As I experimented with cloth diapering a few years ago, I was introduced to the whole paperfree community. I learned that every disposable item in our house, even toilet paper (!) can be replaced with cloth. While I'm not quite ready for bathroom stuff, I know there are plenty of other places where I could switch out cloth for paper.
As a simple beginning step, I stopped buying paper plates. I know they are completely unnecessary but I often bought them anyways to save on dishwashing (which I hate with a passion). A second simple swap is hankies. Not necessarily for everyone in the family, but for me. I bought 3 really cute vintage hankies that reminded me of the ones I used to take to elementary school (before pocket tissue packs were invented). I keep them tucked in a zippered coin purse in my bag and ready for quick nose wipes, crying cleanups, etc. Since I have several, its not a big deal if I don't get to washing the dirty one or forget to get the clean one back into my purse right away.
I've been working up to tackling our biggest paper consuming room-- the kitchen! With a few basic supplies from my local mart-type store, I now have a convenient and tidy clean up center that uses cloth instead of paper towels, without too much fuss or inconvenience. Because we all KNOW that if it isn't easy, people won't use it or stick with it!
I know many of you are saying-- well, why doesn't she just use a kitchen/dish towel for clean up? I have a 5 year old, a 2 year old and a dog. There are just some things that once you clean them up, you can't reuse that towel without washing. I do have a half dozen nice kitchen towels but I am hesitant to use them to wipe down counters or clean up spills with them, knowing they are likely to be permanently stained.
Here is my simple plan:
2 packages ($3.48 ea Wal-Mart) of 9, kitchen utility towels
1 pair of scissors
1 plastic shoe box ($.97 Wal-Mart)
1 small plastic trash can ($4.88 Wal-Mart)
By cutting the utility towels in half, they fit perfectly in the shoe box. That also happens to be the same size of the smallest towel in the select-a-size brand paper towels we've been using, so it feels familiar. I don't plan on hemming the cut edge of the terry towels unless they start to fray too much. For right now, I'm just going to see how they hold up. I picked a nice basic beige to hide a plethora of stains (and it is a nice a neutral as well). One package of 9 towels becomes 18 and actually fills the box to the top. That means I'll have a set to use and one to wash.
The shoe box fits right behind the kitchen spigot for handy dispensing. The trash can is on the shelf right above the garbage, so its close to where the throw away impulse is likely to take people.
So far, this has been working great. We still had about 1/2 a roll of paper towel a week ago when I set this up and its still about 1/3 filled. The towelette bin isn't completely emptied out, we've been averaging about 2 a day. I'm finding myself using each towelette several times-- once to dry a dish, once to dry some hands, once to wipe a face and/or once to clean/dry the counter and then toss it.
We all know its better for the environment, but it also helps the wallet when you don't have to keep buying items to replace those that have been used once and thrown out. For my initial "start-up" costs of about $18, I can expect the savings to be returned to me in 1-2 months of not buying more paper towels. You could easily cut costs further by only purchasing one set of towels and washing more frequently and just hanging a simple plastic grocery sack for the laundry bin. That would take the cost of the project down to under $5. That's a winner in my book!
Comment below and let me know what you think! Is this something you could see yourself doing? Do you do something like this already?
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