Tales from a Recovering Paper Towel Junkie

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woman in kitchen

I hate to admit it, but I was once a paper towel junkie.

Green Diva Meg and I talked about it in this episode of Green Diva Confessions

I blame it on genetics. My mom’s side of the family.

A kitchen without paper towels? Impossible! And the paper towel holder? A must-have appliance… for who could live without the ability to unwind just the right number of squares with one hand while stirring the pot with the other? And what about the instant gratification of a spill–here one second, soaked up and tossed with ease into the garbage the next, as if it never even happened?

As I grew older and wiser, I became more and more conscious of my impact on the environment. It didn’t take an intervention to get me off of paper towels, just the knowledge that ancient and endangered forests are being destroyed to make paper towels (not to mention tissue paper, napkins and other disposable paper products).

And how could I ignore these stats?
  • To make one ton of paper towels, 17 trees are cut down and 20,000 gallons of water are consumed.
  • Every day, over 3,000 tons of paper towel waste is produced in the US alone.
  • Decomposing paper towels produce methane gas, a leading cause of global warming.
  • The average person uses 2,400 – 3,000 paper towels at work, in a given year.
[source: People Towels]

And this… !

Source: NRDC (based on replacing a roll with 70 sheets)

Source: NRDC (based on replacing a roll with 70 sheets)

How does one live without paper towels, you may wonder.

It’s a challenge. Especially if you grew up, like I did, with an endless supply of paper towels and just as many uses for them. But, with a little support, it can be done.

The first step was to keep a couple of rags under the sink to clean up floor spills. And another rag (in a different color) for counter messes.

While in transition, I still had a regular sponge, but added microfiber cloths for windows, mirrors, and our stainless steel appliances. There were a few training issues when it came time for my husband to make the leap and, yes, I dabbled in paper towels here and there, just to get rid of the supply.

But once I dropped that last paper towel into the garbage, I was overcome with a feeling of accomplishment. I retired the paper towel holder to a spot under the kitchen sink… way in the back. I thought about donating this stylish contraption, but wouldn’t that make me an enabler?

It was a little strained the first time my mom—a paper towel addict in denial—came over and my son spilled some ketchup on the floor. She began searching high and low, becoming more and more desperate—out of breath as she flung open the last few cabinet doors. “Are you out of paper towels?!” she demanded, sweat forming on her upper lip.

That’s when my son blurted out, “We don’t use paper towels, Grandma! They kill trees!”earth holidays green holidays

Stunned silence. My mom caught my dad’s eye with raised eyebrow. Then she looked at me. It was the same look she gave me at the beginning of my microwaving-could-be-dangerous phase (no longer a phase, although on rare desperate occasions you might find me using it for a 20 second thaw of a bagel). But I had hard facts this time. Hard facts from reputable sources. It was my decision and I stood my ground. No more paper towels.

I didn’t even try to convert my mom. Not until my cousin introduced me to SKOY cloths. One of these cloths saves 15 rolls of paper towels. Yes, I said 15… fifteen! They’re 100 percent biodegradable, reusable, machine washable. You can even throw them in the dishwasher. Don’t care about the earth? Then think about the money you’ll save. Worried about germs? Just stick them into the microwave wet and you’ve got a disinfected cloth in 1-2 minutes. And these things are durable and absorb 15 times its own weight!

I like People Towels even better because they’re made only of 100 percent organic Fair Trade Cotton. They’re really meant to be an on-the-go alternative to paper towels—they call them the B.Y.O.Towel™.

No, this is not a paid advertisement!

I gave my mom a SKOY cloth to try. Yes, she was skeptical at first. But who could argue the amount of money saved?

All of us may need a paper towel now and then. Especially all of you moms and pet owners out there. (Yes, I own them and use them occasionally to clean up cat vomit. My son sneaks them to make bacon in the microwave if I’m not around.)

But to eliminate paper towels from every day use is a giant, admirable step in the right direction. An easy way to count for the earth and just one more way to green your kitchen!

adapted from myEARTH360.com

An InLinkz Link-up

For more ways to green your kitchen and home, listen to this latest Green Divas at Home segment…

images via shutterstock.com

Conscious Consumer, Earth News, Environment, GD Ticker, Green Diva Radio Show: Links & Resources, Green Divas at Home, sustainability

About the author / 

Green Diva Lynn

Lynn Hasselberger is the former Managing Editor of The Green Divas blog and was a producer of the Green Divas Radio Show. She's also a mom, writer and award-winning cat-herder who lives in Chicagoland. Sunrises, running, yoga, chocolate and comedy are just a few of her fave things.

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  1. info@greenmomscollective.ca'
    Sara July 7, 2015 at 12:31 pm -  Reply

    This made me laugh…my mother is constantly bringing over paper towels to my house when she watches my boys. My FIL brings over napkins. It’s hard for them to accept I’m trying my hardest to refrain. I love the suggestions…SKOY clothes are my favourite replacement.

  2. tiffany@naturemoms.com'
    Tiffany July 7, 2015 at 2:50 pm -  Reply

    I am a former junkie as well and think every day about relapsing….especially when people let stinky wet rags hang around all over the place!

  3. ld@lindsaydahl.com'
    Lindsay July 7, 2015 at 4:44 pm -  Reply

    I am a paper towel user, I confess! The good news is I do used recycled paper towels, great to see that using recycled content DOES matter. Now to using less in the first place!

  4. info@green-talk.com'
    Anna @Green Talk July 7, 2015 at 9:53 pm -  Reply

    I used a combination of dish towels and rags to clean up. We rarely use paper towels and if we do, I compost them.

    PS love the image on top of the post.

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