Go Green and Save Green: Swap Paper Towels and Napkins for Cloth
I’m excited to be participating in the Go Green & Save Green Series with several other green bloggers this week! We’ll be talking about different areas of green and natural living, showing you how to go green while saving money at the same time! Be sure to check out the great links at the end of this post!
How To Switch From Disposable Paper Towels and Napkins to Cloth
One way that I’ve reduced spending and waste in our household is to replace disposable paper towels and napkins with cloth. Here’s how you can switch from disposable cleaning items to cloth.
- Go to a store and buy the cheapest dish cloths/ wash cloths you can find. I usually use white ones, but you can get whatever colors suit your fancy. If you are really industrious, you could knit or crochet yourself some. You don’t want to be worried about messing them up, though, because you are now going to be using them for almost all of your needed clean ups in the house. So, I have certain wash cloths for the kitchen and clean up and I have much nicer ones that we use to wash our face. I’ve also “downgraded” the face wash cloths when they become too worn into dish cloths. I use my cloths for everything from washing dishes, wiping down counters, wiping up spills, washing walls, and wiping grimy little hands and faces.
- Put your paper towels away and make the dish cloths and towels as convenient as possible. I think putting the paper towels away is really important because if they are sitting out on your counter, they are so much easier to use than the dish cloth. I have mine under the sink, so they’re still convenient if I need one, but they are not in my (or my family’s!) line of vision. I’m at the point now where I only use a paper towel for greasing my iron skillet and for really gross clean ups around the house (read: vomit). I’ve finally gotten our system set up where my husband and kids go to the dish cloth drawer before they go to the paper towels and that makes my little crunchy frugal heart happy.
- Figure out how your system for washing the dish cloths and towels. I go through 3 to 4 dish cloths a day. I’m admittedly a little Type A about them, so I use a new one for my kiddos’ faces and hands after every meal. We dry our hands on a dish cloth, so I have one for drying hands and another one for drying dishes. I change both of those daily. (Again, a little Type A.) I just toss all of these cloths in with my regular wash. I do a load of laundry almost every day, so I just put them in with that. If you don’t like that idea, perhaps you could put a bucket under your sink and toss the used cloths in there to be washed once or twice a week. I used to do that, but it was too inconvenient for me, so I switched to my current system.
- Streamline your process. I know that if something takes too much time or effort with stuff like this, I just end up not doing it. I’ve streamlined my process of putting everything up by not folding the dish cloths. It saves me some time and they are just going to get pulled out and used again, so I don’t waste my time folding them. Besides, its kind of nice to have permission to have a drawer where you can just shove stuff in and close it without a second guilty thought. (I know. I’m Type A about replacing the cloth items in the kitchen and not about how the drawer looks. Chalk it up to my idiosyncrasies.)
As for napkins, I looked for cloth napkins at yard sales and second hand stores and picked them up there for pennies. They don’t match, but that’s okay, because then I don’t stress about getting them dirty or stained. (And my kids like the variety!) Cloth napkins are super easy to make too. I have a drawer in our dining room right next to the table filled with cloth napkins so they are convenient and close to hand. Those also go in the normal wash at our house, but you could throw them in with the dish towels and cloths if that’s what you prefer. I don’t even buy disposable napkins any more.
How Much Can You Save?
I’m going to do a quick cost comparison. I know there are many different factors, using coupons, buying in bulk, etc. I’m going to make these calculations based on the kind of paper towels I buy on the very rare occasion that I buy them.
Okay, here comes the math, so skip skip this part if this isn’t your “thing.”
One roll of paper towels costs $1.62. It’s Select-A Size paper towels and there are 154 sheets per roll. In my mind, one sheet is equivalent to 1/2 of one paper towel . However, that makes it a bit confusing, so we’ll stick with the 154 number. That means for every little rectangle you pull off, use, and throw away, you are spending roughly one cent.
Based on the figures given above, one wash cloth costs $0.44. So, I’d have to use each wash cloth 44 times to make up my costs. (I realize I’m not accounting for water to wash it, gasoline, energy needed to produce it, etc. I can only do so much math at a time!) That sounds like a lot, but when you think about over the course of a day (since I got through 3 0r 4 dish cloths a day), over the course of a year or more, the savings really start to add up!
Not Only Frugal, But Green Too!
Besides the cost savings involved, by switching to cloth, you are also saving a lot of waste from going to the land fill. Not to mention saving trees from being cut down in order to produce paper towels. Did you know that paper towel usage accounts for 254 million tons of trash every year? Here’s another startling paper towel statistic:
If every household in the U.S. used just one less 70-sheet roll of virgin fiber paper towels, that would save 544,000 trees each year. Change that to using three less rolls per U.S. household per year, and that would save 120,000 tons of waste and $4.1 million in landfill dumping fees.
Switching from disposable paper products to reusable cloth is one way you can save money and be a good steward of our planet at the same time. Sounds good to me!
Check Out These Other Great Posts in the Go Green & Save Green Series:
Stacy at A Delightful Home — 5 Natural Cleaning Tips
Michelle at Open Eye Health — Less is More with Natural Cleaning