Bism Illah wa as salaamu alaikum wa Rahmat Allah wa Barakatuh.
Ever read a single hadith about anyone having a paper napkin, paper towel, tissue, toilet paper, disposable diaper, flushable tampon, or disposable sanitary pad in the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him)? Well, I'm waiting. What? You cannot believe it? There isn't anything about Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) wiping up the mess with Bounty Extra-Strong? Nothing about Sumayyah (may Allah be pleased with her) digging a hole for her Stayfree with Wings? I guess you get where I'm heading with this then.
During the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him), they used cloth for all these daily household and personal care things. The "green" movement has already gone back to using cloth because, after killing off and wasting so many natural resources, it has become an environmental issue. Most of us know by now that the diapers and sanitary pads stay in landfills and don't decompose. We are simply filling up the earth Allah (subhaana wa taala) has entrusted to us with najiss (filthy) waste. How do we turn this thing around?
Napkins: buy cloth napkins made from natural fibers such as cotton or linen. If you can, please buy them from a thrift or second hand shop like Goodwill. You will often find better quality and will put them to good use instead of them going to waste. You will also gain the reward of not spending more money than necessary, masha'Allah. Better yet, use those extra sheets or cotton shirts and make your own; after all it's just sewing around a square of cloth. Recycling is an important Sunnah... yet another discussion to get to! I have seen some beautiful napkins at yard sales, etc. and have collected them from here and there, masha'Allah. Some were given as gifts as well, so think of this when you need a gift idea for a sister insha'Allah. Now, we have a nice little basket with napkins folded up in it and whenever they are needed, they are on hand. They get thrown in the washing machine and are good to go again. We even take them with us on picnics with all our reusable plates, cups, and cutlery masha'Allah.
Paper towels: buy cloths to wipe up the spills or simply cut up old towels or absorbent t-shirts. When it comes to cleaning and wiping up spills, I have a big bag of cotton clothes that aren't fit for charity that I cut up and use. I never buy paper towels and the cloth is all natural cotton. Nothing beats a nice tube sock on the hand for wiping down cupboards and countertops...and since the odd socks keep turning up, our house is quite famous for our cleaning socks! When the cloth is dirty simply wash it, or if it is in a horrible state, throw it away. No more paper towel bills.
Tissues: buy cotton handkerchiefs. I'm stressing cotton because we really need to get back to natural materials. I strongly recommend you look in thrift stores and yard sales for these simply because the old ones are exquisite, masha'Allah, The embroidery work, the designs, the workmanship... all are outstanding. My mother had a big collection of handkerchiefs she was happy to share with us. I also bought a big lot from e-bay and distributed them to my children. The girls all know which ones are theirs because they each have different designs. The "men" of the house have their own as well. They are washed, returned and we never have a problem about running out of tissues.
Toilet tissue/paper: Small washcloth or hand size towels for drying oneself. Separate (color coded) ones for each family member. We use water to wash ourselves, so they are really for drying purposes only. This is one that, for most, is hard to implement with a big family, so I'm not stressing it.
Diapers: Get cloth diapers. That's the Sunnah, cloth. Get cotton, nice and absorbent, no allergy problems for your baby's behind, simply throw into a bucket with water and vinegar or baking soda, and throw in the washing machine every couple of days. You will never have to buy a disposable diaper again. I've done it, I can advise about all the ins and outs of making it easy, inshaa Allah.
Baby Wipes: Use small baby washcloths and a spray bottle of water with some aloe vera juice, a few drops of tea tree oil, and a 1/4 teaspoon of castille soap. Spray and wipe, then simply wash the cloths to be used again and again. Your baby will get used to being washed with water from day one, making istinjah a natural thing.
Sanitary pads: Hemp or cotton washable sanitary pads are comfortable, natural, and the Sunnah. Go read ahadith about it and you'll clearly see that the women simply used pieces of cloth to catch their menstrual blood. I bought mine five years ago, before I had my second daughter and I've never looked back since. They don't move around, they are comfortable and breathe, and mashaa Allah I haven't had to buy a single sanitary pad since that day. If you hate to see stains, then go for dark colors. For the sewing sisters, there are patterns online for ones with wings that you can sew up simply. You can even buy thick hemp knit material and just cut it to size. Looking for an even easier solution. Fold thick terry washcloths into three and use them. Believe me, it is simplicity itself. Just have a little bag to collect them in, wash them, and you are all set again.
Shopping Bags: Get strong canvas bags from thrift stores, freecycle, or hanging around your closet/basement and use them for your shopping instead of the plastic bags. They are stronger, can safely hold more, and not only save money but also the environment mashaa'Allah.
Mashaa'Allah, going back to some of the simple living of the sahabah not only brings about a healthier lifestyle, it also saves the earth, puts a stop to the huge waste we perpetrate every day, and eliminates many expenses. Remember that we must answer for everything we did in this life, including our wastefulness, extravagance, the part we play in polluting and destroying the earth, and the distance we have put between our lives and the life of our beloved Prophet (peace be upon him).