Every night at dinner, Roark and I would use paper towels for napkins. Feeling a bit wasteful throwing a barely used napkin away each night, we then started sharing a paper towel between us to cut down on the garbage. Eventually when I was literally cutting the paper towel in half, so we could share a smaller piece each night, it dawned on me- why not get reusable napkins?!
A hefty investment at first, I found a seller on etsy that offered napkins made from organic cotton (figuring if I’m going there, I might as well go all the way). We purchased 28 napkins, calculating a napkin for each of us for two meals a day, seven days a week. The day they arrived, I couldn’t have been more excited. Neatly pressed (for the last time) in their little box tied up with a ribbon, the napkins added an elegant touch to our dinners even if they were taking place in front of the TV some nights.
Trying to solve the problem of where to keep them, I went out to Target and bought a bin to store them in on our counter top for easy accessibility and a small trashcan to place the dirty ones in as they awaited washing. The double trashcan system tends to confuse visitors, especially since we throw a third one in the mix for recycling, but overall it’s incredibly functional.
We loved the system so much, that we got rid of the paper towels all together. I purchased a ton of cheap Ikea dishtowels to serve as our towels for picking up kitchen messes and drying hands. I store them in a bin under the sink, which keeps them out of the way, but easy to grab. They also get tossed in the small trashcan for washing.
I like to make my own laundry detergent. It’s easy to do, works well, and puts fewer chemicals on my clothes and into the environment. I find washing the napkins and towels in the detergent works well to clean them. I like to add a bit of vinegar to the washer since it helps to neutralize any kitchen odors that stick to the cloth. Every few loads, I will add in some bleach to really kill any lingering odors or stains. Also, because the towels are so small, I can toss them in with my weekly load of whites so I’m not using any more water than normal.
In all honesty, I wish that I had implemented this system sooner. Not only does it make me feel good to reduce my household waste, but it’s saving me money at the store. We still have a roll of paper towels on hand for the dirty jobs (here’s looking at you Gary the cat, throwing up my poor ingested porch plants over and over and over until the end of time…). Hopefully it’s a change you can make in your home too! Happy Earth Month!