No to paper towels!

I’ve had the same roll of paper towels for over a year. Know why?

Because I don’t use them!

I’ve given them up. And it wasn’t as uncomfy Β a change as I thought it would be!
For dinner, we use cloth napkins. And we use them more than once. They are huge and we’re not two-year-olds. We don’t exactly get food all over our faces anymore.

After my man’s cotton t-shirts grow too stretched out at the collar for him to wear to work, I sleep in them or he uses them for yard work. When they grow thin, Β I cut them up and use them as rags. Once the white ones Β become too ratty, I’ll cut them into tiny pieces and toss them in the compost.

Old, cut up towels absorb better than t-shirts, but they’ll both do the job.

If we eat out or have take-out and the person behind the counter gives us too many napkins, I take those home and put them in a drawer. I never run out of rags, but if there isn’t a rag lying around to grab or the only ones I can reach are dirty, I grab for the restaurant paper napkin. I wipe up my spill and throw it in the compost.

Zero waste.

When did we move from cloth napkins to paper napkins anyway? And why? Have you switched over? Would you? What could be reused in place of napkins?

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35 responses to “No to paper towels!

  1. Watch for the sales on those half sheet paper towels. Or get in the habit of tearing off only half a sheet. I never used to use paper towels, but my husband got me started. I still rarely use them–it’s the most obvious example of waste in the entire house.

    I use old wash cloths for sink and counter clean up. If they start to smell mildewy after washing them in warm or cold water, it’s because of a build-up of soap and grease (according to Heloise.) Simply soak them in a combination of baking soda and hydroxide and wash them again. Good as new.

  2. Anne,
    Oh, good idea with the baking soda and hydroxide. I haven’t noticed a mildewy smell, but I’ll watch for that and when it happens, I’ll know why!
    I’m pretty much out of the habit of using them. I’d like to not go back. I heard once forming a new habit doesn’t actually take 30 days. It just takes the decision to change it. I always liked that. Though, it doesn’t ALWAYS work! Ha!
    I LOVED your story btw. Am SO, SO excited to share it! You’ve had such an amazing life!!

  3. ah, jennifer, one of my pet peeves here…we have not bought paper towels in several years, i always use re-purposed linens.
    i gather collections of donated antique or ‘collectible’ linens which often have stubborn spots on them and cannot be sold at auctions or charity shops. i perform cleaning magic upon them; and if that fails, i cut the stained parts for grease monkey jobs or frying pan clean up.
    the good parts are then cut into squares and hemmed to serve the rest of their lives as kitchen slaves.
    all usable parts of worn or stained terry cloth items are dissected into wash mittens (the equivalent of washcloths in US) sewn and hemmed to be just as new. a large towel or bathrobe can give new life to a dozen cloths or six hand towels.
    i sew by hand so enjoy the “hands on” experience of caring and experiencing the whole process of saving one more item, very zen during a streaming movie or sunny afternoon.
    yes yes; NO! to paper towels .

    • Nadinesellers, what great ideas! Re-purposed linens from auctions! Talk about zero waste. I need to sew more….!! My husband will have to take a look at this. I’m always trying to get him to go to those estate sales.

      • estate sales are awesome!!! you can find so many things that can be reused and repurposed.last time we went to one we bought about 20 clay pots (small and big) some of them with plants already growing and pretty healty in them for about $10 πŸ™‚

      • jenn and momphotog…auctions are a local sport for older men or crafty wives here–(like deer hunting is for the younger mostly male set).
        some boxes of great old kitchen wares/linens go for $1 …tools, bedding etc. are much higher..i can only attend the ones within walking distance and stretching budget; so i end up helping the auctioneers to clean up the site at end time–and cart whole bags full of free wonderful useful things…
        sadly i no longer indulge in this, my favorite sport. i have vowed, for sake of space and mind, to FIRST repair, and re-purpose every single item collected. . for self or others in need.

  4. In Poland we would never use paper napkins or even that cleaning/scrubing sponges. My mom uses old t-shirts. I use small towels. They are about 10 by 11 inches big and they work perfect for cleaning dishes and for cleaning tables or any other surface.

    I’ve got only white but I’m planning to buy more in different colors so they don’t stain so fast and they don’t look like they are dirty even when they are clean… .

    Do you think I could throw them to my compost bin? They are made from the same fabric as towels so it should be cotton right? It should be ok… .If not, I’ll use those old clothes for my next crochet project πŸ˜‰

    (btw, tomorrow I’m writing a post about something you will probably love) πŸ™‚
    Have a great Sunday!

    • Mom Photographer! You are always one step ahead of the game. Everything I want to do, you already do! I wish I had met you earlier in life. I don’t feel like my life began until I got married. All of these things I’d been learning, I finally got out there and put to use. The last 2 and a 1/2 years have been a brand new beginning. Just think how much more I get to learn! Especially from YOU!

