Tag Archives: reduce reuse recycle

One Small Thing: Bags

 

In the One Small Thing series, I am highlighting small changes you can make to your daily habits to reduce your waste and make the world a little greener, and your wallet a little thicker.

Check out all the habits already discussed:

Today we are going to talk about a personal favorite of mine: reusable bags.

budget epicurean weekly eating meal plan

If plastic straws and plastic bottles are the top 2 offenders found on beaches, the lightweight, ubiquitous bag probably rounds out the top three problem children. We have all been walking along, or driving down the road, only to see the tumbleweed of the twenty-first century, the plastic bag, float across our view.

These bags are small, lightweight, and tear easily. They can be pulled out the open window of a car on the highway, fall out of a shopping cart, or sneak under the lid of a trash can.

America is by far not the only nation with this problem. In fact, in a release from Earth Policy in 2014: “Before a ban on thin bags—which tear readily and get caught by the wind— went into effect in 2003, plastic bags were christened South Africa’s “national flower” because of their prevalence in bushes and trees.”

This problem has been ongoing and recognized for years, and many nations are trying to combat it with both taxes and bans. Many states and countries around the world have instituted taxes on merchants, consumers, or both, for using plastic.

Many more have outright banned single use plastic bags, instead imploring suppliers and citizens to use glass, cloth, paper, or cardboard instead. In America: “U.S. cities with bag bans include San Francisco (as of 2007), Portland (2011), Seattle (2012), Austin (2013), Los Angeles (2014), Dallas (to begin in 2015), and Chicago (2015).”

Some more facts from ConservingNow.com:

“Worldwide

  • A person uses a plastic carrier bag on average for only 12 minutes.
  • On average we only recycle one plastic bag in every 200 we use.
  • Each year, an estimated 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide. That comes out to over one million per minute. Billions end up as litter each year.
  • Windblown plastic bags are so prevalent in Africa that a cottage industry has sprung up harvesting bags and using them to weave hats, and even bags. According to the BBC, one group alone harvests 30,000 per month.
  • According to David Barnes, a marine scientist with the British Antarctic Survey, plastic bags have gone “from being rare in the late 80s and early 90s to being almost everywhere.” Plastic bags have been found floating north of the Arctic Circle near Spitzbergen, and as far south as the Falkland Islands. Source: British Antarctic Survey
  • Plastic bags are among the 12 items of debris most often found in coastal cleanups, according to the nonprofit Center for Marine Conservation.

Sources: International Fund for Animal Welfare, the Environmental Protection Agency and other agencies or persons as cited.

reusable grocery bags

So you know it’s a problem.

You know bags take 500 years to degrade, and even then don’t fully break down, but become toxic micro-plastics.

If you have a bag tax or fee, you’re tired of paying it.

You have a bag full of bags under your sink, or in a closet.

You don’t want to add to your stock anymore.

You’re ready to do something about it.

Now what?

Recycle or re-use old plastic bags

Since you already have a stash of plastic bags (you know you do), the first thing you can consider is recycling them. Many grocers are now putting up collection bins for old plastic bags right at the checkout or store entrance.

Those bags may be recycled into composite wood, which is a mixture of plastic and wood scraps. Or they may be melted down into a new batch of plastic bags. And a small portion may even end up in the space-age-sounding field of nanotechnology:

“Scientists at the University of Adelaide have developed a new way to recycle those plastic bags and create carbon nanotube membranes, which may potentially be used for energy storage and biomedical innovations. ” (source)

If you don’t have a store near you that offers plastic bag recycling, you can at least get creative and give them a second life.

Options include craft projects like turning bags into rugs or purses. You could also use them as liners for small trash cans, to hold dirty diapers, or pick up dog poo. But all these uses ultimately get them into the landfill anyways, now they also have gross stuff inside.

A better choice?

Don’t collect them in the first place!

How? Read on…

Reusable grocery bags – freebies/synthetic/plastic

I have at least 100 reusable bags at this point in my life.

This is not an exaggeration.

I fill the trunks of two cars, and there are even more sprinkled all around the house too.

And I think I paid for… 3 of them?

reusable grocery bags

Tons of events now give away bags, because it is easy branding.

They plaster their logo on the side, and you carry it around town.

If that bothers you, maybe you’ll have to scroll down to the you-buy-it options that can be plain or patterened.

As for me, I don’t give a hoot what’s on the bag. Only what’s in it.

BUT

These bags do come with some risks.

