The Preposterous Paper Towel Ban

My Challenge to Stop Using Paper Towels Completely

My husband isn’t convinced that we can go fully paper towel free. And I’m not sure either, but we’re going for it. We started yesterday and hit bumps already. “Ah! What do I place over the food in the microwave?” When making a salad for lunch, I reached for my paper towel roll… but it was gone! (They’re easily findable under the sink, but don’t tell!)

As you may or may not know, I’m kicking up my dedication to wasting less around the house in 2019. We have come a long way already, but I think we can go further.

blue panda cloth napkin by pen&thimble

The Current Waste State of The Freemans, Who Have Come So Far

Why Do We Have So Much Plastic?

This is just one partially empty cupboard

Holy crap, we have more plastic containers, cups, plates, and bowls than I imagined possible for one family to own. And it’s somehow mostly for the kids. Did you all get the KIDS NEED ALL THE PLASTIC CONTAINERS AND SNACK CUPS memo too, or was it just me? Anyway, I feel like I’m coming out of a kind of fog as my youngest child is approaching 4 and I’m like, “Why do we have TWO full cabinets dedicated to plastic-ware for kids?” During some long stretch of desperation I clearly bought into the idea that kids’ plasticware would solve all my problems. Yuck. Spoiler alert: that stuff didn’t solve anything.

Oh, Look More Plastic!

In addition to all the kid-containers, we have a normal amount of plastic food storage containers and plastic baggies for freezing foods. I think my husband is still using plastic baggies to take food to work because I see a box in our plastic bag drawer, but I stopped using those completely in 2017 maybe? I use my pen&thimble snack bags for dry snacks (for me and the kids) and these Stashers brand for wet snacks now.

No Paper Plates or Napkins

2007 is probably when we realized that we were buying paper plates but had regular plates in our cupboards at no extra cost. Sadly, our lack of paper plates means I can’t do any of the hundreds of paper plate crafts on Pinterest with the kids. Aaaand I’m OK with that.

We stopped using paper napkins years ago, but we first replaced them with pieces of paper towel (same diff) and then we switched to pen&thimble napkins (shameless plug again, but seriously this is what we use).

Reusable Stuff

We have a healthy amount of travel mugs, water bottles, and stainless steel straws. I could do a better job of having a coffee mug handy for those unexpected trips to the coffee shop. But that will be my challenge for another time.

We don’t buy bottled water and have one of those water filter pitchers that I read recently are awful too. But I don’t remember why or what I’m supposed to do instead. I’m taking it one step at a time over here.

We love stainless steel straws (and smoothies)!

When the last of our paper straws ran out last year, I switched to these stainless steel straws and we USUALLY use them when we’re out-and-about too. If we don’t have them handy, we don’t use straws. But my kids are still learning how to drink like humans and I have sensitive teeth, so I try to bring our own straws. The straws I purchased from Amazon come in two sizes (short cups and tall) and two shapes (slight bend and straight) Why the switch? I saw a video of a sea turtle having a plastic straw tweezed from its bleeding nostril and it was enough for me to swear off plastic straws.

Back To The Paper Towel Ban

But we still use paper towels and I want to stop. My husband, who does the shopping and restocking, says we use one roll in about 2 months or so, which is greatly reduced use for us, but I’m ready to go ALL THE WAY paper towel free.

Paper Towel Alternatives:

We have a crap-ton of kitchen linens and cleaning cloths that I’ve made and collected over the years — tea towels, dish rags, cloth diapers. A nearly-endless supply, really.

The Plan:

Hide the paper towels and stop using them.

Use washing machine when our nearly-endless supply of cleaning linens start to disappear.

Develop our system. The hardest part about a new habit for me is making a new system. Everything seems so much harder when you have to think about what to do next. Especially when the alternative is SO CONVENIENT! We already have a wet bag hanging on one of the cupboards for used/dirty napkins and kitchen towels. I’m thinking we’re going to need a bigger bag. Someone on Instagram who is already a few steps ahead of me on going paper towel free, said that she has a reusable shopping bag under the sink that her family fills with kitchen linens as they are used. We will probably start doing the same. Thanks for the tips, people! Keep them coming!

