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.


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Living Green:People Towels

I’m on my very last roll of paper towels…ever, if I get my say so in the matter.  Over the last couple of years I’ve slowly been trying to make the switch in our household from paper products to reusable, sustainable ones. First came the switch from paper plates on an everyday basis to only reusable dinnerware.

So the next big thing on my list is the ol’ switcheroo of paper towels to reusable ones ONLY.   I’m stretching them as far as I can and now the picture at the left shows you just how few are left in my stash. I’ll be honest, I’ve been contemplating  getting some more-they really seem so convenient sometimes.  But then I saw these People Towels and I was re-inspired to completely drop the roll of paper towels and run away!!! (=

People Towels focus mostly on paper towel usage in  public restrooms like at work or a restaurant. Anywhere that you’ve seen and heard that all familiar  raipid “clang, clang”  followed by a ripping sound is a place you could use a People Towel instead of  a tree. I just love this idea, its something I had never thought of before. These towels are just so cute I would love to have some. Made of 100% organic, fair trade cotton, they offer several designs that clearly spell out the message and will probably be seen by dozens of people everytime they are used and help to get the message spread (a good reason to buy these particular ones if you can).

According to the promoters of the product, over 3,000 tons of paper towel waste is produced in the US alone, everyday. I don’t doubt these statistics. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if its not actually higher. It’s so easy to think “Oh I just need MY  towel a little bit longer to make sure my hands get dry.” I watch people do it all the time and am quite guilty of it myself.

Now if your a little strapped for cash after the holidays like me, then the $8 price tag just might deter you. BUT I propose an alternative that can get the job done and still support the concept behind People Towels. And isn’t that the idea anyways?  Just take some small towels that you have at home and  carry them with you. On your way out the door grab your reusable water bottle and grocery bags (you’ve got those right???) and toss in a couple of hand towels and wa-la! Problem solved and you’ve managed to be kinder to mother earth. Now, green planet superheroes-onto to solve world peace and world hunger. Small tasks for our green minded selves, right?!?