Fact: even though we cloth diaper, we don't use reusable all the time.
I hope that doesn't come as too much of a surprise. We use cloth the majority of the time, we don't own disposable sandwich or snack bags and try using cloth napkins as much as possible. Yet, there are still times that we pull out disposable plates or (sadly) bring home plastic grocery bags. (Bea Johnson might be disappointed.)
Cloth and reusable options could technically be used all the time, and we probably shouldn't even buy disposables so it's not an option. Alas, we're not there yet. Here are a few of those times that we have opted out of cloth or reusable options...
Go >> here to read why we sometimes use disposable diapers.
Reusable vs. Disposable
Hand towels vs. PaperWe don't buy paper towels, but our landlord delivers them to us once a month. We keep them on hand for the occasional mess that we'd rather throw away than have to wash away. Otherwise we have a stash of rags to grab for quick clean up. They're also handy for if we want disposable napkins instead of cloth. When it comes down to it, I could give up paper towels today, except in public restrooms. When there is no electric dryer, I grab a paper towel.
Reusable bags vs. PlasticThere shouldn't be a reason for me to ever need a plastic grocery bag. Unfortunately, it's not uncommon for me to find myself at the grocery store with a cart full of groceries and no reusable bags. Shame on me! Keeping the bags by the door or in the car might help. Also keeping a tightly folded bag like envirosax in my purse for other shopping. I'm still learning to refuse--if it's one item, saying "no thanks" to the bag and just carry it out.
Glass dishes vs. Paper, plastic or styrofoamWe currently have 16 regular-size plates in our cupboard. Sounds a little extreme in light of my minimalist and Project Eliminate endeavors, however this takes away the need for disposable plates when we have a group of people over for dinner or a holiday meal. As long as we're home and have enough plates to share, why not? Disposable comes in handy for the occasional picnic or brief time during a move when the plates have all been packed away.
Reusable snack/lunch bags vs. DisposableWe don't buy snack bags anymore. We stock up on snack bags (like the Munchkin above) and glass containers to use for leftovers, lunches, picnics and outings.
Reusable water bottles vs. PlasticWe carry around our own filtered water in a reusable water bottle. It's cheaper and less wasteful. If we forget (which is easy to do), we often accept plastic when it's offered.
DivaCup vs. TamponsI just wrote about reusable menstrual products. I'm happy to say I haven't bought or used tampons in almost 3 years! There just hasn't been a need. But there could be a chance I'd travel and forget my Diva when I needed it, and that might be a good time to use disposable. Instead, I just remember the Diva! It's just one product, so I've even taken it with me on trips when I was pretty sure I wouldn't need it "just in case." There's really no reason to buy disposable in this category. (Disposable panty liners are a different story for me.)
Conclusion on Reusable vs. DisposableWhile cloth and reusable options should be used as much as possible, I feel there are some times when disposable is helpful or even necessary. The point is: One is meant for daily use on a regular basis, and the other is meant for occasional use when reusable is not an option or would be very inconvenient.
I feel there is a balance, and the more I can let go of the convenience of disposable options, the closer I'll be to my zero waste goals and reducing my footprint.
Go >> here to read about the time and place for disposable diapers.