This is a story all about how my life got flip-turned upside down without paper towels.

I would say that for the past year now, I have been trying to cut back on my paper towel usage. When I first set out to be without this common household item, I did so because I realized just how reliant I was on them. I used them for EVERYTHING. Wipe off the counter? Paper towel. Clean out the fridge? Paper towel. Drop spaghetti sauce on the floor? Paper towel. Can’t find a tissue? Paper towel. The list goes on and on. Each time I used one, I felt bad because when you use them for everything, you tend to go through them pretty quickly. You grab one without thinking because you bought the obnoxiously large pack from Sam’s Club, and that should last me a while right? Wrong. We would run through a pack so fast, which was even more alarming. 

So – my boyfriend & I set out on a new venture. One without paper towels. Last summer was the first time we tried going without them. The first time we ran out, we made a conscious decision while grocery shopping that week to not buy the paper towel party pack. Well, what a week that was. When you are only reliant on kitchen rags and towels to clean up messes your world is indeed flipped-turned upside down. I specifically remember one incident that week which led to back-to-buying paper towels – cutting up some fresh peaches for a snack. There was sticky peach juice everywhere. All over the counter and onto the floor. There was yelling. ’THAT’S IT! WE ARE NEVER NOT BUYING PAPER TOWELS AGAIN!’ As you’re flailing around the kitchen with sticky fingers, asking yourself very simple but seemingly complicated questions like, ‘Do I wipe my hands on the kitchen towel? Won’t that make it sticky? I would have to wash it right away, wouldn’t I? Do I use the rag to clean the juice off the floor? That seems barbaric…a rag? On the floor? Then I would have to wash it!’

Needless to say, paper towels were bought the next week. We felt defeated. But we refused to give up – we did not want the paper towels to win. After several months of back and forth, we have finally become independent of paper towels. We’ve purchased more kitchen rags (which you can use to clean up spaghetti sauce on the floor by the way), and we do laundry a tad more often, but we’ve gotten use to it. I realize now just how often we were using something that can only be used once, and how much money we were spending on them. If you’re thinking about cutting back on your use of paper towels – do it! I am here to attest that one can live without them.

If my story isn’t enough to persuade you, perhaps some not-so-fun facts will.

Each year, the world spends over $12 billion on paper towels. 12. Billion. That’s a lot of money that could be spent elsewhere like tackling climate change and removing plastic from the ocean. Now although some may argue that reusable cloths aren’t any better because you have to (in most cases) buy them and wash them which requires water and energy, you’re still able to use them over and over again – most likely using them several times before needing to wash them. The making of each roll of paper towels also requires 5 gallons of water, trees, chemicals to treat and bleach the paper, TONS of plastic packaging, and lots of energy (aka fossil fuels needed to power the machines to cut, transport, and convert trees to paper). And the cherry on top – paper towels cannot be recycled. So unless you are composting them, the thousands of sheets a typical household uses a year goes straight to the landfill. 

Click Here for twelve sustainable alternatives to paper towels!

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