Friday, July 29, 2011

52 Small Steps - Week 2

So last week I opened this little year-long enviro-project with a really easy enviornmental step that most of you should already be doing - reusable cloth shopping bags.  Cheap, easy and the only real hurdle is remembering the damned things.  It just takes time and repetition.  How'd you do with it?  If you have any desire to crochet one of your own try here.  I've made maybe a dozen for friends and family.

This week I'm going for another one that I think is easy, but that might be a bit more of a challenge for the habituated:  Paper Towels.

If you want lots of facts about the paper industry and it's impact on the Earth, go to:   I'm not going to go into all the technical details here, but common sense tells us that paper towels are made of paper (ergo wood, or trees - and mostly not recycled), are used once and discarded.  They are wasteful.  And I used to use them like they grew on ... well, you know what I mean.  I was an offender.

When I'm making environmental changes in our home, I always consider what people did before (and often I think of what my grandmother did - even after we had the conveniences).  What did people do before there were disposable shopping bags?  Baskets, bags (my grandmother ALWAYS had a bag in her purse). What did people do before there were paper towels?  (Well, my grandmother used paper towels, but she also re-used them and hung them on the line to dry).

This "what did people do before" question is easy - cloth.  You already have them.  Cloths.  And towels.  And old cloths and towels.  And scraps of absorbant fabric.  Old T-shirts, underwear, cloth diapers, receiving blankets.  RAGS - my mother and my grandmother had "rag bags" - where old rags were stored for just such an occasion (Mom ... do you still have a rag bag?).  You really don't NEED to use paper towels all the time ... or at all.

Yes, your towels and cloths get dirty.  So what???  What does it matter if it's stained or not.  Still works, right? 

And, yes, they will wear out sooner than they would have if you continued with the paper version, but you still are producing less waste then when you use paper towels.

Paper towels are simply a convenience item.  They are not necessary.  We do not need them.

Now, as a disclaimer in case you come to my house and inspect under my sink, there are times when I still use paper towels.  For instance, if the cat vomits on the floor, I'd rather not clean it with a cloth although sometimes I do.  But in the past several years I doubt if we've gone through a roll a year.  I did buy more when we were re-doing the kitchen floor.  Can't remember why, but I was using them for something and it seemed better to get that on paper towels than cloth.  However, I don't think I'll ever buy more.  Because we really don't need them.

The very easiest way to stop using them --- stop BUYING them.  If you don't have any, you'll HAVE to figure something else out.  And no, using kleenex in lieu is not an option.

If you've already abandoned the use of paper towels and would like some reading to do (yeah, right, like you're going to do the homework I asign!), go to and read at least the introduction.  I read it yesterday, and it is a great outline of what is happening in the world and how we might fix things.

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