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Disposable vs. Reusable

PLATES Story and photo by Shauna Kosoris

Are Reusable Plates Really Better for the Environment? Last summer, my sister-in-law came to one of my bonfires with her own reusable dishes, refusing to use the disposable ones I had. I’d opted for disposables for the convenience. Who wants to lug the dishes outside, worry about something breaking, then lug everything back inside to be washed? But my sister-in-law’s refusal gave me pause. Over the last few years, she has become very ecoconscious, thinking about the impact plastics and other garbage has on the environment at times when it admittedly doesn’t occur to me. Would it be better for the environment to forgo the paper for reusables?

It takes 8 gallons of water to produce one paper plate! Paper plates don’t have to be washed. This means, at first glance, reusable plates use a lot more water than their disposable counterparts. How much water depends on whether you’re handwashing or using a dishwasher and how old and efficient your dishwasher is. But did you know that a paper plate takes a lot of water to produce? I’ve found estimates at eight gallons of fresh water per plate. In comparison, a typical dishwasher uses about six gallons of water per cycle.

Handwashing a load of plates takes less water. I don’t have a dishwasher, so I have to wash everything by hand. My single, standard-sized kitchen sink holds about 7.5 gallons of water. I slowly fill the sink up while doing the dishes, so I can comfortably say washing one load of plates uses, at most, 7.5 gallons of water, which is less than it takes to manufacture a single paper plate. Reusables are the obvious eco-friendly choice. But that doesn’t mean I have to risk breaking my ceramic plates at one of my gatherings. I’m going to keep an eye out at thrift stores for some good reusable plastic ones so I can entertain during the summer months without worry.

30 About the Author

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Shauna Kosoris is a writer who lives in Thunder Bay, the largest city in Northern Ontario, Canada. She started her blog, sustainablynorth.com, out of a belief that while it is challenging to live a more sustainable life, particularly in Northern Ontario, it is both possible and necessary so we can preserve our world for tomorrow. On Sustainably North, she shares book reviews, information on gardening and baking, links to articles and videos, and her thoughts and experiences about striving to live a more sustainable life. Follow Sustainably North on Twitter @SustaintheNorth or Pinterest @SustainablyNorth.

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bUneke Magazine Issue 8  

Our environmental Issue. Let’s work together to make 2019 the year Mother Earth starts to heal. Highlights: Eco-Friendly Travel • Clean Har...

bUneke Magazine Issue 8  

Our environmental Issue. Let’s work together to make 2019 the year Mother Earth starts to heal. Highlights: Eco-Friendly Travel • Clean Har...

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