Monday, April 29, 2013

Paper Towel Progress

Back at the end of March, I shared our secret paper towel shame and decided to see if I could go a month without using paper towels, with the goal to become less dependent on using them for every single little thing. And now that a month has passed, I wanted to take a look back at what this experiment has taught me, and what I've discovered about our household.

Basket o' rags on our kitchen table.

1) Even without using them for everyday stuff, we still managed to go through a whole roll of paper towels this month. (Now I'm wondering how many rolls we went through per month before this experiment, and that's depressing.) I only used them to clean up Elliott's bodily messes, and as a place to rest all my clean medicine dispensers when I was sick, and as napkins a few times because we ran out of paper ones. I think we'll continue to do better as we keep trying, and now that Matt's on board with using the cloths (at least for wiping down the counters and stuff), hopefully we'll reduce our consumption even further.

2) I still have to actively tell myself NOT to go for the paper towels whenever I'm cooking, or cleaning something particularly yucky. Old habits die hard. But I'm working on it, and I rarely actually use more than a small scrap of paper towel at a time now.

3) A small cloth towel goes way further in cleaning a bathroom than its same-sized paper counterpart does. Elliott's food bowls and litter box are in our downstairs bathroom, and as a result, it's always a disaster in there. I used one cloth towel to do the entire tub before we had company over, and I could probably have used the cloth even more if there had been more to clean. :) Also, if we stick with cloth towels, we never have to buy Windex again! Because a damp cloth gets toothpaste spots off the mirror just as well as Windex on a paper towel does.

4) Making an effort to avoid the paper towel roller made me think about all the paper goods I use in a given day. I became conscious of every time I needed to (or wanted to) use not only paper towels, but also napkins, Kleenex, toilet paper ... and even not-paper products, like dryer sheets and Swiffer pads.

5) I started thinking about the differences between being green and opting for convenience. It's not that much of a hassle to use cloth towels, nor would it be much work if we switched to cloth napkins. But for things like dusting? I use Swiffer dusters, and try to give the house a once-over every two weeks or so. And while I could use a cloth and some Pledge or something on flat surfaces, a lot of the crevices that get dusty aren't conducive to being wiped down. At what point do you draw the line between being green and not making a whole ton of extra work for yourself?

What efforts have you been making to be "greener"? How do you think I did?


  1. I have been wanting to do this too - I'm such a slave to paper towels!

  2. I've been wait for an update on this, I think it's great you've been able to stick with it, even if you have to remind yourself sometimes!

  3. I probably use too many paper towels. I should probably try this too


  4. Thanks for the update - it's really interesting reading about how you guys have worked out your new system. I bought a 12-pack of microfiber towels in the car section at Target last week, and I can't wait to start replacing our paper towel consumption as we get settled into our new place. For dusting and for cleaning mirrors, you can use old newspaper to clean off surfaces - it works much better than paper towels and doesn't leave behind bits of dust.

    1. Does any ink residue get left behind if you use newspaper on furniture? Or are you talking just for mirrors? That's a great tip!