So Let’s Do This!

I’ll be back here on the blog at the end of the month to share how our Paper Towel Ban went. I’ll also be sharing how things are going in real time with the hashtag #wastefreecurious on Instagram. Did you know you can follow hashtags? You can! So definitely let’s connect there and you’ll be one of the first to use the hashtag. I would like this tag to be a no-judgement zone for people in all the stages of waste-free life — pros, newbies, and the curious who don’t know where to start. I’m somewhere between newbie and curious-but-don’t-know-where-to-start.

My Challenge to Stop Using Paper Towels Completely

Dates To Know – 2018 Handmade Holidays

pen&thimble 2018 Christmas DEADLINES

December 10 – Last Day for NEARLY GUARANTEED* pre-Christmas delivery (US orders)

December 11- 17 – I will do my best to get your purchases to you before Christmas, but you’re taking a risk that orders may not arrive. Choose Priority or Express Mail if you’re worried.

December 18+ – Your order will likely not arrive in time for Christmas. But I’ll still be around working on orders as they come and answering questions. 

*NEARLY GUARANTEED pre-Christmas delivery = I cannot control what USPS does once a package is in their hands. But I can guarantee that orders placed by 12/10 will be shipped by 12/15 giving your package 7 business days to get to you. 

I Believe in Sale-ebrations!

So Fun! Bright and Customizable Mini Ornaments by pen&thimble

I Hit 1500 Sales on Etsy! Join Me For a Cyber Week Sale To Celebrate! 

  • 15% off purchases $50+ 
  • November 20 – 26
  • No coupon code needed

Head on over to my Etsy shop now and add items to cart so you’re ready for the sale on Tuesday! 

And THANK YOU, for helping me turn my hobby business into a small business! Your purchases, reviews, social media comments, and good wishes have all helped me get to this milestone! You all keep me going when things get tough. Seriously, thanks a ton!

Shop November Customer Favorites (So Far):

Pink unicorn apron with child's name. A personal gift for the holidays!
Unicorn Apron. #1 Bestseller This Month!
Mini hand-embroidered ornaments by pen&thimble are perfect for the kid's Christmas tree!
Hand-Embroidered Mini-Ornaments. #2 Best Seller This Month!
Hand-embroidered linen napkins for grownups! Makes great hostess gift!
NEW! Hand-Embroidered Linen Napkins! Bright & Sustainable For Grownups!
Cotton Christmas Coloring Placemat. Color, Wash, Reuse!
Cotton Christmas Coloring Placemat: Color, Eat, Wash, Reuse!
Last Year’s Best Seller!
Hand-Embroidered Christmas Napkins. Makes a personal hostess gift and beautiful table setting!
NEW! Hand-Embroidered Linen Napkins!
Make a gorgeous statement for special occassions,
but super absorbent for everyday use too! 

Customize Your Holiday Gift-Giving!

Hand-Embroidered Mini Ornaments by pen&thimble can be customized for baby's first Christmas or gift tags!

I’m so excited to announce my new line of hand-embroidered mini ornaments. Available on Etsy and Amazon Handmade!! These ornaments are just 2.2 inches (5.5 cm), but they have BIG character and adorable hand stitched details.

Pandas with flower crowns or penguins with pom-poms! Whichever you choose, these hand embroidered ornaments will bring cheer to your holiday decor!


Mini hand-embroidered ornaments by pen&thimble are perfect for the kid's Christmas tree!Who are these ornaments for? You, kids, teacher gift, baby’s first Christmas, family, friends, penguin lovers, panda enthusiasts!

What do I do with this? Gift to your kids’ favorite teacher — bonus points! They are the perfect size for your mini tree or kids’ tree! Hang on your plant for easy festive fun! Use as a bright personalized gift tag or napkin ring tag before hanging on the tree! Grab a bunch for wall decoration in small spaces (mine are right above my desk already)!


Which mini ornament is your favorite? Are you Team Panda or Team Penguin? Tell me below!