Using too many paper towels around the house is my biggest vice when it comes to lowering my carbon footprint. Every time I swear I’m going to do better, I end up slipping back into my old bad habit. Then I give up for a while and concentrate on other eco-friendly practices that, for me, seem easier to adopt.
I don’t really know why the paper towel habit has been so hard to kick. Years ago I practiced eco-friendly habits like using cloth napkins and canvas grocery bags before it became popular. Then owning and running a business along with raising three kids consumed all my physical and mental energy and those practices got put aside. While I’ve gotten back to my old eco-friendly practices, this paper towel thing has been, I like said, a hard habit to break.
Then, as I was walking down the paper products aisle at Publix, the solution finally dawned on me! I decided I could cut way back on paper towels by using unbleached paper towels instead of the plain white ones I normally buy. Because unbleached paper towels are pretty pricey, I knew my frugal ways would take over and I’d naturally cut back.
I’d always avoided paper towels with printed designs on them and only used plain white ones because I’d heard that the colored ink was bad for the water supply. It never occurred to me that the bleaching process used to turn brown towels into white ones also produced toxins. Seventh Generation, the brand I use, not only has no dyes, inks, or fragrances in it, but it’s made from 100 percent recycled paper and a minimum 50 percent post-consumer recycled paper. I’d love to give up paper towels completely, but I don’t believe going cold turkey on this habit will go over well with the rest of my family. So for now, we’re using unbleached paper towels and we’ve cut way down on this bad habit!
Related: 3 Uses for Dr. Bronner’s Soap
To help cut down even more on paper towel use at home I’ve placed some alternatives on the kitchen counter within easy reach. There are now cloth napkins and soft washcloths in wicker baskets near the paper towels. These eco-friendly counterparts are just as quick and easy to grab and use in an instant. I also made up a jar of premade and reusable all-purpose cleaning wipes to use for simple clean-up jobs. I put a bin from the dollar store underneath the sink so that I could easily launder these clothes separately.
To make your own premade and reusable all-purpose cleaning wipes:
- Get a big glass jar. Use a repurposed one or buy one if necessary. I got mine from Michaels.
- Assemble washcloths or repurposed articles of clothing. I used my daughter’s cut up pajama bottoms. I cut up pieces that were about 8 x 10 in size.
- Mix up a batch up of simple all-purpose cleaner: 1 C. of warm water + ½ tsp. borax + ½ tsp. Br. Bronner’s pure Castile soap. I like using lavender because of its natural disinfectant properties. See my other eco-friendly cleaner recipes here.
- Soak cloths in the cleaner liquid in a large bowl. Squeeze out excess liquid and place clothes in a jar. Use as necessary. Good for about 20 cloths.
Related: How to Make Decluttering Easier
It’s not always easy to change bad habits and adopt new ones. I fell off the wagon a bit a couple days ago when I was framing a bunch of pictures. It was late and I was tired and I used way too many unbleached paper towels to clean the picture frame glass. I tried not to beat myself up too much over it though. Focus on fresh new days instead of the slips.
What do you do to cut back on your paper towel and paper products use? I’d love to hear your tips in the comments below!
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Lisa is a mother of three lovely young women and is a new grandmother to a baby boy! She has been married to her high school sweetheart for more than thirty years. Lisa is originally from Dearborn Heights, Michigan, but has lived in the Tampa Bay area since 1984. Running a small business for over 25 years and raising a family has made for a busy, busy life with many ups and downs; it’s definitely been an adventure.
Lisa’s always involved in one project or another whether it’s work related or serving her community. She also recently went back to school to finish her bachelor’s degree in American Studies. Lisa tries to make every day a good day—that means learning something new, practicing kindness, and enjoying the present moment.