Life Without Paper Towels   Leave a comment

This came up at Thanksgiving as an interesting conversation during the final meal preparations. Someone asked where we keep the paper towels, but we don’t have any. Oddly enough we had more “need” for paper towels during the 8 hours around the Thanksgiving dinner than we have for years. I’d say there was universal surprise that we don’t have paper towels.

How do we live without paper towels? Easily. When I sat down to write this post, I tried to remember when we stopped using paper towels and I can’t. So it could have been 2 years ago, or a little more or a little less. I do remember how it happened: We finished a roll of paper towels and just never replaced it. The paper towel holder got donated, and that’s history. So what do we use instead? Mostly rags.

For your typical cleanup situations we have lots of rags. A bin of old socks, t-shirts, etc. supplies rags for general cleanups around the house. When we first went without paper towels we decided that it was ok if we occasionally felt the need to throw away a rag that we felt had gotten too dirty to go in the laundry and back in the rag bin. Somewhat surprisingly, that hasn’t happened. I do have to confess that we have a small box of paper napkins from our unfortunate take-out food habit. I can’t think of an instance off the top of my head, but we have probably used a paper napkin a time or two for particularly gross/oily/sticky cleanups.

In the kitchen we have a drawer with random old washcloths that are used in place of paper towels for kitchen-specific tasks. These are segregated from the regular rags because it just seems like a good idea.

Between the rags and the washcloths (and the stash of paper napkins), almost all paper towel uses are covered. The only thing missing is gauze. I’ve been meaning for years to order some organic cotton gauzy fabric to be the final piece in the paper towel replacement scheme. I’d like the gauze for tasks like wrapping parsley or other herbs in the fridge, or layering cooked foods like platanos that need to drain/de-oil. This is certainly the least crucial of the paper towel replacements, as we get by fine without, but it is still something I’d eventually like to have.

Why go without paper towels? For me it’s an issue of getting out of the throw-away mentality. Even if you compost the used paper towels, they still have a larger footprint than the alternatives. If you don’t compost them, they most likely go into a landfill where they will last just about forever. But thinking beyond the roll itself there’s the trim from the edge of the rolls, the bleach, the plastic wrapping, lots of water used during manufacture, lots of energy use during manufacture and transport, and the impact of the tree harvesting. As opposed to the rags, which were all old clothing resurrected for many more useful years. Or even new washcloths that will be used for years? decades? before being trashed.

Advertisements

Posted December 3, 2011 by mayakey in frugal living, home, resource use, unshopping

Tagged with

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: