Monday, August 2, 2010

Less Impact Progress, Cloth Napkins

I have not been as vocal about it lately, but our less impact journey is progressing nicely. I have been reading blogs, speaking with others, and critically thinking about how we can make permanent changes that will better the environment. This is all thanks to the No Impact Man book and documentary. I have blogged about reducing the time our TV is on and buying in bulk instead of packaged goods. It is now time for something more.

As I continued to think about our impact, I started to notice our reliance on paper goods. We gave up cleaning with paper towels years ago and switched to old cloth towels and shirts for cleaning rags. We have paper towels in our home, but we use them very sparingly and only buy the kinds that are made from recycled paper and without the use of bleach. We do the same with our toilet paper and napkins.

Somehow my focus shifted to napkins. I thought about our napkin use. We buy the Seventh Generation or the other recycled kinds, but we used them on a daily basis. I thought that it probably does not make that big of a difference, and I started to do the math, again (note my blog posting about oatmeal packets)!! Here goes.......

John and I each took a paper napkin in our lunches- 2 napkins per day, 5 days a week. That is a total of 10 napkins in a week. In addition, for about half of the dinners in our week, we each used a paper napkin. Let's say that is 4 nights times 2 napkins, for a total of 8 napkins. We take the 10 napkins for lunches and then 8 napkins are used for dinner. That is 18 napkins in a week. Now, multiply that by 52 weeks in a year and we have a whopping 936 napkins a year.

936 NAPKINS A YEAR?!?!? For a household of two? I think I am going to be sick.

I had no clue what a huge negative impact we were making. So, we decided to use only cloth napkins in our home from then on and we HAD to start immediately. We looked through our drawers and pulled out napkins that we had gotten for our wedding. I called my Mom and asked if she had any she no longer wanted. Lucky for us, she had some vintage ones that she was going to sell. My grandma also had a several sets that she wanted to donate to our cause. We were now up to about 12 napkins and the good news was that we did not have to purchase any new products.

It has been several months since we have given up paper napkins and switched to cloth ones and it has been great. In all honesty it is not that different. We really don't have to make that much of an effort. Every day we throw a cloth napkin into our lunch. When it gets dirty, we wash it with our other towels. The napkins are not that big, so we are not doing any more loads of laundry than we normally would. The only difference is that I get to wipe my hands and mouth with something smooth instead of scratchy and rough.

I have also started to look at my napkin use in other places. Now, I will rarely will take a paper napkin when out, unless I really need it. Most times I don't, so I pass.

Think you are up for the cloth napkin challenge? If so, tell me about it!

Au revior paper napkins!


affectioknit said...

I just started reading the No Impact Man that I got for my birthday - I love it!

We definitely use cloth napkins here too...

Anonymous said...

Good for you, Amanda and John! I started using cloth napkins at home, a couple years ago. An added benefit is that it makes even a simple sandwich meal seem more elegant! Lucy

VeggieAmanda said...

I agree, Lucy. It sort of makes lunch at my desk at work, a bit fancier. I also like pulling them out when guests come over. It says "I care that you are at my place."