwear separately? or just wash with the rest of the clothing?…. yes your not Wiping your self with the underwear, but lets face it they get soiled too. nothing a cup of vinegar cant fix.

      • Actually, I do a white load separately. So socks, underwear and t-shirts are done in one load using a bit of bleach. I also get squeamish thinking of putting family cloths in with regular laundry. Having said that, we haven’t used family cloth’s yet. My husband thinks that is pretty gross. 🙂

  27. I started a few months after my daughter was born. I figured I was already washing her diapers and wipes, what’s a few more wipes in each load? My significant other was not entirely sold on it at first, but when he saw how much less TP we go through just when I’m using cloth for #1, he got on board.

  28. So, you wipe and the cloth would have feces on it and you just throw it in with your towels? Years ago, I used cloth diapers but I soaked or rinsed them.
    I just got a tinkle belt for my male dog. But I don’t think I’ll throw it in our laundry load.

  29. We (okay, I privately) have been thinking about this for over a year now. It would have been hard to do living in a camper with no washing machine but totally doable now, especially since we have a master bath that’s more private.

  30. I have greatly considered it. However hubby is dead set against it. So I’m thinking that once we have kids, and have diapers to wash, I may just make some FC for myself for #1 and not say anything. After all, I’ve mostly gotten rid of paper towels, tampons are a thing of the past, (I’m still waiting on the extra $$$ for momma cloth to use as liners), so why not get rid of one more paper product?

  31. Aaaand this will save you from any unfounded claims of you “hoarding” the toilet paper . . cause Lord knows, we can’t stand for that sin. But on the other hand – might you be called out for using more than your fair share of water?

    So – to be honest I *can* see some benefit . . . I even hate to admit that.

    It’s the cost benefit I’m seeing as the biggest plus. But our water bill is pretty high here . . . I don’t know.

    • Katie Mae says:

      Or save you from getting in trouble for trowing away TP that got wet, when someone finds it in the burn pile….

      If your whole fam used it you might have one extra load a week, but not more than that.

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  1. […] Use family cloth instead of toilet paper. We haven’t tried this one yet, I am still trying to convince Hubs it is a good idea. But for those of you ready to take the plunge in to a zero waste lifestyle do it! […]

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