    • If they are 100% cotton, I don’t see why you couldn’t put them in the compost. It’s the dyed material, I hesitate with. I’ll ask Mr. Expert (that woudl be my husband) to make sure, but I say—throw them in.

      • I’m not sure if they are 100% cotton. Don’t have any tags on them. Hmm.
        Anyway… I just stoped by to say that it’s kind of ironic what you said about me being one step ahead… because for some people (especially in U.S) when they hear about my experience and how I grew up they think I am (or at least used to be) behind. You know, me not using many things or not feeling the need of using it because I didn’t have it growing up is “being behing” to many people.

      • TO THE GREEN LADIES: how very proud you must be to have saved the good principles of your people and carried cultural knowledge into an unstable, unsustainable society which disregards resources and beings.

        soon, you will find that your accumulated knowledge will be prized and respected by the ones who now judge it backwards.
        i had first hidden the ways which i gleaned from my ancestors and from books or cultural diaspora.
        then, i enjoyed being perceived as different…then i decided to share the ways of those who have and continue to inspire me in blogs like yours.
        when my children and i immigrated here, we suffered many a prejudice, people always say ” it’s because you’re from the old country” but back home…they say ‘ oh, it’s because you’re from there now’
        NO..it’s because i value my origins and natural environment that i behave ecologically–wherever i live. and i trust that i behave as responsibly as i can. nothing backwards ’bout that…?

    • @ Mom Photograhper, I ALWAYS see you as being ahead. You’re so much smarter and wiser than I who runs to catch up with your genius ways. Girl, I want to be just like you. Seriously, you have to realize that is spoiled, consumerism speaking out of ignorance. It is not how we all feel. It saddens my heart to hear you say this. *Hugs*
      My husband says the towels should be okay in the compost. May take a while to break down, though.

  5. @ Nadinesellers—lofty goal! But for the things I “need”, I’ll be checking the paper now like a fox hunter! I have learned more writing this crazy blog….

  6. Surely using paper towels when you have a cold is more economical than tissues…this is all that we mainly use them for, coughs and colds….am I wrong?
    Like you I use old garments for dusters, bed shirts, and stuffing cushions. When cardigans and jumpers end their life I always remove buttons and zips then the cardigan makes a cosy bed for dog or cat.

    good post jennifer..one that starts the thinking going

    • You’re so cute Misswhiplash. Won’t give in the hankies yet, eh? I hope you feel better VERY SOON!
      I like the beds for the dogs and cats idea. You always take such kind care of your animals.

  7. about paper products–yes i do buy one box of kleenex every 2 years, for these odd sanitary jobs as pipe cleaners for husband. for wiping something doubtful, wrapping fragile items, or blotting ink on an art project.
    one roll of paper towels every few years for fat in frying pans or grease on ball bearings.
    then i burn them in the woodstove or throw the towels under a big pile of leaves at back of compost; the molybdenum and magnesium do get processed and spread out over time by the soil bacteria and nematodes..to eventually enrich the micronutrient pool in the ground< no i don't put in that much..and there are grease ants which devour bacon fat in a matter of weeks here in the midwest. so far the raccoons or possums have not found my compost stash, but dogs have on occasion–so i bury bones, eggshells, clamshells and paper 6' deeper with a sprinkle of cayenne on top,ah ah!.
    squirrels are my nemesis..i lead them away from my prized soil builders by throwing peanut shells etc in a far corner..and scaring them when they gallop on the roof..now if i could train them to eat paper towels?

    • My husband hates them too. He loves to scare them. Maybe if they ate the paper towels, they’d eventually turn into one. They are always stealing food from the birds….as if they don’t have enough acorns around to feed an army. Sometimes I think, if we could eat acorns….we’d never have to buy any food! ha!
      We’ve been known to burn and compost napkins too.

      • ACORNS ARE INDEED EDIBLE, NOW THAT’S ONE MORE RECIPE WHICH I MUST WRITE ABOUT IN MY SO FAR NAMELESS BLOG…oops caps on..nameless blog? hmm? that could work..
        don’t kill your recipe blog before i find time to read it and select my next culinary experience..besides, i am so sorry i removed my green blog..
        you may wish to feed it one single recipe on one given day per week??
        ok.mutella, acorn mush, and all the ideas which pop up when i read you and comments here…burning midnight oil this week for sure..
        we’ll starve those little birdfood thieves yet.

