HOW TO GO GREEN, ONE SHEET AT A TIME
According to The Energy Co-op, the average American uses approximately 45 pounds of them per year. Yes, it’s true, and even in an age when everyone says they want to live a more Earth-conscious, ‘green’ life. How ‘bout we start by thinking about using fewer paper towels, people.
Check out this ‘green,’ albeit old-fashioned alternative to paper towels: cloth.
1| Stop setting a roll of paper towels on the dinner table. Instead use vintage napkins that you keep in a basket on the table. Personalize the collection by seeking design styles that speak to you. Chicken images. Shabby chic embroidery. Days of the week. 60s mod. When the supper dishes get picked up, the napkins go into a soak bucket then get run in the next wash. [Soak bucket / sōk buck•et / noun / a bucket filled with sudsy detergent, bleach and water. Otherwise known as Ask Your Grandmother.]
2| Dishtowels. Now here’s where older can be better. Cotton or linen, vintage dishtowels are fabulously absorbent and soft, and generally lint-free. Calendar, travel themes, novelty prints… Quite a many are adorable too.
3| Instead of cleaning up spills and messes with several winds of paper towel, use a vintage towel. Terrycloth is super absorbent and comes in various sizes. Can’t say that about a paper towel. Keep ‘em on hand for when pups track in mud or kids drop juice boxes. Tip? Don’t just use some old towels but fun, colorful ones you pick up at estate sales. Just because they’re for “mop wiping” doesn’t mean they can’t be a cheery hot pink or groovy damask pattern.
4| As the cloth items get thin and worn they can then be used for other household projects (i.e. painting or washing the car) instead of the paper towels.
But aren’t vintage linens hard to clean? Nope. Got a bucket or laundry sink, water, Oxy and/or Shout, and a washer/drier handy, it’s EASY. Treat any stains and toss items in the soak bucket for the next wash load. For specific types of stains there are many ‘how to’ tutorials on the interwebs.
Doesn’t this create extra laundry and, in the process, more gas, electricity, and water consumed? Not really once the habits are in place. It will create conscious thought about one’s paper towel habit and, in the process, some new and ‘greener’ ones.
How hygienic are vintage linens, really? Quite. Hot water wash cycle and they’re sanitized, clean and ready to be used again.
What about bacon? Ah, yes, and what about BACON? Whether swine or vegan rice bacon, there’s gonna be grease, and you know what? There’s no better way to sop up and soak grease than with a good old-fashioned paper towel. Use paper towels as needed, of course. Just as needed.
How to start this ‘new’ vintage linens consciousness…
1 :: Bring out Aunt May’s linen napkins or the tea towels your mother inherited from her mother. They were meant to be used and loved. Pick up pretty linens at yard or estate sales, eBay or Etsy. Remember that vintage doesn’t have to be dowdy. Look at vintage Vera table linens, for example - as fresh today as they were in the 1960s.
2 :: Keep linens in handy, easy to reach places. Basket of napkins on the table. Mop towels in a drawer by the back door or hand towels in the glove box.
3 :: Stop keeping the paper towel roll in the most convenient places, i.e. on top of the counter near the sink. Force the household into new habits, drawers or glove box.
In time - one square at a time - you’re keeping some of that 45 pounds of paper towel from hitting the landfills.
Use it up. Wear it out. Make it do, or do without.