Monday, March 2, 2009

Going Green: No More Paper Towels!

Did you ever stop to think how much waste we produce with paper towels and napkins in our home? These things are so convenient, but they use up valuable resources and pile up in our land fills. In the United States, we generate 3,000 tons of paper towel waste every day. On top of that, we use an average of 2,200 paper napkins per person every year. In my house alone that would be 11,000 napkins – that’s crazy!

Most of these towels and napkins are made from virgin fiber (straight from the tree) which just seems like a huge waste for something that’s going right into the trash after one use. If every house replaced one roll of virgin fiber paper towels and one package of virgin fiber napkins with 100% recycled ones, we could save over 2 million trees! Not to mention, traditional paper towels and napkins are bleached with yucky chlorine. Bleh.

Alright, so how can you reduce your paper towel and napkin usage? It’s easy, I promise!
Let’s start with napkins. When my husband and I got married, we received 12 lovely linen napkins at our shower. After that they sat in a drawer unused for years until I broke them out last year. Now I try to use them for every meal and a napkin used at lunch can be reused at dinner if it is not that dirty. I’m sure most people have cloth napkins in their house, but if not, it’s worth it to go out and buy some. Of course the greenest thing to do would be to get organic cotton napkins, but linen napkins are good too. And don’t forget about the kiddies! If you missed my review on Fabkins (napkins for kids), be sure to check it out. William uses our regular napkins at home meals, but I send a Fabkins with him to school in his lunchbox.

Now what about paper towels? I use regular dish towels for things likes drying my hands or drying dishes and other basic kitchen needs. I know you have these, so stop using paper to dry your hands! For cleaning, I use microfiber cloths. On windows, you can just damp a microfiber cloth with some warm water and then start cleaning without adding any cleaners. They also are great for dusting – no need for chemical sprays, just use a dry microfiber cloth and the little fibers naturally attract all the dust particles. I also use these for almost all of my other cleaning. A microfiber cloth along with my homemade cleaning solution does an awesome job on countertops, tables, bathrooms…pretty much anything really!

There are a lot of microfiber cloths out there, but I’m a cheapie so I bought mine at Walmart. If you head over to their automotive section, you can find an 8-pack for a pretty low price. I’ve had mine for over a year and they are still going strong.

Now it would totally defeat the purpose if you don’t wash these in an eco-friendly way. By that I mean, don’t do a load in hot water just for your napkins or cleaning cloths! I throw mine in with my regular towel load and I wash in cold water (unless they are really yucky, then maybe warm). It’s important to note that you cannot use fabric softeners or dryer sheets with microfiber, it will reduce their absorbency. I just hang mine up to dry, they dry really quick!

I will say that we still have both paper towels and paper napkins in our house because there is one defiant household member (coughmycoughhusbandcough) who doesn’t like them. However, I rarely use them myself and even a certain someone is coming around with the napkins. We have cut down our consumption considerably, which also saves us some money in the long run. If you can’t make the switch to cloth or are like me and still need some paper in the house, try to go for 100% recycled (and unbleached if you can) products. Some products to try out: Seventh Generation Paper and new Marcal Small Steps.


  1. we cut back alot on paper towels

    you have some awards, check it out here

  2. I didn't know you can't use fabric softener on microfiber. Good tips, thanks!

  3. We only use cloth napkins here (well, sometimes paper ones end up in our take out bags, so there's some lurking for extremely messy meals I guess) but I still keep paper towels around, if only for cleaning up the icky pet messes. One roll lasts months though!

    I find really nice cloth napkins at the thrift stores all the time.

  4. "I find reallynice cloth napkins at thrift stores all the time."

    This is a great tip! Thrift stores, flea markets, tag sales, etc. are all great places to pick up inexpensive napkins.

  5. Bandanas make fun napkins too and you can usually find them very cheap all over the place.

  6. I never even thought of bandanas! Love that idea! Thaks!

  7. We use a lot of the old burp cloths for wiping and cleaning up after dinner. We dont buy napkins and we save a lot from not buying paper towels.

  8. I went paperless about 6 months ago an never looked back. until the dog threw up on the kitchen floor! ugg...Have one roll for back up.

  9. Yeah, that is definitely something you need a backup roll for!

  10. Thanks for coming by my blog!
    I came over to check things out at your place and I love it!
    We use cloth napkins, too. I get mine from She has lots of other products, too.

    I'm just starting to make my own cleaners - so wish me luck on that. I'm still a little hesitant - but my husband and little boy can't take the smell of cleaners anymore!

    I'll be following you now - so I'll be keeping up.
    Great blog!


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