  8. @ Nadinesellers and
    @ Polish mom—I thank you from the bottom of my culture for bringing your culture with you and sharing your wisdom. I apologize for my people for giving you a difficult time and saying what you do is “backward” or from the “old country.” It’s only the ignorance speaking. I celebrate your cultures and what you bring. You are what makes our land a rich variety of wisdom and everything that makes us good.
    I thank you both from the bottom of my heart! And I am so, so happy you are here to teach me!!

    • Jennifer don’t worry. Don’t think that those people are only Americans. I’ve met many Polish people that grew up the same way as I did but today they live in America, have much more money than their family ever had, have and will have back in Poland, they can afford anything and almost everything, they live comfortable lifes and they think I’m a weirdo (at some point) with all my ideas, savings and being green.
      It’s because life is easier here and people think: why would they want to make it more complicated. People get spoiled. At some point I cought myslef going towards the same way of thinking and acting but I turned back…, and I’m much happier now. Now I enjoy and do the best with what I already have instead of wishing to have more or better.

      • Well, that makes me feel a little better! And it is true. It’s just being spoiled and what we’re used to. It’s easy living. But like Nadinesellers says, we have to embrace those “weirdo” looks. I’m starting to like them. It means I must be doing something right, since I’m not doing what everyone else is! I think we should have our own show! LOL! πŸ™‚ (I made myself laugh on that one as I sit here typing in my hat! ha! ha!)

      • and what a show this would be! you look cute in your hat, but my old robe may not be so smashing a fashion statement, we’d have to hurry up and make a bunch of re-purposed clothing items to validate our zero waste efforts..
        laughter is the best vehicle to effectiveness in conveying the ecology-economy dichotomy —onward to sustainability!
        momph; you carry the solid ideals of traditional homemaking, i’ll see to global environmental concerns in positive news –and–the star of the day, the be-hatted adventurer jenn, will keep us on the road to consumer recovery as she dances in the garden and drives the waste out of the spendthrift institutions…
        wish i were an adept cartoonist, to portray the earth friendly bunch..kids could learn a lot and save the future hey?

      • Jen sitting in a cold in her hat , Nedinesellers in an old robe, me in my stained from cooking and baking t-shrits and pants sorrounded by newspaper bowl and plastic yarn baskets… – that would be a HIT show!!!

  9. @Nadinesellers—-acorn mush? Oh, I can’t wait to hear about this one! Are you writing all these ideas down?
    I’m doing only one recipe a week….and then an occasional one about the garden or compost—-as I’m trying to show how it all comes full circle. It keeps me cooking! And trying different things. That’s the main reason why I keep doing it! πŸ™‚
    The hubby offered Greenernadine. But wasn’t that what Polish mom already said?
    Forward thinking.
    Ideas from the old country.
    A fresh start.
    Hmm…..still thinking.

  10. I have tried several times not to use paper towels, it is not easy due to habit.

    My mom also use the old t-shirts for quilting purpose (especially if the t-shirt color is good!) to make small area rugs. =)

    • Foottrackerluvya! Oh! I just love the quilt idea with the t-shirts! I never want to put my husband’s colored t-shirts in the compost because of the dye. Now I know what to do with them!
      Paper towels are so convinient, I know it’s diffucult to drop the habit. It took me a little bit to switch over. Mostly because I wasn’t used to reaching for a rag. I’ve tried to make it as convinient for myself as I can, they are always in reach. Good for you for giving it a try! I’m proud of you!!

  11. Awesome! I use old t-shirts and worn out socks for dusting and cleaning.

  12. I agree. No to paper towels. When my wife cleans our house. She never uses
    Paper towels. She always use
    Reusable cloth preferably old towels for cleaning our things….

    • Nors, was that your wife smiling in your latest food picture? You said she smiles all the time. Probably because she’s eating such good food, huh? πŸ™‚

  13. @ Mom Photographer—that would be a hit show, wouldn’t it? LOL!

  14. @ NadineSellers about our show—isn’t this fun?! πŸ™‚

  15. wait a minute jenn, i’ m not dressed yet, ok, it’s winter today and it’ snoon, but the old white terry cloth robe feels so warm, i don’ t want to change to appear on the wild trio show…besides, don’t have skype or wi-fi, no techie stuff in my low-low consumer profile..so we must rely on the logos..the word of nature to communicate our greenest of hopes–and our collective pool of living skills to others who may share their knowledge with us as well..now take off your hat and shake your blond locks…

  16. I’m a single guy, I hate doing laundry. I do use a lot of paper products also like you paper goes into compost pile, not to the landfill.

    • Pobept, I don’t know of a single ‘single’ guy who likes to do laundry! But I applaud you for throwing them in the compost! Besides, your gardening tips and information have greened the world beyond what you’ve used. Keep up the good work! We’re reading and sharing your articles. They are so helpful to us “greenie” gardeners who have no idea what we’re doing.

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