Most shoppers do not separate their groceries into produce – dairy – canned – meats, etc. And a very tiny number of people actually wash their reusable bags, ever, let alone after every shopping trip.

Myself included.

Guilty as charged.

I don’t think I’ve ever washed my reusable bags.

I know I know, how can I even blog about these things? Because honesty is the best policy. And honestly, I’ve never yet gotten sick. I suppose there’s a first time for everything.

And I’d still rather take that chance than keep accumulating bags full of bags.

The biggest message here: reusable is awesome! But wash them often. And never put raw meat in them, this is one case where plastic wrapping is A-O.K.

reusable grocery bags

Reusable bags – natural fibers like cotton, hemp, wool

The best option is to use an extremely sturdy bag made from organic, natural sources.

Emphasis on organic.

Crunchy granola gurus tout cotton bags, but neglect to mention the devastating impacts of pesticides, herbicides, and water usage demanded of conventionally grown cotton.

“The larger takeaway is that no bag is free of environmental impact, whether that’s contributing to climate change, ocean pollution, water scarcity, or pesticide use. The instinct to favor reusable bags springs from an understandable urge to reduce our chronic overconsumption, but the bags we use are not the big problem.” (source)

So look for organically grown cotton or hemp bags.

Or best yet?

Make your own!

Take your old clothing or linens that are destined for the landfill or Goodwill, a little bit of time and DIY sewing, and create yourself an arsenal of free, eco-friendly shopping bags.

Here’s a nice no-sew DIY for a t-shirt tote bag: https://www.mommypotamus.com/no-sew-t-shirt-tote-bag-tutorial/

And 7 more ways to do the same thing: https://thethingswellmake.com/recycled-t-shirt-bags-review-of-7-ways/

As with the reusable bags warning, remember to wash these often, preferably after each use with hot water.

 

Other uses for bags:

  • Corral trash/recyclables/compostables to bring home
  • Keep your car/office space organized
  • Hold wildflowers you pick or a bouquet you buy
  • Forage wild fruits, herbs, mushrooms, or nuts
  • Use instead of giftwrap/tape/bows for the holidays

reusable grocery bags

 

Tell me! Have you ever done any fun DIYs with old bags? Made bags yourself from scratch? How do you avoid single use plastics?

One Small Thing: Travel Mugs

 

In this series I am trying to highlight changes or swaps you can make in your day to day living to decrease your waste production and/or use of plastics. These things are not difficult, nor time consuming, nor expensive (nay in most cases they will save you money).

Just try One Small Thing at a time and see if it works for you.

And then try something else. And something else, and it becomes your new normal. And before you know it you can live low waste, stop contributing to landfills and polluting the ocean, and save oodles of cash year after year.

Today we will talk about an easy one: Travel Mugs.

one small thing: reusable coffee mugs

In today’s consumerist go-go-go culture, it seems our collective lifeblood is at least 90% caffeine.

The average U.S. coffee drinker consumes 2.7 cups of coffee per day, with the average size of a coffee cup measuring 9 ounces.

In total, approximately 150 million Americans drink 400 million cups of coffee per day — or more than 140 billion cups per year — making the United States the leading consumer of coffee in the world.

And though coffee makes up 3/4 of all caffeinated beverage consumption, we indulge in our fair share of tea and hot cocoa as well (source1 & source2).

one small thing: reusable coffee mugs

That’s a lotta joe!

And there is growing demand in developing nations as well, as China, India, and more attempt to lead increasingly Westernized lifestyles.

The biggest suppliers are Brazil, Vietnam, Colombia, Indonesia, and Ethiopia (source 4). I know at least a few of those surprised me. Worldwide, we devour more than 121.5 million bags (60kg each, that 7.2 billion kg!) of coffee (source 5) and about 3 million tons of tea every year (source 6), with consumption of both rising.

This is in no way saying we should drink less caffeine!

I’m as addicted as anyone else, nearly nonfunctional without at least one cup of coffee by 10 am. I’ve even gotten to the point where I drink it black.

I’m so metal.

Just kidding, I avoid cream and also I’m cheap frugal. 🙂

one small thing: reusable coffee mugs

The problem is not the coffee.

The problem is not the tea.

The problem is the plastic-lined paper cups.

Literal mountains of them.

We throw away literally Billions of paper cups per year. Yes, most are made from recycled paper, which is great, and many companies even use that in their marketing.

But what they neglect to shout about is the fact that those recycled paper cups would totally leak burning hot liquid onto customers, without the dirty little secret inside.

