Headed towards back to the basics living.

Living Green: Tossing out the ol’ Paper Towels


They're all gone!

I recently wrote about my ever diminishing supply of paper towels and my goal of not replacing them with more.  That’s when I realized that if I actually plan on doing this for real I need to get more practical and figure out specific alternatives. That way, when the times comes I don’t cave and have some paper towels ‘accidentally’ find their way into my cart at the store. (You’re not buying the accidental part are you???)

So I was really excited when I came across an article on Planet Green. It gives seven daily tasks that most people normally grab a paper towel for and provides specific alternative ideas for each one. Aha! This was an article I needed to jump start the process. I listed my version of the tasks and alternatives below. But if you’ve got the time and the interest, click here, for the original article.

1.Countertop Cleaning. Easy Alternative: Sponges. Sponges are notorious for harboring germs but if you nuke them in the microwave, you nuke the germs-IF you can get the whole thing to boil for at least 2-3 minutes. Otherwise you end up with pockets that didn’t get completely cleansed. I prefer a different method (it’s cheaper and easier)  and promise to share more in a coming soon post, stay tuned.

2. Soaking up Spills. Easy Alternative: Cloth Towels (again). For stuff you really don’t want spreading everywhere (like raw meat liquids)  you could  keep these separate from regular clean up towels.  I like the idea of using a separate color or patterned towel that way you could avoid any possible confusion and thus cross contamination. I think this will be one of my biggest changes. I have always used paper towels for sanitary reasons on this one.

3. Cleaning mirrors or windows. Easy Alternative: Microfiber Towels and newspaper.Easy enough.

4. Bathroom Cleaning. Easy Alternative: Reusable sponges and towels. Just be sure to  use a different color/ type of sponge and towels and keep these separate from the ones used in the kitchen.

5. Drying your hands. Easy Alternative: Terrycloth Towels. No surprise here really. Most people have this covered at home but I have actually seen paper towels in more and more home bathrooms lately. I think it has to do with the idea that they seem more sanitary somehow. But actually if you only use a small towel/washcloth once or twice and then throw it in the wash its the same idea.

**I’ve tried to start this idea using washcloths in my guest bath but I haven’t had too much success. The stack never seems to go down. I think people don’t understand the idea. Either that or they don’t know where to put the washcloth when they are done so they are afraid to grab a new one. My plan was to eventually put a pretty basket with a lid  next to the stack with a cute little sign that explains the idea.

Kind of like the ones they post in hotels about their towel policy. Unfortunately, I don’t have any pretty baskets available so posted the note referencing a  small laundry basket beneath the sink for the dirty towels.

6. Food prep. Easy Alternative: Cloth Towels (yes, again-they really are so useful). I’ve used cloth towels for drying off rinsed produce (as suggested in the article I read). I have also used them to stand in as a cutting board and also when cutting up produce as a place to put all the inedible parts headed for the trash (or compost bin if you are so lucky to have one). It works great for this purpose because you just gather up the corners and give it a shake over the trash can.

7. Blowing your nose. (Sort of ) Easy Alternative: A Handkerchief. Okay, I have to admit this is almost where I draw the line. When I was little, I always hated when grown-ups whipped these out and asked me if I needed to use it. Ew, no I don’t want to use your crusty old handkerchief. I would rather use my sleeve, thank you very much. BUT, the new idea behind handkerchiefs is to use them only once and then toss them in a pile to be washed. Now this idea, MAYBE I can handle  it. Just remind me to wear gloves when I toss these in the wash, please!

And to add a couple more of my own:

8. A place to rest your drink and hand/face cleaners at social functions. Easy Alternative: Coasters aplenty and a plentiful supply of fabric napkins on hand.  (A good excuse to work on my sewing skills-yay!)

9. Moisture Absorber in food storage. Easy Alternative: Reusable (and dare I say cheaper, over the long haul) lettuce/produce bags. I always store my rinsed lettuce between sheets of paper towels in a large gallon sized baggie. It works relatively well for preserving the lettuce. However it’s not so good for the environment or the pocket book. I’ve seen them suggested somewhere but just wasn’t motivated enough to get them until now. This is going on my shopping list for next time!  (Thinking of ordering these from Amazon. They’ve gotten good reviews. Anyone tried these? Or have another good one???)

Looking at this list gives me hope that maybe a paper towel free life is actually possible. What do you think? Does it seem realistic to you? Would love to hear your thoughts and any paper towel alternative ideas you’ve got.


3 thoughts on “Living Green: Tossing out the ol’ Paper Towels

  1. I’ve cut my papertowel useage in half at least! Got so tired of spending $$ on something I was just going to throw away! Switched to cheap washclothes from walmart. I was keeping the kitchen rags separate from the bathroom ones but I gave up on that. I just throw in 1/2 cup of vinegar into the wash with the towels. It not only softens the clothes but disinfects them as well. By the way, I am going to try the vinegar and peroxide thing too.

  2. Pingback: Earth Hour 2010 « theCOZYgreenCOCOON

  3. Pingback: Making Reusable Cloth Napkins « theCOZYgreenCOCOON

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