The other day I turned around and my 13 month old daughter was wiping her high chair down with a reusable kitchen cloth I’ve sewn. Not once have I explicitly done anything that would lead her to do this. Nonetheless she had, on her own, walked over to where I keep the in-use towels, pulled it off the handle and walked over to her high chair to clean it. Instantly I was hit with the impact our choices have on our children and how much our small daily actions shape who they are and what they will, in-turn, do. This is not something new or even insightful. I’ve felt that responsibility since the day I first got to hold her tiny little hand in mine. I am constantly thinking about how both my husband’s and my parenting will impact her for years to come. But when I so clearly saw her imitating something I do without even a second thought I realized our impact has already begun.
So in teaching our children to be good citizens of the earth the best tool we have is our own example. One very simple way I have reduced my footprint is in the kitchen. I had been slowly reducing my use of paper towels for years but after my daughter was born I stopped buying it completely. We had friends, Clarrissa (one of the earth mamas) and her husband JC, who had been solely using towels in their kitchen. They kindly gifted us several towels when we moved back to Canada in 2017. This is what started the shift. After several months of using the gifted towels, I felt like I was still reaching for the odd paper towel because my stash of linens was used up and I hadn’t done the laundry yet. In addition to the ones we already had I decided I needed a few more towels in smaller sizes because the ones we had were really large (about 2 square feet) and though were great for large scale clean up, felt wasteful to use on a small wipe up job. Pinterest (my best friend, hah!) helped me out as I searched up the best type of towels to use and how to make them yourself.
If you have been on the fence, or thinking about no longer using paper towel, DO IT NOW! It’s so easy, and there is no better time than the present. You can have a paperless kitchen in 2019, and by the time 2020 rolls around you will have saved the landfill of needless waste, several trees and the emissions of carcinogens during paper towel production. According to Better Planet Paper, if every household in the US used 1 less roll of paper towel each year, 544,000 trees would be saved. Imagine if everyone went completely paperless?
These are the steps I took and my must have items for a paperless kitchen. These items require little monetary and zero creative investment.
Step 1: Do not buy any more paper towel
Step 2: Do NOT throw out any you still have in the house
This is opposite of #zerowaste living. Instead, save the paper towel for the dirtiest, messiest jobs that would otherwise destroy your cloths. I’ve come to learn these really don’t exist (other than my dog’s accidents) and I don’t miss my paper towels at all.
Step 3: Buy or make yourself some cloth towels
These can be really anything you’d like. I bought some large pieces of flour sack cotton, cut them into small pieces (about the size of a sheet of paper towel). For longevity purposes I sergered the edges (or you can zig zag stitch them) to prevent fraying. Dishcloths also work, I just found they were bigger and heavier than I needed and I save those for drying my dishes. There really are countless options, and most likely you already have several towels in your home you can use.
Step 4: Ensure you have a system
This step is crucial to staying paperless. Keep a basket somewhere handy (mine is above the microwave) for the clean cloth stash, that way you always know where to get one quickly. Messes strike unexpectedly. You also need a basket (mine is under the sink) for the dirty cloths, that way you have a place (that isn’t the garbage) for the cloth to go until it’s laundry time. Whenever I’m doing a load of laundry I’ll throw in the towels that are ready to be cleaned. The freshly laundered ones go back into the basket above the microwave.
Step 6 (OPTIONAL): A chemical free spray
I hated the idea of using chemicals to clean the high chair and counter tops that my daughter eats her food off of and we prepare her food on. So I looked into alternatives. Vinegar is a natural cleaning agent and has been used for years by our grandparents and their parents. It also comes in large recyclable bulk containers which is a bonus. Since it isn’t the loveliest of aromas, after diluting it with tap water I add essential oils for a scent I find more appealing. See my recipe below!
Step 5: Use your cloths!
When you need to wipe up a mess reach for your cloth and spray bottle. If it’s a small mess I will hang it over the stove handle for reuse. If the cloth is really dirty it goes straight into the “dirty pile” basket under the sink.
That’s it That is all there is to it! The easiest green choice I’ve made, aside from bringing my reusable water bottle along with me everyday.