By Patty Mochel
Cutting way back on single-use paper products seemed a no-brainer on my Climate Crisis Consumer Diet. I had used cloth table napkins when I had four kids at home, but as fewer people regularly came to the dinner table, I had inexplicably slipped back into using paper napkins. Last year, when I pulled out my stash of cloth napkins, I had lost my relaxed attitude about them. During dinner, I would cringe every time someone used one to wipe a greasy finger. Why was I so neurotic about them? Was I burdened by the thought that they would need constant washing and ironing? I had handled that in the past by keeping several sets of cloth napkins on hand. However, the unhappy decline of retail stores meant there are fewer local shops to find cloth napkins, and I was loathe to go online to find them, or cut out and sew a set of six napkins.
I realized that 20 years ago, because there were so many available, I had several sets and had discovered that napkins made of a darker colored cloth that was printed with a pattern helped to hide food stains, relieving me of daily napkin washing. With that in mind, I hit on the idea of using cloth bandanas, and the local Michael’s store had a bunch of really inexpensive ones. I bought six in a dark green. They can be washed frequently, and if I shake them out and hang them, they don’t need to be ironed. Problem solved.
Next to go: paper towels. A trip to Target’s kitchen department scored two sets of washcloths that conveniently came in a color that matched my kitchen. I stash them in a stack on the counter and use them to wipe off countertops and placemats, and clean out the sink. I inwardly cringed the first time I used them to clean up a mess on the floor – I was screaming inside, “It’s a mess! Use a paper towel and toss the mess away.” What brought me back to reality was the realization that 50 (or 60) years ago, people (like my Mom and grandmother) used cloth “rags” to clean up everything. If they could do it, so could I! Presto. No more paper towels.
My son packs a lunch every day, and I wanted to stop using plastic sandwich and chip bags. In August, I found some reusable silicone sandwich bags at Mom’s Organic Market. I bought two, and they have been working out well. I missed the before-school sale for chip bags, so my son has been using paper sacks I found at the grocery store for his chips and cookies. I’ll be trading up for reusable chip bags next year.
Finally, I made the switch to 100% recycled toilet paper. I read an article that the plush T.P. I had been purchasing for my family was made from wood pulp taken from virgin forests in Canada. That was pretty shocking, and I’m glad I found out about that.
Next to consider on my Climate Crisis Consumer Diet: Kleenex, and skin care “essentials” like cotton swabs, cotton balls. Dare I say shampoo in plastic bottles? Stay tuned.
You can read about the first changes I made a few months ago here.