“Though they are made largely of paper, disposable coffee cups are lined with plastic polyethylene, which is tightly bonded to the paper making the cups waterproof and therefore able to contain liquid.

In addition, the difficulty of recycling coffee cups is increased by the fact they are contaminated with drink. This means cups cannot be recycled at standard recycling plants, and must instead be taken to special facilities” (source 7).

In fact, less than 1% of all paper drink cups actually end up recycled.

Why is it so hard to give up this white cylinder of java?

Why You’re Still Not Bringing a Reusable Mug for Your Daily Coffee

To summarize the above article:

  1. Convenience – no one wants to have to remember a mug and carry it around all day
  2. Social status – carrying that white cup tells the world “I’m important and busy so I need coffee, and only the best and only the most convenient will do”
  3. 10 cents back for bringing your own doesn’t work – “Consumers are much more motivated to avoid a fine than to take advantage of a reimbursement, according to numerous behavioral economics studies (like this one). ” (source 8)

Walking around with a white mug can be just a simple way to get your java fix on the go, but it also has become a big part of our culture. The local coffee shop is a place to meet with friends, to catch up, for business meetings, or for focusing & working remotely.

The to-go mug signals that you are a part of the “busy professional” part of society. Even if you think that social cues don’t affect you, trust me, they do.

one small thing: reusable coffee mugs

So what’s a conscious consumer to do?

I’m definitely on board with bringing your own, obviously. That goes for water bottles and napkins and utensils too. Preparation is step one to success.

Just find yourself a mug, preferably insulated, that has a lid. Toss that into your purse, car, or gym bag. And then when you need some hot tea or coffee, you’re all set!

They are re-usable over and over and over, and usually just require a quick rinse between uses. Run them through a dishwasher every now and then too.

Mugs / tumblers come in tons of cute colors, patterns, materials, with reusable straws, and in different sizes to suit any need.

You can even use a mason jar! No kidding. Maybe get iced coffee though, since heat will transfer through the glass.

Oh, and you’ll probably also get a small discount

But, I’m definitely guilty of forgetting things.

Like, daily.

So another idea that has been proposed, and I think is a fantastic one, is a well-established mug exchange program, with branded, eye-catching tumblers.

This could be just among one chain, a local joint, or many coffee shops all throughout a campus or a city.

It would require a small ‘membership fee’ to get the first mug. Then you can drink it there, or take it to go. There would have to be a simple way to maintain membership status signaling, perhaps through a reusable lid you keep between cups.

Then the mugs can be returned to be washed at any other participating location.

Imagine how many paper cups could be saved!

This would also solve the problem of inconsistent mug sizes. If the menu only has prices for 10, 12, or 16 ounces but your mug is 9 or 24 ounces, how is the barista to ring you up? If the mugs were standard, that is no longer a problem.

You still get the convenience of having it to-go, if it is the tall, insulated ceramic type of mug.

And you still have the convenience of multiple locations.

Over time, as this became more accepted and became the social norm, this concept of reusable mugs would become the top social class, and reuse would be something to be proud of, to get all your friends on board with, and to brag about.

 

Want to learn about more Small Things you can do? Read up on cloth napkins, handkerchiefs, no more straws, and water bottles.

 

 

Are you on board the reusable cup train? Or do you find it annoying, inconvenient, or other thoughts?

One Small Thing: Plastic Straws

 

In this series I am highlighting one small thing you can do in your life that will make a difference in our collective waste production and move us towards a plastic free world. Don’t forget to read back through why you should consider making the switch to cloth napkins, handkerchiefs, and anything other than plastic bottles.

Today, I am breaking the news: Plastic straw are out.

You may have heard.

There are literal laws against them now in places like Seattle and California, and massive international companies like Starbucks and Disney are on board.

budget epicurean one small thing plastic straws

And thank goodness for that, because Americans use about 500 million straws per day!*

*Though the oft-cited 500 million straws per day number might not be accurate, the point is the number is really high, and no matter what the number is, we can and should work towards lowering it.

According to Time.com:

“Some scientists estimate there are 7.5 million plastic straws polluting U.S. shorelines, and anywhere from 437 million to 8.3 billion plastic straws on shorelines around the world. And plastic straws are just a small percentage of the more than 8 million metric tons of plastic that end up in the ocean each year.”

So whether the number is 5 thousand or 5 million, we need it to become closer to zero.

Some may argue the fact that straws are plastic and recyclable. To which I ask: when is the last time you actually recycled a straw?

We are really bad at recycling straws.

They are small, and so ubiquitous as to be an afterthought.

