I’m excited about what’s about to happen here. I’ve been receiving distressed messages from my mom lately asking for my help in weening her off of paper towels and other one-time-use products. My mom is an incredible woman with many talents. She is a sewing wizard, bakes the best banana bread you’ve ever tasted and could make a garden grow without water or sunlight. She somehow knows when to call when I’m at my worst, cry-laughs within seconds of a good joke or witty remark and still sends me cards and letters as if all technology doesn’t exist. She is a super hero, so for me to be able to help her with her one-time-use product addiction is an honor and a challenge I willingly accept. Truth is, she’s not the only one who needs a paper towel intervention. We all need to learn the lesson, and be disgusted by the notion of a product that has a lifespan of a matter of seconds before it’s thrown away. This says a lot about our lifestyle and highlights the lack of responsibility we take for the things we purchase. So let’s move past this! I think the Brawny man will understand.
Paper Towels and Napkins
What do you use them for mostly? To clean up spills? Wipe down counters? As napkins during meals? To clean up cat vomit? Figure out what you mainly use your paper towels for and this will help you figure out your reusable solution. These solutions don’t include buying the 100% recycled paper towels as an alternative. You can do better than that. This is why I say no: Stop Thinking Green, Start Thinking Simple.
You use your PT to clean up messes and spills around the house.
- Quick solution: Look online or in certain grocery stores (Whole Foods has them) for reusable paper towels. The brand we’ve bought is called If You Care. Look for the 3 pack of “sponge cloths.” They are a super absorbent spongy cloth that can be used exactly like a paper towel, but reusable. Clean up the spill, rinse off the cloth and let it dry. After you feel it’s through its life span, compost it. It can be washed as well! 1 cloth replaces 15 rolls of paper towels, the company is nothing but environmentally awesome and the packaging it comes in is compostable. Boo. Yeah.
- Even better solution: Cut up old towels and cotton materials and make your own kitchen rags! This is how all messes were cleaned up before the one-time-use paper towel was invented and life went on just fine. Use the rag, rinse it out, let it dry, then wash it. If you want your rags to look pretty (why not?!) and you have some sewing skills, then here is a great tutorial on making your own dish rags: Blissfully Content.
- If you are a sewing machine (pun totally intended) solution: These blow my mind. They are similar to the solution above, but are snapped together and fit on a paper towel holder. With some sewing skills and a few snaps, you will have cloth paper towels that can be washed and reused for as long as you let them! Here’s the tutorial from a blog called My Healthy Green Family.
You use your PT as a napkin during meals.
- Quick solution: Use the same tip as #2 above. Think reuse! Old towels, sheets and clothes can be cut and used as napkins. Look for a thinner fabric because you normally don’t need something as absorbent as a paper towel for a napkin. Unless you’re REALLY messy.
- Fancy solution: Thankfully there are lots of avid sewers out there who offer dozens of free tutorials on things like DIY cloth napkins. I love the blog called Blissfully Content and the writer, Julia, gives easy tutorials for beginning sewers for most of her reusable projects. Here is how to make your own Everyday Cloth Napkins.
ON THE GO
You use a public restroom, wash your hands, then dry them with the paper towels given.
- Best solution: Air dry. Honestly, I don’t even do this one…but it IS the best solution.
- Shake and fold solution: Okay get ready for this video. It’s four minutes long, but you can get the gist within two minutes, it has a cute old man named Joe Smith and two simple steps he shares to get us all to cut down on our public paper towel usage. Here’s the video: Cute Old Man Saves the Environment in Two Steps. If you don’t watch it (WATCH IT), then here’s the gist: Only use 1 paper towel to dry your hands. On average we go for 3-4 paper towels because we think it dries them quicker. Joe’s method is to wash, rinse, then SHAKE your hands about 12 times (watch the video to find out why 12), take 1 paper towel, FOLD it in half, then dry your hands with it. The fold is key. Watch to learn why:) Go Joe.
You take paper towels with you in the car, when you travel, in your gym bag, in your diaper bag, etc.
- Best solution: Come on, you know what I’m going to say by now. Homemade rags people! Use the tutorial above for cloth napkins, but make a special stack for the car. Leave them in your glove box, put them in your various on the go bags or even in your suitcase when you travel. Go crazy with those scissors.
- Disinfectant solution: There is a great blog called DIY Natural that offers a recipe and how to for homemade disinfectant wipes. With a handful of ingredients, a mason jar and some old t-shirts, you’ll have your own wipes that disinfect and are all natural. Use them everywhere you would use the store bought kind!
What do you think mom? Once you choose one of these solutions above and commit to not buying anymore paper towels or napkins, you’ll see how easy it is to live without them. Reducing your use of paper products saves energy, water, waste and money. Every little step counts! Next time you play rock, paper scissors; always choose scissors.