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 Packed The Same Lunch For My Kindergartener For A Week: I Double Dog Dare You To Do It Too!

I challenge you, no I DARE you, to pack the same lunch for your child every day for a week.

I did it last week. It made packing lunch a breeze! No wondering if it all would fit into the bento box. No wondering which item would go in which slot. No wondering if my daughter was going to eat the food or like the food. It was simple. And better yet, my kid came home and told me I had made the best lunch ever nearly every day. And she even thanked me some days too!

I didn’t start packing lunches this way. I had this idea in my head that I was showing my daughter I loved her by offering variety. Each lunch was a surprise that said, “Look at this creation! I love you and miss you terribly!” Yes, this is my first child and our first long school day apart. Haha!

I packed the same lunch for my kindergartener for a week. And I dare you to do the same!

The first week of school lunches looked like this:

Chicken Pinwheels on Monday: She ate some of the chicken, a bit of the lettuce and none of the tortilla it was wrapped in.

DIY Ham and Crackers on Tuesday: Her whole lunch came back except apples and carrots. She said lunch was cut short. And then later said she wasn’t “into” the ham or crackers.

Kids Charcuterie on Wednesday: Lunch was cut short again? Evidence of child-size nibbles on a piece of chicken and her apples were gone. I suggested she concentrate on eating her lunch the next day.

Blackberry Jam Sandwich on Thursday: Everything was gone. The sandwich, apples, carrots, plantain chips, and freeze-dried blueberries. She told me she loved her lunch and I was the best mommy ever.

Blackberry Jam Sandwich on Friday: Her bento box was empty again. And the guilt I felt about packing a duplicate lunch because I was so tired vanished. And that guilt was replaced with the notion that I may be a genius!

I packed the same lunch for my kindergartener for a week. And I dare you to do the same!

The next week I got more jam and…

I made the blackberry jam sandwich lunch every day the following week with the same results — an empty bento box returning to me all week long. My daughter still came off the bus ravenous, but raved the entire week about how good lunch was!

No, it’s not Instagram Story worthy to show the same lunch each morning. So I stopped sharing those – haha! I don’t get points for creative lunch-making or food-art technique. But I feel certain that my kiddo will have a full belly in school each day. And isn’t that the point of a lunch?

I still love to see what others are packing and creating for their children’s lunches, kind of obsessed, actually! Especially all of you lunch-packers I follow on Instagram (shoutout to @sarahmakeslunch!). And I’ve been pinning kid lunches ideas like a madwoman recently on Pinterest — I have three boards dedicated to kid lunches – Kids Bento Box Lunch, Bento Box Inspiration, and Kids Lunch Ideas Not Just Bento Box! I’m not completely naive, I’m looking out for ideas for when the jam sandwich shine wears off. Haha! But I’m determined to wait to make a change until the shine wears off.

But I challenge you to repack your first entirely-eaten up packed lunch and see what happens for you! Side effects of packing the same lunch may include: less mom stress, full bellies, and being called the best mom ever a few times. Oh my goodness is my daughter just shaping my behavior through positive reinforcement? Well, it’s working!

I packed the same lunch for my kindergartener for a week. And I dare you to do the same!

Tell me where you get your lunch inspiration? Who should I be following? What bloggers should I be reading? Whose pins should I be pinning? Tell me below or find me over on Instagram and send me a DM or comment in a post you like.

I packed the same lunch for my kindergartener for a week. And I dare you to do the same! Read more at the blog:

There’s No Such Thing As Free Lunch Or Free Shipping. But It Sounds Awesome!

Hi, pen&thimble friends!

I want to let you behind-the-scenes of some very recent price changes in my shop!

Etsy Increased Seller Fees So I’m Lowering My Prices? Yup!

The Boring Part: Etsy has changed its seller fee structure so that their cut of my sales includes the item price (same old) AND shipping price (new). And on top of that, they are increasing seller fees. Some people are pretty upset, but to me, it’s no big deal. Fees are an expected part of selling on an online marketplace.

pen&thimble handmade accessories for children

What That Means for YOU Shopping pen&thimble On Etsy:

1) FREE SHIPPING ON EVERYTHING ALL THE TIME! Now that Etsy is taking a cut out of my shipping costs too, it makes sense to offer free shipping! Yay!! We all love free shipping!


For example, previously, a $12 placemat cost $3.11 to ship. That was $15.11 total. 

Now that same placemat is $13 with free shipping!

Previously, a $15 pouch with $3.11 shipping was $18.11 at checkout.

Now, the price, including shipping, is $16!

I’m so excited to offer free shipping, while keeping prices low, so that I may continue making quality and sustainable items accessible to you!

But Real Talk, There’s No Such Thing As A Free Lunch… Or Free Shipping.

Yes, there is always a catch! My decision to offer free shipping and to offer lower prices overall means that sitewide sales and promotions are going to be nonexistent, or at best SUPER RARE — like an eclipse. I’d rather have items more affordable all year round than offer sales continually.

But! Email subscribers! You will still get those special coupons each month! Click HERE to subscribe if you aren’t already a pen&thimble insider!

affordable handmade with pen&thimble


Etsy seller fees going up. Just fees on my end! But my prices are going down. This means WAY less public site-wide sales and promotions moving forward. But email subscribers are still getting freebies and exclusive sales each month! Sounds like we’re all winning, right?

Check out the new prices and free shipping on Etsy! Just in time for your back-to-school zero-waste/waste-free lunch needs — so many reusable placemats, napkins, utensil bags, and snack pouches to choose from! Yay!