Paper towels are a staple in many homes and seem to have infinite uses, but they are also a single-use product filling up landfills and contributing to overall waste. Aside from the waste problem, paper towel production impacts the environment through deforestation, chemical and water use, and carbon dioxide emissions. So how do we kick the paper towel habit and make the switch to better alternatives?
Americans are responsible for about half of the world’s paper towel usage – 13 billion pounds of paper towels annually or the equivalent of 270 million trees each year. To move away from overuse of paper towels, consider the many viable alternatives that exist on the market. Instead of decorative dish towels, white cotton towels and sponges can be used and reused for spills and household cleaning. Consider investing in cloth napkins to avoid unnecessary waste at mealtimes. The best part about switching to these reusable alternatives is that you’re likely to save money in the long run by purchasing less single-use items.
If you feel like a mess just needs a paper towel, try to purchase post-consumer recycled fiber, unbleached, or bamboo paper towels. Bamboo requires no pesticides or chemicals for growth and is self-regenerating with little water. Additionally, most paper towels are biodegradable and can be composted (if used to clean up food or drink messes), so if you want to go above and beyond, be sure to check if the paper towels you are purchasing fit these requirements.
By Olivia Beckstead