And even if we tried to recycle them, the machinery we have is built for dealing with cans and bottles and laundry detergent jugs, it cannot sort things in the tiny size range of straws.

Here’s a quick primer to answer: “can I recycle this”.

Recycling Mystery: Plastic Straws

Now, I want to be clear: this is not a political issue for me.

This is not a liberals versus conservatives thing.

I don’t give a good goddamn if you have a closet full of rifles or voted for Obama, twice.

I’m not advocating for #StopSucking or #StrawGate.

All I’m saying is, maybe this is the wake-up call that consumers and beverage providers need. The humble straw can be a “gateway plastic” of sorts. Maybe this will get people thinking about all the other single use plastics in our lives.

Maybe we can start asking why.

And how.

And what can I do to stop it.

budget epicurean one small thing plastic straws

We go through our days on autopilot, just throwing things away.

Where is “away”?

Where do you really think your trash goes?

Because literally every piece of plastic anything, ever made, is still here, on this planet. It may have broken down into microplastics, some may have been melted and turned into some other plastic thing, but it is all still here. And we just keep piling it on.

There is a lot of good to this movement, but also some bad.

Why People With Disabilities Are Sick of Hearing, “You Can/I Just.” And I Am Too.

There are people who, due to muscular, nerve, or other disorders, can only drink a beverage safely through a straw. And I don’t have all the answers.

What I’m hoping is that this inspires more of a cultural shift.

A change in perspective. A gentle jolt out of our complacent first world lives where we don’t know or care what is happening outside the boundaries of our social media feed.

 

Some ideas for alternatives to plastic straws:

Other straw materials

To choose the right alternative straw for you, you need to ask yourself a few questions.

What is your price point? How often do you use a straw? Hot or cold drinks? Thick or thin liquids? (i.e. milkshakes and smoothies vs iced coffee, water, and tea)

The good news is there is a plethora of options, with more becoming available all the time.

Paper:

Paper Straws are made from… paper.

The good news is that means they are compostable at the end of their life span and can be returned to the earth. They do have their own pitfalls as well though.

budget epicurean one small thing plastic straws

PROS
o Can be printed with food safe vegetable inks
o Vintage appearance, vibrant and colourful
o Completely biodegradable & compostable
o Great for use with children
o Trees can be a renewable resource if harvested responsibly

CONS
o Will go soggy after a short period of time
o Not suited for thick smoothies and milkshakes
o Some may still be coated in a thin layer of plastic

Sugar cane or Corn starch:

PLA STRAWS – PLA, short for ‘Polylactic Acid’ is made from a renewable resources, such as corn starch & sugar cane.

PROS
o Has the appearance of plastic
o Completely Biodegradable & compostable
o Made from renewable sources
o Can make it flexible like bendy straws
o Easily transportable

CONS
o Can only be composted at commercial composting facility, not at home
o Looks like plastic, so consumers may mistake it for plastic
o Not yet cost effective to a large restaurant/supplier

Glass:

Glass straws are of course made from glass. Most are decently thick such that you shouldn’t have to treat them too delicately, but they are still, well, made of glass.

PROS
o Very smooth, like sipping right from the glass
o Clear, you can see that it’s clean (hopefully)
o Doesn’t really conduct heat, so you can drink hot or cold drinks

CONS
o Easily breakable if dropped or banged against anything
o Slightly heavier than paper or PLA straws

Steel

Stainless steel straws are the most durable option. Made from stainless steel, they should last forever, and not rust.

PROS
o Lasts a LONG time, very cost effective
o Sleek and smooth like the glass kind

CONS
o May hurt if you hit yourself in the teeth with it
o Conducts heat well, so a hot drink might be a problem
o May occasionally get a metallic taste using it

budget epicurean one small thing plastic straws

Reusable sturdy plastic

When all else fails, a reusable plastic straw can at least be washed and drunk from many many times.

I’ll admit I have a handful of plastic straws that I bought on sale at Target several years ago. While they are plastic, they are also a sunk cost for me. They have already been manufactured, packaged, shipped, and bought.

They are a thicker, heavier plastic, and they are dishwasher safe. I use these straws to get myself to drink more water throughout the day, in my morning smoothies, iced coffees, and in many other ways, at home and out and about.

Since I wash them over and over, I’m certain these 5 or 6 straws have already been used dozens of times, and have several more years of life left in them.

 

Bring your own, duh

To go along with the points above about using your own straw that can be used over and over, it is also a good idea to bring one with you at all times if you are a frequent straw user.

