The Embarrassing End: Summary of Our One-Month Paper Towel Ban

I’m just going to come out and say it. We mostly failed and I expected this to be the easy challenge. As of the date we post this, I have used a 1/2 sheet of paper towel twice and my husband has used about 10 1/2 sheets. (But he has done the vast majority of cooking this month, so it totally could have been me.) So that’s 6 full sheets of paper towel.

I’m not going to lie. That’s way more than I thought we’d use. It also highlights some major things to me:

We Had Been Using WAY More Paper Towels Than I Had Thought

Before our ban, I was convinced that we already weren’t using many paper towels. And that was true to some extent. We stopped using them at dinner when we switched to cloth napkins. We stopped using them for little spills.

But it wasn’t until the roll was gone from the counter that I found myself mindlessly reaching for the roll-that-was-no-longer-there when I had a little water on my hands after washing veggies or doing the dishes. I’m certain I’d have ripped off a 1/2 sheet had it been there on the counter. That would have been a few times a day plus kitchen cleanup!

Switching from paper towels to cloths isn't easy, but worth it!

Ditching Paper Towels Isn’t Easy

Between fighting muscle memory reaches for the roll and hitting late night messes with no will power left, stopping paper towel use was trickier than I thought it would be. Convenience is… well, convenient. Convenience with kids is… pretty much what helps me do all the things — be the mom and business owner and maker and friend. I’m not saying my convenience is more important than the Earth. It is not. And fighting against the convenient option when the fast and easy way is what has gotten you through the day thus far, that has required major system changes and life changes. Big changes! Changes that are worth it.

Other Waste And Bad Choices

I knew the paper towel ban was just one of many wasteful choices I wanted to tackle this year. But a month trying to avoid paper towels highlighted even more mindless and convenient choices I was making.

Cleaning supplies that I thought nothing of when wiping up with a paper towel gave me pause when I had to tackle it with a cloth. “Wait, what is in this stovetop cleaner?” Other folks on Instagram asked “What about makeup remover wipes? Tissues? Toilet Paper? Baby Wipes?” I use those things, so why am I only picking on paper towels?

And I know there is so much more I should be doing. And this website says that microfiber cloths are worse than paper towels. And the bamboo sugar cane alternative paper towels look great, but then will we run out of bamboo and sugar cane to make paper? And only 25% of recycling is ACTUALLY recycled, so what’s the point? And there is plastic in the fish and straws in the sea turtles’ noses. And I got married on a landfill (true story) and is the whole world just garbage and I’m a garbage person spraying toxic waste on my stovetop?

(My brain at 8:30 pm when confronted with questionable spray on my stovetop.)

Ahhhhhhhhhh! There is sooooo much! But you know, we all take first steps and this feels like our first step.

We Aren’t Ready To Go 100% Paper Towel Free

And after all of that — the embarrassing part. We’re keeping our paper towel roll locked (baby lock) under the sink to avoid mindless and needless use. But there are simply some messes we decided we prefer to use paper towels for. It’s a choice we are making mindfully now that we’ve tried the messes with and without paper. #sorrynotsorry #butalsosorry

Our favorite clean up helpers are kitchen towels and, of course, our very own pen&thimble cloth napkins. 100% cotton with super absorbent backing makes for mighty clean-up power!

The Embarrassing End: Summary of OurOne-Month Paper Towel Ban

Wait, Was That Pointless?

No! We learned so much in a month of TRYING to go paper towel free. We learned that we have so much more work to do and life changes to make. We are reevaluating our cleaning supplies. We are using cloths for everything aside from bacon grease cleanup. We have significantly eliminated a good deal of pointless paper waste and are looking forward to doing more.

Now moving into our next challenge in February, we expect it to be difficult. We have learned that we are creatures of habit and breaking our habits is tough stuff. But we also aren’t leaving any room in this one for failure — challenging or not. Stay tuned to hear what that will be! (Hint: Reuse or Lose is the title of my next post.)

Are You Waste Free Curious Too? Join Me!

Seriously! Join me in my effort to waste less this year. Find me on Instagram or Facebook or use the #wastefreecurious hashtag. Let’s cheer each other on, share tips, and build a safe space for exploring and limiting our waste!