Monday, July 2, 2012

Reducing Our Use of Paper Products [#CTWW]

This week's challenge comes from Reduced Footprints.

For the next two weeks refuse to use (or buy) paper towels. Yep, 14 days ... no paper towels. And ... to make things just a bit more interesting ... let's include paper plates and single-use utensils, cups, etc.

Or ...

If you never use paper towels or single-use utensils, please share how you avoid them. We'd like to know how you handle "messy" messes (like pet "accidents", cooking oil splatters & spills, etc.) ... and what you use instead of single-use products for picnics, entertaining, etc. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to come up with tips and ideas to help us all live without these products and reduce waste.

I read the current challenge with my husband sitting next to me and laughed out loud. If I took away paper towels for two weeks, my husband would go into shock and fall to the floor trembling. Basically, he would not know what to do with himself if there were no paper towels in the kitchen.

Reducing our use of paper products like paper towels and tissues has been very challenging. The convenience of ripping off a paper towel to clean up a mess and the ease of throwing it in the trashcan is an act that has been ingrained in the common American's mind. Yes, you do not have to deal with cleaning a towel, but the amount of money spent on disposable paper products and the amount of trash it adds to the landfill is something that we should always keep in the front of our minds.

For this post, I am going to focus on paper towels because that is the biggest challenge I am currently tackling. Here are some of the ways that I have tried to reduce use of paper towels in our house:

Once the paper towel roll finished, my husband did not go down to the basement to get another roll for several weeks. We were both working long hours and must have not cooked as much. I put out some wash cloth size towels close to the area where the paper towels were. After a few weeks, he did get a roll because he was doing a painting job. Either way, a few weeks was awesome. 

Then, I hid the paper towel roll in the cabinet above the microwave. Out of sight, out of mind, right?  Wrong! This only lasted for a few hours. He must have gone on a hunt or found the roll accidentally.

I did order some organic cloth napkins for us to use.  We need to put them in rotation.
  1. Stock up on towels of all sizes (I found organic cotton towels at Tuesday Morning) COMPLETE
  2. Keep small towels (washcloth size) on the counter for easy access when cleaning messes COMPLETE
  3. Use the small towels when eating dinner to wipe hands and mouths In Progress
  4. Purchase cloth napkins for guests (on the To Do list) COMPLETE
  5. Purchase recycled paper towels or paper towels with smaller sheets
  6. Reuse lightly soiled paper towels for multiple clean up tasks
Since the laundry basket is located close to the kitchen, I just toss dirty towels right in. You can also purchase a hanging wet bag for the kitchen to toss your dirty towels into.

I have accepted that we will never be able to completely stop using paper towels, but there are actions I can take to greatly reduce our use of them.

>> What are your tips for reducing use of paper towels in the kitchen?


Unknown said...

We've found a ton of cloth napkins at second hand stores. I think that most people don't use them so the ones we found are brand new. It's kind of fun to have different colors and styles at meals.

I think giving up paper towels is more of a mindset. Once one wraps their head around using cloth for cleanups, it becomes pretty easy. I have a stack of clean-up cloths which I keep in a convenient place and we just reach for those. I haven't bought paper towels in years and really haven't missed them. :-)

Kristina (The Greening Of Westford) said...

I agree with small footprints that giving up paper towels is a mindset. We do the same as she does. Although I admit that I still buy paper towels and use them on occasion. But, since starting this challenge myself, I haven't replaced the empty roll in over a week and no one is asking for them!

I think your list of ideas for reducing your use is a great place to start! Good luck!

Angie said...

I don't buy paper towels, but my husband does on occasion. If I have them, I use them to line a plate when frying which isn't often.

I use kitchen dish cloths for cleaning and washing and kitchen hand towels for drying.

I have found most all my cloth napkins at fleamarkets or antiques shops.

To cut down on family use, I keep paper towels out of sight (out of mind) i.e. keeping in closed pantry or under sink as opposed to on the counter or on a towel roller/rack. I keep a kitchen dish cloth out so it's handy.

Unknown said...

@Ladies - I do agree that out of sight, out of mind is the best way to go. That way, you can begin to change your mindset. I have the paper towels tucked in between things, but I might try "hiding" them even more and putting cloth in their place.

@Small Footprints and Angie - Thank you for the idea about thrift/second hand stores. For some reason, I didn't even think about looking there. I will now!

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