How much money do you spend on paper products every month? How much paper do you throw away, after it has been through the energy consuming process of production, transportation to a store, etc.? Trees may be a renewable resource, but the environmental impact of paper products is huge. You don’t have to use that much paper every day. There are easy, convenient, reusable substitutes right in front of you.
My sister and I have used cloth napkins for many years, and if you look at the time and money we would spend buying, storing, laying out and throwing away paper napkins, I’m sure it’s less than we spend tossing them in the wash, hanging out, and folding with the laundry we already do. Also, cloth napkins are more attractive. Mine don’t all match, but for daily use, it actually makes sense to know which one you used at breakfast.
I keep a roll in my kitchen because visitors are so lost and confused if I don’t, and once in a while there is something truly horrible on the floor- dog vomit or something- that I just want sent to the landfill. But basically I have a bucket of cloth squares under my sink; clean, dry, and folded, ready for use. Many of them are old washcloths, but you can actually buy reusable cleaning cloths. They clean better than paper towels, and don’t take up much space in the wash.
Newspaper works well, but I read the news on the Net, whenever I yank my head out of the sand, so there isn’t much at our house. When sheets get too worn I keep them for cleaning, straining fruit juice, or even a drop cloth, and they work well for windows, using a vinegar solution. I do use one piece of paper towel to buff away the little bits of lint on bathroom mirrors. “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds…”- Ralph Waldo Emerson.
When I had a linoleum floor that needed wiping after mopping, I sewed a pocket out of a piece of worn out bath towel, fit that over my long handled floor brush, and wiped everything spotless without opening a plastic package or squirting a chemical. Now that I have saltillo tiles, I just scrub and mop, but I do keep old towels for big spills.
I also have a bag that is like a singles bar for socks. Sometimes they are reunited with their partners; sometimes not, but if I am on the phone, or walking through the house doing something that doesn’t require one of my hands, I slip on a clean stray sock and run it over things I pass. Makes me look a little like Vanna White (what ever happened to her?) but it picks up dust and dirt easily, and then I toss it in the wash. Things with more complicated profiles are best flicked at with a feather duster- yes, those antiquated things work great.
A note not for the faint of heart:
People cleaned before the invention of disposable paper products. They also answered the various calls of nature. Men, close your eyes. Women, you can save a lot of waste and money by using a menstrual cup, also sold as a moon cup or diva cup. It is actually easier and less messy than tampons or pads. OK men, you can open your eyes; it’s over.
Now, you may not want to hear this, but if you are a hard core prepper, tremble as you imagine a time without toilet paper. I remember someone told me once some 17th century French writer said there was “nothing so nice as the neck of a goose.” People talk about using Mullein leaves, moss, etc., but it’s really not so crazy to use a wash cloth if you have running water to rinse it with afterwards. Most of us have wiped babies’ behinds, and that is a lot messier. OK, honestly, I’m not there yet. I may be comfortable knee deep in deer guts but…butt rags, not so much. And in a post-apocalyptic world, I’m sure I’d be the one trading a basket of radioactive chestnuts for a roll of toilet paper. OK, never mind, I’ll go take a picture of a Mullein plant.