If you’re in any way environmentally-conscious, your mind will likely jump to images of deforestation and landfills whenever you hear the phrase “paper towels.” Consider the many millions of homes in the United States that purchase paper towels on a weekly basis. Now think of the amount of uses we find for paper towels: general kitchen surface cleaning, small mess cleaning, large mess cleaning, cheap napkins for dinner parties…. The list is finite, but long. Very long. That accounts for billions of packets of paper towels used and discarded—not recycled—every year in the United States alone.
Why Do We Use Paper Towels?
Despite a huge, almost global, effort to reduce our reliance on paper products, it seems like we are using more than ever. Exhibit A, the paper towel, seems especially out of sync with our desire to go green. What are the reasons behind our relentless attachment to this particular paper product?
Paper towels may be a convenient means of cleaning and drying, but are they any better than the rags, newspapers, and old t-shirts most of us have lying around the house?
Many would suggest that paper towels are more hygienic than a regular towel. This isn’t true. When a cloth towel is regularly washed or maintained, it’s equally hygienic—just as long as you’re not wiping the raw chicken you’ll be deep-frying later all over it.
It’s hard to say exactly why we still use them. Convenience, perhaps? In any case, here are some reasons why we shouldn’t.
Keep your dish cloths free of stains and odors with this how-to on the best way to wash your kitchen towels!
The Cost to Our Environment
About 4 billion trees are cut down every year, about 1% of which are used for paper towels. Yes, you could look at such a statistic and say it’s a “drop in the ocean,” but it adds up! What if we said the same about every sheet of printer paper? Or every Kleenex we use? If everyone decided to cut paper towels out of their everyday cleaning activities, that would be a pretty big drop in the ocean!
Deforestation and pollution go hand-in-hand. Think of the diesel machinery that is involved in a round-the-clock, daily basis in the deforestation industry. Trees are felled, hauled off-site by logging trucks, and sent to paper mills. From there, the finished product is distributed to offices and homes across the globe.
All of this transporting and manufacturing results in a lot of pollution! That translates to a lot of damage being done to the environment. The paper towel industry, despite being used to clean up, is dirty indeed.
Is your kitchen hopelessly disorganized? Check out these quick and easy tips on keeping your kitchen clean and tidy!
Alternatives to Paper Towels
Cloth towels. By opting to use towels made from organic cotton and taking the time to throw it in with your regular laundry, you’ll save some serious money over the course of a year. The average household in the United States spends about $20 a week on paper towels. You can read my reviews of some great cloth towels here.
Old clothes. A rag can be made for free from a ratty t-shirt and a sharp pair of kitchen shears. Of course, if you have other plans for your used clothes (such as donation), you might want to consider another economical—and ecologically-conscious—option.
Newspapers. Another option for cleaning your windows and glass surfaces is to use newspaper. Many houses in the United States have stacks of old newspapers in teetering piles, like miniature Leaning Towers of Pisa. A single newspaper is actually an efficient material for sopping up spills or polishing windows. It’s significantly larger than a paper towel and, more importantly, already paid for. Once again, you’re saving yourself money—if you already get a daily or weekly newspaper.
If you don’t read physical newspapers in this digital age, you’re not alone. Last year, national newspaper sales fell by over half a million physical copies. The digital market accounts for many people’s source of news media. The Internet is, in this way, helping with the issue of deforestation and the mass wastage of paper on a global scale.
Environmentally-Friendly Paper Towels
Although old newspapers might be a cheaper alternative to paper towels when it comes to cleaning your windows, you may have less of them than you did, say, five years ago. In a world that’s looking to become more and more paperless, what is the best paper towel for household tasks?
As previously mentioned, deforestation is of global concern. So, for your paper towel needs, why not use a brand that is a little greener than most?
Windsoft Embossed 1-Fold Paper Towels are high-quality, 1-ply, recycled paper towels. As a result, these paper towels reduce the amount of paper used in production, while still providing a quality, absorbent sheet with an improved thickness.
Recycled paper can often look uneven in color and rather ugly, but Windsoft embossed paper towels are a consistent, natural color. They are packaged in stacks, which will reduce the amount of space they take up in your cupboards. Windsoft paper towels are multi-purpose and suitable for most dirt types, including dust, lint, liquid, and soil. For about $30 for 250 sheets, these are far more economical and environmentally-friendly than your average household paper towel!
An even cheaper alternative are the Penny Lane Singlefold Paper Towels. These are made from 100% recycled material—and they’re recyclable themselves! They have a consistent, neutral coloring and come as single fold for convenient storage.
At about $39 for 16 packs of 250 sheets (that’s 4,000 towels), you’ll be paying only a small price for a lot of product. That’s quite a bit of money saved on an annual basis, and you can take comfort in the knowledge that you’re doing your best for the environment.
Time to put those paper towels to good use! See this article to learn how to clean your stainless steel refrigerator and other kitchen appliances.
Be the change you want to see!
When it comes time for your weekly or bi-weekly grocery shopping, here are a few things to think about. There are many alternatives to the standard paper towels. You can try using a rag instead or, if you prefer, a newspaper is also effective.
If you simply have too many windows to polish and not enough rags or newspapers to go around, look out for greener, recycled paper towels from environmentally-friendly companies like Windsoft and Penny Lane. They’re a cheaper alternative, and you’ll notice the difference in your wallet and your environment. Someday, your grandchildren will notice the difference, too!
For some reviews of more great cleaning products, see this post on the best sponges for stainless steel cookware. You might also like my roundup of the best spray bottles for uses all around the house. And, if you’re the owner of a mischievous pet, you’ll definitely want to read about the trash cans perfect for dog owners!
Do you have a septic system? There’s no need to dump those leftovers in the trash! Check out my review of the best garbage disposal for septic waste systems.