Thursday, August 6, 2009

Stop using paper towels and napkins!

It is the single most disconcerting yet ridiculously simple and cost effective waste reduction effort you can make in your home. Picture this: you invite a couple of friends over to cook out and chill out. If you don't use paper napkins or towels, undoubtedly, these three things will happen:

  1. A mess! Oh my! "Where are your paper towels?" they say. "We don't use them," you say. A look of utter confusion strikes them. "What do you want me to use?!" they blurt. "There are some small towels for clean ups in that drawer, just toss it in the washer." Amazingly, one towel does the trick.
  2. Your guest(s) run around with dirty fingers looking for paper napkins, they pass the cloth ones on the dining table several times but will still ask where the paper napkins are. You direct them to the cloth ones and they respond with "oh I don't want to mess up your good napkins." You must tell them that they are your only napkins and it is absolutely no problem to wash napkins along with everything else. A look of confusion comes over their features. They use the cloth napkins. You suspect they like them and feel special because they used them.
  3. Someone asks for napkins, you direct them to the cloth napkins, they follow up with "oh, well where are your paper towels?" You tell them you don't have any. Perhaps they would like a small towel? A look of confusion briefly passes over their features. They go for the cloth napkins.
Growing up, I associated cloth napkins with fancy restaurants. We owned a lot of fancy diningware but I can't recall any cloth napkins. We bought thicker paper napkins for dining affairs. We used several napkins at a meal. Napkins, napkins everywhere. Messes required numerous paper towels. I've noticed recently that, often times, you'll be in someone's kitchen, hands dripping, turning round and round, looking for a towel and your host points you to the paper towels. That's when I wipe my hands on my pants and concentrate on not making rebellious comments or how to tone them down so I don't come off rude.

Why are we so compelled to use paper products for every day living? You have to take out the trash more often and you have another regular expense to add to your list. Using cloth has a tiny impact on your laundry, works better, and feels more luxurient. Disturb your guests and start using cloth! You might even consider buying cloth napkins for gifts ...


  1. We stopped using paper towels at our house too. There's still a half roll sitting forlorn and forgotten on the table that never gets used anymore!