Sunday, June 13, 2010

One Small Change

Have you seen this?

I've been meaning to implement one small change into our routine for almost 6 months now. Something that will help reduce our carbon footprint and allow us to be better stewards to the earth. Something that goes beyond the regular composting, recycling, turning off the lights behind us that are so automatic. Something consciously decided. But what?

Many of my online blogging friends have taken to this challenge like a moth to a flame. I've been stopping by regularly to read about their eco-friendly changes on the One Small Change blog, on their personal blogs, on updates to Facebook. And yet I hadn't jumped on board.

Part of it was a misguided elitist attitude that I was already so much more environmentally responsible than most of the suburbanites I know. We wash clothes on cold. We hang dry much of our laundry inside. We keep the thermostat turned down low. We recycle, we compost, we turn off lights, we purged our home of plastic, we use natural toys. What more could we do?

Hello Internet. My name is Danita and I am addicted to paper towels.

It's the change I've wanted to make for such a long time. The change that seemed SO daunting to me that I postponed and postponed. We use paper towels for everything. As napkins. To clean up spills. To wipe down counters. To clean windows and mirrors.

The same germaphobe in me that couldn't handle cloth diapers (Shh...don't tell anyone!) had a hard time wrapping my brain around cloth for cleaning and faces. But one night, while cleaning up a giant spill of apple juice that required about 20 paper towels I sat resolute. We would end our dependence on paper.

I started pricing out cloth napkins. HOLY EXPENSIVE batman! Not being a sewer myself I decided the easiest way to go about getting my hands on cloth would be the ever trusty Etsy. I found exactly what I was looking for at Gnome Clothes and quickly ordered two sets. Imagine my surprise when the awesome owner contacted me about a trade for some of my wool dryer balls. It was a match made in heaven.

We've been using the Gnome Clothes un-paper towels religiously for 2 weeks now. Some habits are hard to break. We haven't completely given up on paper towels - but I'm pleased that we've been working on the same roll now for 14 days - and it's only half gone. We were going through a roll at least every 5-6 days. Even composting all those paper towels rather than just tossing them into a landfill didn't ease my discomfort. But using cloth? Finally, yes!

And all this thinking about ways to make our home, our lifestyles more eco-conscious has opened up a slew of possibilities for me. Things I hadn't really considered possible here in suburbia, but am rethinking.

What will be your one small change?

Simple Mama.

(PS...did you catch it? I actually mentioned my first name. Don't tell my husband.)


  1. Congrats on switching to cloth! My hubby had a hard time with that one too so we can't keep them around AT ALL or he will use them all up. Very frustrating when Elizabeth spills acrylic paints and the only thing we have to clean them up is cloth. Alas, we have a pile of fairly stained cloth napkins and a separate stack hidden away for guests. ;)

  2. That is really great. It seems like no matter how much we already do there can always easily do a little bit more. We have some paper towel guilt too, (that I have almost written about also), we have lots of pets, sometimes we really need them...
    I always have changes on my list, things that some day will get started. I need more cleaning cloths for the kitchen too, I do sew, I just can never decide which fabrics to make them from.
    Good luck overcoming your addiction!

  3. Good for you, for seeing this opportunity for change! It's the smallest things that are the hardest to break, isn't it? With more time, you might find yourself using one roll of paper towels every few months -- then never!
    Any change is great, so well done!
    (i have been following your blog for some time and always enjoy your posts - thank you for sharing this with us!)

  4. Hi there!

    We've been slowly weaning ourselves off paper towels as well. The one place that I can't seem to give them up? Cleaning the bathroom. Our little boys miss the toilet with a degree of regularity that makes me want to tear out my hair. I don't want to keep reusing cloths that I'm afraid will be germy or smell like pee. Any suggestions? I love your blog, it is awesome! Love, Shellie

  5. Congrats on making your one small change! It will make a big difference in the end.

    In my house we only buy paper towels but only use them for a couple things. I like to use them to help store greens in the fridge, and to clean up dog messes. I compost the first sets of paper towels and figure the others are the price of owning a dog.

    I have a giant pile of terry and "sack cloth" dish towels and another big pile of terry washclothes. I use them for everything from pulling hot pans out of the oven to cleaning the kitchen floor to napkins at the table to wiping down the outside of the toilet. Obviously, I wash them in between uses and wash them regularly, but I have so many of them that it doesn’t make a difference. I always have stacks of clean ones.

    A couple things to think about with germs. Once a piece of clothing has gone through the washer and dryer (or hung to dry) it is no more germy than any other clean clothes. You don't worry about your underwear being germy, do you? You just wash them and use them again. The other is that urine is sterile and that it washes out of terry cloth just fine in a regular washing machine. We live in a small apartment with three dogs, one of which is not properly housetrained. He will pee on anything left on the floor. As long as it doesn’t sit for too long it washes right out.

    I do do a separate load of what I lovingly refer to as "really gross" towels every once in a while but that’s only because I don’t want my work clothes or bed sheets to soak around in the gross wash water. Once they've gone through the washer, though, they are back in regular rotation, good as new.

    If you were really, really worried about germs (your immune system is amazing, you are covered in germs at all times and don’t always get sick. You’ll be fine, but..) you could get a pile of washclothes that were a different color than your other ones. Like red or black or something so everyone knows These Clothes Have One Purpose Only.

    Good luck with your cloth habit! Get piles more dish clothes at goodwill and you’ll never worry about paper towels again!

  6. I love the idea of cloth wipes instead of paper towels, but haven't quite wrapped my mind around what to do with them between using and washing. Do you keep a small laundry basket in the kitchen to collect them in or something like that?

  7. AychJE - yes, I have them in an old crock. Every few days we run them to the laundry room. I let them soak in some Oxi-Clean over night and then run them through the washer with a load of towels. It's keeping them white. We line dry them.

  8. I find myself using way too many towels! I am going to follow your example and buy some cloth towels this weekend!


  9. I managed to break my paper towel addiction about a year ago but i do need to do better with every day stuff - like not succumbing to a magazine every time we go to the shops. My greener goal is to buy more in bulk so that i visit the supermarket less - and consume less.

    Love the site - lots of food for thought!