Simplify Your Life: Ditch the Paper Towels

I’ve been reading about families who choose to completely go paperless for a while now. Our society depends very heavily on paper products. From an ecological standpoint, the statistics regarding paper usage are staggering:

Statistics provided by the Environmental Protection Agency website.

-Americans use 25% of the world’s paper products.

-The average American uses 748 pounds of paper each year.

-Only 45% of paper is recycled in the U.S.

-An estimated 2.5 million paper towels are thrown away every year, although this number could not actually be traced to hard core facts because there’s no way of knowing the actual projection. My guess? This number is actually much bigger.

From an economical standpoint, the price of paper towels purchased over a year or decade is shocking. If the average family spends $10-12 a month on paper towels, that’s at least $120 a year. My family could use $120. For some it’s pocket change, but for us, we strive to live outside of the consumer-driven bubble that drives this country. For a simple and natural family, common goals include saving money, providing nutritional real foods for our kids, seeking quality medical care, and valuing our faith and time together above all else. You save where you can to teach yourself and your children the frivolity in consumerism and the value of hard-earned money. And the side product is a greener household and discovering the value in people rather than things along the way.

I stated earlier that I had read about families who cut out paper towels entirely with no second thought. I didn’t mention my idea to Travis because to be honest, I thought about all of the non-cleaning uses of the paper towel and was convinced we couldn’t survive without them!

After cooking bacon, I lay it out on a paper towel to drain any grease. We used paper towels as napkins. For super yucky messes like when the cat inevitably gets sick on the carpet, who doesn’t love the ease of a quick paper towel swipe that can then be tossed in the trash? I wasn’t convinced I could live without these conveniences! But then last month, Travis had the idea. “What if we stopped buying paper towels? Just never bought another one?” Panic crossed my face. But my bacon sopping! The cat puke!

Then he said the words that are guaranteed to grab my attention: “It’ll save us a little bit of money every month…” Hmmm…yes. Yes it will…

So at the beginning of the month, instead of buying several packages of paper towels like I would normally purchase, we bought two packs of dish towels. One was just basic terry cloth hand towels, another a package of thinner tea towels. $6 for all the towels. Money saved already. There were a dozen terry cloth towels and 4 tea towels. {For an even more budget-friendly idea, you can cut rags up from old towels hiding in the linen closet.} We also bought a small trash can with a revolving lid to easily drop the dirty towels and rags right in there and carry the can to the laundry when it was full.

Honestly? I was skeptical. We tend to get lazy with such ideas. On paper, they look great. In reality? They fall victim to our busyness and lack of familiarity with “the system.” However, I can proudly say this one is a winner in our house! Next month when I do my grocery shopping, I’ll pick up one more package of the terry cloth towels and the tea towels and we should be set.

When I made bacon last week for a casserole, I laid it out to drain and dry on a tea towel. Didn’t even think twice about it. When the cat got sick yesterday {because that’s what cats do} I didn’t remotely miss my paper towels. The grossness always soaked through them anyway and got my hands sinfully soiled. Ick.

We’ve transitioned into our new no-paper kitchen very nicely. Little loves tossing the used rags into the bin at the end of the day, and the convenience of carrying the entire bin into the laundry room when it gets full is too easy to describe. We pull a fresh rag out in the morning that we use to wipe up counters and the table and then we pull more rags as we need them for various purposes throughout the day. We use larger dish towels for hand drying. Because we have a nice little stash of rags {that will soon be added to} I’ve yet to be without one when I need one.

And the napkins? We use the beautiful linen napkins that were given to us as wedding gifts that usually only see the outside of the drawer at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Why not use your good stuff now? It’s just stuff. You can’t take it with you anyway.

I would like to challenge my readers to do something different in the upcoming month. Change something about your life, even if its something as small as your paper towel use. You might surprise yourself. You never know the value of one tiny difference until you try it.




Filed under Simplify Your Life

2 responses to “Simplify Your Life: Ditch the Paper Towels

  1. Keadie

    We are doing this too! I hardly ever miss the paper towels. There are ways to get the cat messes. I use collected grocery plastic bags for that, put my hand in, scoop the mess and turn inside out.

    Now, what I need to do is go for cloth table napkins. Prior generations did this. You’ve heard of napkin rings, right? People still use them for parties but people used to have these on hand for everyday use.

    My grandmother used to have a linen roller towel attached to the inside of the bathroom door. This was a 2.5 foot wide linen runner sewn into a loop, which was held on by two roller bars and brackets (one up, one down). It was about 3.5-4 feet long on there, and rolled along as you used it. That thing was just for drying hands and it was fantastic.

    Great topic!

    • Keadie,

      I LOVE your grandmother’s towel roll idea. I remember walking into a really gross gas station one time and finding something similar in use in a public bathroom. TERRIBLE idea for a public restroom, but a great one for your own home kitchen. We actually have some napkin rings too! We got them as wedding gifts along with the nice linen napkins, but those usually stay tucked in the drawer. You’ve kind of inspired me to pull these out too. Why not? They sit in the drawer all year long, and we don’t have enough of them to use them at Christmas. I think we have a set of 4, and we usually have about 10 people over at Christmas. So they never get used.

      That reminds me of this author I heard once on some talk show {maybe Oprah?} saying to use your good stuff. He was urging all of America to make dinner a little more special tonight by eating it on their nice china, or to break the “rules” and spend time as a family in that family den that is NEVER lived in. I think it’s a great campaign. We set up dumb rules and restrictions for ourselves anyway. And like I said, you can’t take that stuff with you when you go, so make memories with it now.

      Glad you like the idea, thanks for commenting 🙂

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