There are legitimate arguments from some corners to keep at least the option of straws at restaurants, mainly for folks who, because of a disability, literally cannot drink without straws for one reason or another.

To that I say, why not have places that sell beverages be stocked with reusable straws that they can also sell? (See above)

Have it be a low enough price point that it is affordable, maybe $1.

Yes, everyone is human and if this is your situation you likely carry a straw regularly. But forget enough times and it will become very ingrained, and/or you will eventually have a straw in every car, bag, purse, and coat pocket.

Just drink from the damn glass

This is the simplest option of all: just don’t.

Like the opposite of Nike.

Just don’t use a straw.

Drink from the glass like humans have done for millennia.

budget epicurean one small thing plastic straws

Whether hot or cold, at home or on the go, you can always just drink from the vessel into which you put your liquid. And then of course either wash and reuse it, or properly recycle the container.

 

Want to figure out which straw you should use?
Take the Going Zero Waste quiz and find out!

 

 

What do you think about these plastic straw bans? About time, or too little too late? How do you avoid plastic straws?

One Small Thing – Water Bottles

 

In this series, I am highlighting one small thing you can change in your daily life and habits that add up to a plastic free world. Don’t forget to read up on cloth handkerchiefs and cloth napkins too. We as a species have a long way to go, but each tiny step in the right direction brings us closer to the goal.

Today, we are beating this dead horse: Water Bottles.

Unless you live under a rock, you know all about this. You’ve heard it a million times, seen it a million times.

Plastic is everywhere.

And none is moreso ubiquitous than plastic water bottles.

By the way, when I say water bottle, I also mean any other single use plastic bottled beverage. Sodas, lemonade, iced tea, sports drinks. They all come in plastic, and they are all part of the problem.

The numbers are pretty dire.

“Annual consumption of plastic bottles is set to top half a trillion by 2021, far outstripping recycling efforts and jeopardising oceans, coastlines and other environments” (Source: the Guardian)

plastic water bottles on a table

Think about everywhere you may have been offered or used a plastic water bottle.

  • Your office or work place
  • At a conference
  • A kids sports event
  • At a play or musical
  • Moving day
  • Lecture halls
  • On vacation
  • On a hike
  • At a lake
  • Camping
  • Potlucks
  • Barbeques
  • Office meetings
  • Retirement party
  • Birthday party
  • Wedding shower
  • Baby shower
  • On a plane
  • In an airport
  • At an amusement park
  • An aquarium
  • At the zoo
  • Skating rink
  • Soccer stadium
  • Baseball stadium
  • Football stadium
  • Hockey rink (you get the point)
  • Family holidays
  • At a friends’ house
  • At your house?!?

With the exception of times when local municipal water is honestly not safe to drink, there is absolutely no excuse to drink bottled water rather than tap water in your own home.

If this is your situation, then by all means drink from bottles. Water is hella important to the staying alive thing, and I’d far prefer that you drink water than not.

As the daughter of a chemist and director of seven water management facilities, I can tell you that 99% of tap water is perfectly safe to drink. I grew up my whole life drinking tap water.

Is it a taste thing?

Do you not like that water has no flavor? Does your tap water have too much chlorine or other flavor you don’t like?

Get a filter. Add cucumber slices or frozen berries. Squirt in some lemon juice. Invest in a SodaStream to make it fizzy. Hell, buy a few Mios and squirt some in.

No excuses.

And when you are out and about, there is a 90% chance that you can find a tap to refill a bottle, IF you have one. That’s a big if. Just like stocking every bag and car with a reusable cloth bag, why not start putting a reusable bottle there too?

If you have your own bottle, guess what?

That refill is free!

Yes, you can save yourself anywhere from $1 to $5 (depending on the location) by not buying a drink.

And, not use another plastic bottle!

AND, water is WAY healthier for you than any other sweetened, flavored beverage you might buy.

Win win win!

Any plastic, glass, or stainless steel bottle will do. Many colleges, businesses, or sports teams give them out for free. Thrift stores are bursting with reusable bottles for mere dimes. Get yo self a bottle and USE IT.

For the health of it. For the planet. For the financial savings.

SO, repeat this out loud please: I will stop using plastic single-use bottles.

Why?

  • It is 1,000 times cheaper to drink tap water! (Infinity times really because dividing by zero. #maththings)
  • Remembering my own bottle is easy, and will become a new habit.
  • I care about the future of our planet, forests, animals, and oceans!

 

Did I miss any water bottle locations or excuses? Just kidding, pretty sure literally anywhere could go on that list. How do you avoid single use plastic bottles?

