There is a secret obsession taking place in kitchens across America. It’s an addiction to paper towels and napkins. I know they’re easy and convenient and sanitary but there are other choices that will help you tread a little more lightly on the planet without sacrificing convenience.
The most, eco-friendly option to paper towels and likely the most inexpensive in the long term is to dedicate a drawer in your kitchen for reusable washcloths and towels that will last for years. Yes you will have to launder them and that requires energy and other resources, but this impact is far less than the impact of continually producing, distributing and disposing of a paper towel that we use just once.
If you just aren’t ready to give up paper towels completely, then pick a better paper towel. Look for towels made from recycled paper. Specifically those made with a high post consumer content of 50 percent or more. That’s the recycled paper you and I as consumers generate. Now when you reach for a paper towel at least you aren’t reaching for a virgin paper product that will never get used again. Paper towels and napkins can’t be recycled because they are usually soiled with grease or food residue that can contaminate the recycling process.
Don’t worry if the recycled paper products you buy aren’t gleaming white. Paper isn’t white naturally. It has to be bleached. When pulp and paper mills use chlorine-based bleach the result is toxic emissions into our air, land and water. So feel good about your selection of slightly off-white or brown recycled paper towels (and napkins) knowing that you are not only reducing waste, you’re reducing pollution in the environment too.
There's a great guide by the Natural Resources Defense Council that lists many brands of paper towels and napkins with the most recycled content and those that are chlorine free. You can find it at NRDC.org
I gave up paper towels a year ago. My children and husband however did not. I do keep a roll of recycled paper towels near the sink and we go through a roll about every two weeks so we’re getting better. The added benefit is that I’m saving money. If you’re habit has you using two or more rolls of paper towels a week like I was then you’ll be on your way to saving at least a $100 a year.