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Paper Towels

The Green Kitchen on Facebook Live (Notes)

If you caught my Facebook Live event on The Green Kitchen, here are some notes to help you connect with resources that I mentioned for the three topics I covered: composting the lazy way, incorporating reusable cloths around the house so you can ditch paper towels, and replacing non-stick cookware with healthier options. When there is a specific brand that I like, I’ve linked that exact one. When it’s whole a category I talked about, but I don’t have a brand preference, I’ve provided a search on Amazon for you based on some key words. Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links. If you click through and buy something, I may receive a small commission at no additional expense to you.

1. Composting the Lazy Way

Americans represent 5% of the world’s population but generate 30% of the world’s garbage. The average American throws away 4.5 pounds of trash a day. What we reduce and reuse can make a difference! Commercial recycling should always be a distant third to the other two R’s. However, recycling at home–like through composting–is an impactful, doable step.  

Previous Posts:

The book that got me started was Composting by Liz Ball. It is simple and non-gimmicky.


Products relating to composting if you don’t want to DIY:

2. Reusable Cloths

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The Paper-Towel-Free Kitchen

Some people call them unpaper towels; some people buy cute ones on Etsy. Some people ditch the paper ones because of cost; some people are convicted about the environmental impact of production, bleaching, shipping, or a lifetime in a landfill. Me? I offloaded paper towels years ago because of cost and environmental impact. As for what I call them, the unglamorous term rags comes to mind. But, really we call them kitchen cloths (to distinguish from the different colored ones we use to clean the bathroom or yet another set we use as diaper wipes). Our are free, because we made them from old, holey cotton t-shirts. If the old fabric doesn’t absorb because of years of being washed with detergent (this is called repelling), you can boil it to strip it and make it absorbent again. We love that these are free, no-sew, last for years, and then are compostable when done (or at least trashed without guilt). $0 for 5+ years of use is pretty awesome in my book! (I don’t count in laundry costs because we have to wash our kitchen towels and kids’ bibs anyway.)  So, how do you cut a shirt into rags? You certainly can just go at it with scissors any way you’d like, but here is how we do it:
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Paper Towel Alternative

Eight months ago we decided to phase out paper towels in our house and switch to one-use-and-wash cloth towels. To maximize the eco-friendliness of this move, we wanted to repurpose something that we already had rather than go and buy a new cloths from the store. Enter my husband’s old, holey T-shirts.

I started by cutting down each side seam, then cutting out the sleeves. With the shirt in more manageable chunks I was able to start cutting it into useable pieces. I decided that I wanted each cloth to be the size of 1/2 paper towel. This size is big enough for most clean-up jobs, but small enough that we aren’t tempted to reuse them (and thus spread harbored bacteria).

Storing the cloths in discreet way was important to me. I didn’t think a big wad of rags, even clean ones with a noble purpose, would encourage my husband to stick with it. So, I decided to use a small canister. While it is easy enough to just lob the cloths in there, I like a more streamlined approach. I stack all of the cloths, then invert the pile and push it in the canister so that just one cloth is visible (like how a box of tissues is packaged). That way I can grab one cloth without taking seven others out.

Once a cloth is used, it goes in an open plastic basket in the laundry room. Note that the holding area must be an open container (and be sure your wet cloth isn’t balled up when it goes in) otherwise you will end up with a seriously stagnant stench. Blech!

In our house, white cloths are for kitchen jobs and they can get washed with any towel load. Any cloth made of colored or patterned cloth is for outside or bathroom cleaning. They have their own separate basket in the laundry room and get washed by themselves. (If you use cloth diapers or pads you could add these to that load). Honestly, I don’t know if laundry cross-contamination is a legitimate concern or not, but I’d rather not risk it.

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