How to Have a Paperless Kitchen
Why should I have a paperless kitchen?
In America alone, we use more than 13 billion pounds of paper towels each year. That doesn’t even count paper napkins: If just 50 percent of America used 3 paper napkins a day, that would total in 450,000,000 napkins for one day. Can we not?!
As far as the resources go, as many as 51,000 trees per day are required to replace the number of paper towels discarded every day. And, to make paper napkins, 0.07 gallons of water is required to produce just one 0.08 ounce paper napkin. That would mean it would take 31,500,000 gallons of water just to make the paper napkins used on a daily basis! That’s atrocious.
This is why when people say, ‘but don’t you waste more water washing reusable cloths?’ – the answer is clearly no. You can just add reusable napkins and towels to your laundry and wash them with all the other clothes you were planning on washing anyway. Besides, the water wasted to actually make disposable towels and napkins far outweighs the water you’d need to wash reusable counterparts.
But what about really gross messes and greasy foods?
I will admit there’s a bit of a learning curve here. We’ve been super conditioned to think we need a paper towel to wipe up nasty spills or put under greasy foods. But the truth is, cleaning using cloth napkins works just as well.
For wiping spills that are really gross, I recommend using a rag that’s on its last leg, or just soak the unpaper towel in hot water and vinegar for a bit after use before putting it in the wash. Your family won’t die because of it, I promise.
For greasy foods, take a splatter screen and just put the food on there for a bit with a plate on it. Or, place them on a used paper bag you saved from the grocery store. Most of the grease will drain off.
Get your hands on some cloths, or make your own
Personally, I love using these organic unbleached cotton unpaper towels as napkins – they’re the perfect size! Plus, at the end of their life when they get all raggedy and have holes, I know I can just compost them. They come in plastic-free packaging too, made from reclaimed paper and paper tape! Check them out here.
I’ve also got some cute printed reusable unpaper towels that are bigger in size and have really adorable prints on them. I personally have farmers market prints on mine, some avocado, and some in solid colors. They’re 100% cotton flannel and incredibly soft on your hands! And they arrived completely plastic-free. Check them out here.
To live comfortably, I recommend getting at least two sets each of these unpaper towels. Each set comes with six unpaper towels, so I have 24 unpaper towels altogether, not including the dish towels I already had at home. We’re three people sharing one apartment, so this is enough for us throughout the week. We do laundry once a week so we always have enough on hand.
Obviously, you don’t have to purchase exactly these products to have a paper free kitchen – I’m just sharing what I love and use. The products I bought are also from a small woman owned business, Tiny Yellow Bungalow, so it’s a lot better than supporting a huge corporation like Amazon.
If you’d like to save some money, I suggest trying to make your own. You can cut up some old soft cotton t-shirts, or even cut up some old bath towels that are starting to rip.
If you’re good at sewing you can also try to sew your own cloth napkins and unpaper towels too. Personally, I’m not but I’d love to make a project out of that one day for the fun of it. My mom is better at sewing than me, and I think it’d be fun to try and make really pretty cloth napkins together.
Set a timeline for going paperless
You don’t have to go paperless overnight – nor should you. You likely already have paper towels and napkins on hand anyway. I suggest using them as you purchase your paper-free replacements. This way, it will feel less cold turkey.
Use the time when the products are running out to transition. You can start slow too – lets say you get your hands on some paper-free napkins – begin by just using those for dinner. Introduce yourself, and your family, to this idea so you have time to adjust and get used to it.
My family was already used to using dish towels to wipe wet dishes. And we had some rags and hand towels around. So I knew that me buying the unpaper towels and napkins would be a good choice and nothing too out of their comfort zone. Sometimes a slow transition is key to success.
Find a convenient place for them in your kitchen
My mom and I cleared out a drawer for the unpaper towels and napkins to live in when not in use. We like to keep a few out though: One on the fridge door handle for drying dishes, and two on the stove door handle for wiping our hands.
Keeping a few unpaper towels out is a good idea so that way you can easily reach for it when your hands are wet or you need to clean something up. Another spot to keep them is under the kitchen sink if you have room there (that’s where I keep a lot of my other cleaning supplies).
Or, you can keep them all out in plain sight if you like – you could set them up in a little basket if you have enough counter space (we don’t). But it would make it even easier to reach for!
Keep a laundry bin or basket nearby
We like to use our unpaper towels and napkins as long as we can but when they get too soiled or funky, we toss them in the laundry bin. We keep ours fairly close by, it’s just a little walk around the corner of the kitchen.
You can keep a little basket for dirty and soiled unpaper towels on the floor or counter near your kitchen. I definitely recommend somewhere close by so it will be easier for you. I know someone who bought glass cookie jars she keeps on the counter for soiled unpaper towels – that works too!
As long as you have a place to put the dirty unpaper towels and napkins, your life will be a lot easier. When the bin or basket fills up, it’s time to add them to the wash!
We throw them in the washing machine with everything else. Just add them with the regular laundry. This makes things easier and also doesn’t waste any extra water washing them separately.
Put disposable products away
This one we’ve yet to master completely, but it’s true that when something is within reach, you’re more likely to use it. By putting disposable products away, you’ll be much less tempted to use them.
For me, I don’t need to do this to avoid paper towels or napkins. I’m pretty good about it. And honestly, as much as I feel my folks would benefit from me putting the disposables away, I don’t think they’d go for it. They’d likely get angry at me for removing it, so I won’t tread there.
For me, just having the reusable option out there for them to reach for, is enough. And I have seen them use it! My dad loves the reusable napkins I purchased – he always uses it over the disposable napkins. And even he admits it’s saving them money which is great.
Better yet, challenge yourself to not buy any paper products from here on out (once you have enough cloth unpaper towels and napkins of course).
Ready for a paperless kitchen?
So, now that you know what I do, are you ready to create a paperless kitchen of your own?
To conclude, here are the steps I advise you to take:
- Purchase some unpaper towels or make your own (What I use: These [for napkins] and these [paper towels])
- Find a place for them in your kitchen, like a drawer or a basket you can keep on the counter
- Keep a laundry bin or basket nearby you can add soiled unpaper towels to it
- Put your disposable napkins and paper towels away so you won’t be tempted to use them (out of sight out of mind)
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