I admit it. I’m a bit of a treehugger.
We recycle in my home as though the act is a religious ritual. The sorting, the separating, the trek down to the recycling bin. It’s always been a part of my life, as I grew up in New England where we took time out of our regularly scheduled classes to talk about recycling and have quizzes on what triangulated numbers we could recycle in our area. Doing this small thing to help keep things out of landfills always seemed second nature.
Now that I’m the one in charge of groceries and budget-like things, I’m acutely aware of how quickly we go through products. I noticed a pattern. The disposable paper goods–paper towels, napkins, and tissues–seem to fly off of the shelves and countertops. For a small household of two (with a penchant of being clean), we were going through a lot of paper. More than I’d like to. I decided to do something about it.
I thought about it for a few weeks. The biggest offense, by far, was the use of paper towels. This article is about the conversion from paper to the system that we use now.
Paper towels are part of American life. We grow up with the idea that they’re convenient, accessible, and used for everything from sopping up a spill to carrying a snack from one room to the next. They’re always within easy reach in a kitchen.
I decided it was high time to change that. We invested in a dozen or so plain white cleaning towels and put them in a canister that was easily accessible. These are in a prominent spot on our kitchen counter, and there is no question as to where they may be. This way, the cloth towels are just as reachable as the paper towels have been.
Cloth soaks up much more than a paper towel does. So those jobs that would take three (or four or five) paper towels, are handled a lot easier with the cloth towels. We use an over-the-cabinet-door towel holder to keep the cloth that is currently in use within easy reach. At the end of the night, the towel goes in a basket in our laundry room specifically for our paper goods replacements, to be washed when there is enough for a load.
If it is a very impressive spill, in colors that would make one cringe, the towel gets rinsed out and treated like any other piece of laundry that has a stain on it. As all of our paper goods replacements are white, occasionally they are bleached to bring back some of that pristine whiteness. (Let’s be real here. They have a tough job. Occasionally the towels need a bit of brightening!) My washing machine’s agitator likes to eat small things, so this particular laundry load is done in a delicate bag. That seems to keep the laundry eating monster away.
It’s been almost a year now since I started the process of de-papering my home. I have to say, I don’t miss paper towels. Not even for bacon, all of you meat loving friends out there. A broiling pan cooks my bacon just fine, and grease isn’t a problem I need to trouble myself with paper towels over.