Digital Marketing Consultant - Good Stuff Communications

Paper Towels:  Do You Really Need ‘Em?

Paper Towels: Do You Really Need ‘Em?

This summer I stayed with a friend that doesn’t use paper towels in his household. It was somewhat of a “eureka!” moment for me, as I had never really considered a life without paper towels. I had not really ever given using them much thought, to tell you the truth. If the kitchen needed cleaning, I would reach for the paper towels. It was more or less a lifetime habit.

I am here to tell you that I didn’t ever really need to use paper towels! I stopped buying them this summer, and there really has not yet been a situation where I have thought to myself “My god I really need a paper towel right now! What do I do?”

For every cleaning situation/catastrophe that I have encountered, a dish towel, a cloth napkin, or an old newspaper has done the trick.

Dish Towels
Dish towels are pretty cheap, they are re-usable, and they actually clean better than paper towels do because they don’t get destroyed in the cleaning process. There is also something that feels wholesome and old fashioned about using an actual towel to do your cleaning – I imagine it is similar to the experience that you have when you churn your own butter. Okay, maybe not quite like that, but it’s pretty cool.


Cloth Napkins

Cloth napkins are also relatively cheap. And it feels like every meal is fancier! Again, maybe not like a five star french bistro, but it does feel good to use a cloth napkin.

The Power of the Written Word
Newspaper cleans glass better than paper towels do! Who knew? This is one reason that I hope that the slowly crumbling newspaper industry sticks around for a bit.

Brown Paper Grocery Bags

You can use these to bring your groceries home, which is good. Then you can use them to drain/pat dry/degrease anything that you cook that gets incredibly greasy. Pizza, bacon, you name it. Also you can use paper bags + an iron to get wax out of your carpet. Who knew this was going to turn into a cleaning post?

So why on earth would you want to stop using paper towels?

Well, I estimate that I used about two rolls of paper towels every week when I was using them. It takes roughly one tree to create a roll of paper towels. So over the course of the year, that is about a savings of 100 trees.

The other nasty thing about paper towels is that most of them are not made from recycled paper – so we are turning trees into paper towels, using them once, and then tossing them into a landfill. That is a tremendous unnecessary waste of resources.

One Tree = One Roll (image credit: mark.os/flickr)

Some sobering paper facts:

  • 40% of US Landfills are filled with paper products.
  • The average american discards 700 pounds of paper products per year.
  • If every household in the United States replaced just one roll of virgin fiber paper towels (70 sheets) with 100% recycled ones, we could save 544,000 trees.
  • 2 Dollars a roll X 2 rolls a week X 52 weeks in a year = 208 dollars in savings.

I have found that the experience of not using paper towels has been incredibly easy, and I feel good about the impact that choice is having on all three of the triple bottom lines in my life:

  1. Environmental – Saving trees, diverting paper from the landfill, re-using my towels.
  2. Social – Feels good to make these changes, have a positive impact, and use cool towels.
  3. Financial – That $200/year savings is just fine by me.

Do you use paper towels? Do you buy recycled paper towels? Do you think you could do without? Let me know what you think!

13 Responses to Paper Towels: Do You Really Need ‘Em?

  1. My wife and I just stopped using paper towels. Just 2 baskets, 1 dirty 1 clean of dish towels. They clean better and when you pay for trash p/u they save you even more money in the long run…

  2. Hey – I updated my comment system and lost the old comments – just wanted to let everyone know that I appreciated the comments –

    They were both pro-regular towels!

  3. This is great!! We did this as well. Can you imagine the impact on the tree population if each of us switched to cloth & re-using old t-shirts & socks?? Then we can use natural laundry methods and have less toxins in the oceans….wow…I'm seeing an amazing shift happening here ;))

  4. Nice post. I gave up on paper towels & napkins without much of a plan. Just couldn’t stomach buying them any more, for the cost, for the waste.

    For a while, the kitchen dishtowels did extra duty. But, then, if you’ve worked in a kitchen, you’re used to doing everything with a dishtowel in one hand, or slung over a shoulder.

    Then, made some napkins for the dining table out of old flannel pajamas. Never got around to hemming them, so at some point they were replaced with store-bought (thanks G.!).

    Don’t really miss the paper products.

    I also use all the envelopes that bills come in for making the Saturday errand & grocery list. Just the right size, and why let that perfectly good note-paper go in the trash?

  5. Good stuff! I'm going to get involved in ditching paper towels and adding more cloth. Thanks for motivating the change.

  6. Good stuff! I'm going to get involved in ditching paper towels and adding more cloth. Thanks for motivating the change.

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