One Small Thing: Cloth Napkins/Hand Towels

 

In this post series, I am highlighting One Small Thing you can change in your daily life to decrease your consumption and waste production, and move towards a more environmentally friendly, low waste lifestyle.

These changes are focusing on the low-hanging fruit, the small switches that will not break the bank or add hours to your daily or weekly routine.

These are largely changes that used to be considered ‘the way of life’ just a few short decades ago.

Today we are talking about Cloth Napkins & Hand Towels.

budget epicurean cloth hand towels

I know the title looks like two things, since I mention both napkins and hand towels.

But let me explain why they are the same: they are the same.

A cloth, rather than paper, to wipe your hands with. That’s it.

The only real difference being that we call it a hand towel when it is in the bathroom and used to dry your hands after you wash them, and it is called a napkin when it is used at the dinner table or in the kitchen to wipe your face and hands.

cloth napkins

Because we generally don’t use napkins with dinner anyways (I know, we’re animals… no we just aren’t that messy I guess) I haven’t felt the need to invest in a set of cotton dinner napkins.

But I feel that coming on someday soon, as I do love hosting dinner parties and would be more than willing to host family holidays now that we have our own home.

You can re-use cloth over and over for years before they finally break down. And once they become too stained/ripped to use with company, they can become heavy duty cleaning rags for cars, floors, bathrooms, and more.

And the best part is, once they are beyond even that functionality, 100% cotton cloths can even be composted, to totally complete the cycle and close the loop.

Let’s say that your family of 4 uses 2 napkins each per day. I assume lunch outside the house. That equals 56 napkins per week, and a total of 2912 napkins per year.

Now let’s also just pick a random number and say you can get 100 paper napkins for $1 at the dollar store. That still means you are spending a minimum of about $29 per year on paper, which is then thrown away.

That is not taking into account if you buy napkins somewhere more expensive, or in fancy colors or patterns for the holidays, or host family or friends often.

If instead you invested that $29 into a set of nice, restaurant grade cotton cloth napkins, you would most likely never have to buy napkins, ever again! You could probably save yourself over $1000 easily throughout your life, and just imagine how many trees.

budget epicurean cloth hand towels

We used to be die-hard lovers of paper towels.

I mean, what could be easier when you spill some sauce on the counter than grabbing a sheet or two off the roll, wiping it up, and tossing the paper towel in the trash?

There was a roll in the kitchen, on the dining table, on the coffee table, in the bedroom. You never know when you might have to deal with an errant drip of coffee, or a smushed bug, or a dog would cough up something you do not want to touch.

But this convenience comes at a cost, as we would order cases of paper towels every 3-6 months. Not to mention the cost to the environment of all that paper production, transportation, and the greenhouse gasses caused by paper products rotting in landfills.

I figure, we probably spent about $25 on paper towels every 3 months. You can buy 24 cloth hand towels for $16, and they last far longer than 3 months.

That’s a savings of $75, per year!

What I do have oodles of now is cloth hand towels.

If you take a tour of my bathrooms, you will notice towel hooks and a different color towel hanging off each one. Sometimes I even put a second backup towel folded on the counter as well.

budget epicurean cloth hand towels

Many of these are now several years old at this point, as they were purchased on sale throughout college or gifted to me for various birthdays and holidays.

They have cleaned up spills, flour, counter tops, tables, floors, mud, grease, soap, and much more. They have likely been through the wash at least a few dozen times by now.

And all are still perfectly sanitary, and perfectly functional. I have a minimum of one towel hanging off the stove at all times, for cleaning random spills and drying hands or dishes after washing.

budget epicurean hand towel on the stove

When they get dirty, wet, or stained, they just go into the laundry hamper. I wash them with our weekly loads of clothing and bath towels, and have never had a problem.

Though I’m sure there is some small number of pennies spent on laundry soap, water, electricity, and time, these towels have paid for themselves many times over, and will continue to do so for years.

 

To summarize, why should you consider cloth napkins and hand towels?
  • They are infinitely cheaper over time
  • You only need to buy them once every few decades, if that
  • They take far less energy to create than hundreds of paper towels
  • They do not contribute to landfills every week
  • You will love the soft feel of the fabric versus paper
  • They are far more absorbent, for large messes
  • They come in tons of colors and patterns
  • You can use them to clean up after babies and animals
  • They may be able to be composted at the very end of their life

 

What you do think, did I miss any good reasons? Do you use cloth napkins and/or towels, and why or why not?