"unpaper" cloth towels

It’s common knowledge that the use of single-use items paper plates and plastic cutlery is wasteful. Real plates and silverware are a staple in most kitchens. But what about other disposable products like paper towels and napkins?

The United States spends more money on paper towels than any other country — about $5.7 billion in 2017. And that’s just for home use. That’s a lot of money for something you’re going to throw away after one use. And a lot of unnecessary waste.

There are many reasons to choose reusable products in the kitchen, besides simply reducing waste that ends up in our landfills. It’s time to break up with paper in the kitchen.

Paper towel roll.
It takes 17 trees and 20,000 gallons of water to make 1 ton of paper towels. Image courtesy of Maggie Osterberg

Save the Trees

To make 1 ton of paper towels, 17 trees are cut down and 20,000 gallons of water are consumed, according to data collected by People Towels. That means more than 110.5 million trees are cut down, and 130 billion gallons of water are used, in the production of paper towels every year. That staggering number should be enough to quiet the naysayers that argue reusable cloth towels and napkins increase water use through extra laundry.

Save the Environment

Most paper towels have that nice, bright white color thanks to chlorine bleach, which is not good for the environment. During the bleaching process, chemical reactions occur that produce dioxins, organochlorine, and many other toxic chemicals. Those toxins have to go somewhere when production is complete. Unfortunately, that means they’re released with wastewater into our rivers and streams, or into “containment” ponds that don’t always do the best job at containing the toxins.

Unpapertowels by generationMe
Unpaper towels by generationMe

Save the People

In the end, the dioxins released into our water system end up in our bodies. According to the World Health Organization, more than 90% of human exposure to dioxins is through our food, mostly meat, dairy products, fish, and shellfish because dioxins are stored in the fatty tissue of animals. This exposure is a huge concern as dioxins can cause reproductive and developmental problems, damage the immune system, interfere with hormones, and also cause cancer.

Fortunately, there is a better way. Reusable cloth towels and napkins are readily available on the market, and they’re very convenient too. It’s even easy to make your own! Check out this tutorial for ideas on how to make your own reusable towels from things you already have around the house. And here’s a great tutorial for making reusable napkins out of upcycled fabric.

If you’re not the DIY type, you can find many great brands of “unpaper” towels and cloth napkins, like those from generationMe. This brand is a great choice because they are made from high-quality GOTS Certified Organic Cotton, and they’re serged around the edges for a clean finish.

Make a green resolution to switch from disposable paper towels and napkins to reusable unpaper towels and cloth napkins. You’ll be happy you did!.

By Chrystal Johnson

Chrystal Johnson, publisher of Happy Mothering, founder of Green Moms Media and essential oil fanatic, is a mother of two sweet girls who believes in living a simple, natural lifestyle. A former corporate marketing communication manager, Chrystal spends her time researching green and eco-friendly alternatives to improve her family's life.