I’ve mentioned in other blogs that another way to save money is to use cloth instead of paper towels, toilet paper, and other products around the house. But WHY?
First, you can use cloth around the house to replace these products:
*Disposable “dish cloths” (made from really cheap fabric for only a few uses)
It might seem weird or gross to you to use these items. But think about all of this:
*In a fancy restaurant, you use cloth napkins. Which have been washed many times and used by tons of strangers! But this is considered upscale, not gross. Why not do the same at home?
*50 years ago, handkerchiefs were the norm, not Kleenex. We can still use them, just make sure to wash after use so bacteria can’t grow (I’ve never had a problem though).
*Dishcloths are only breeding grounds for bacteria if you ball them up and leave them wet. Spread them out and let them dry and there’s no problem!
*Un-paper towels are meant for one use (typically) before washing, so there’s no mess to spread around and no time for them to get yucky!
*Family cloth (i.e. “toilet paper”) can be thrown into the wash with cloth diapers if you use them, or with dirty bath towels if you don’t (meaning no additional washes, and it doesn’t have to touch your clothes or anything).
There really is a significant environmental savings to be had here. First, there’s all that paper you’re not using. The soft, cushy toilet paper that most consumers demand is 100% new wood pulp, causing a serious deforestation problem. An average tree can be made into up to 1000 rolls, and the average family of 4 requires 100 rolls per year. Toilet paper also can’t be recycled (although it CAN be made from recycled material, thus saving trees initially AND saving that paper from going into a landfill). The making of toilet paper is a serious problem, and causes more ecological impact than driving SUVs or eating fast food. According to this source, we could save 470,000 trees, 1.2 million feet of cubic landfill space, and 169 million gallons of water if everyone in the US traded one roll of regular toilet paper for a recycled roll. Since the average American uses about 24 rolls per year, if we switched to ONLY recycled paper, we could save 11,280,000 trees, 28.8 million feet of cubic landfill space, and 4 BILLION gallons of water PER YEAR!!
Toilet Paper World also says this:
In the early 1970s, an EPA study for Congress concluded that using one ton of 100% recycled paper saves 4,100 KWH of energy (enough to power the average home for six months) and 7,000 gallons of water. It also keeps more than 60 pounds of pollution out of the air and saves 3.3 cubic yards of landfill space, which is increasingly important as many local landfills near their capacity. Paper industry representatives have estimated that one-ton of recycled paper saves approximately 17 trees.
This is a HUGE deal, everyone! The environmental impact of toilet paper isn’t just what happens once it’s used and flushed. It’s what happens when it’s produced! We could save even MORE by not using any toilet paper at all, but we need to at least use 100% recycled!
There is also the harmful effects of the bleach used to produce the white toilet paper that most people typically use and want. According to Pollution Issues, “Between 50 and 80kg of chlorine is needed to bleach each tonne of pulp of which approximately 10% will go on to bind with organic matter to produce furans, dioxins and other organochlorines.” That’s bad for the environment, and bad to press against your very absorbent skin!
Annual cost of toilet paper is around $140 (for a family of 4). If you make your own wipes, it’ll cost about $12 to make 30 2-layer, 8 x 8 flannel wipes. That’s a HUGE savings just in the first year.
Approximately 3000 tons of used paper towels end up landfills each year! That is a lot. Using cloth can help to stop that. It’ll also save you a lot of money. The average household uses about 2 rolls of paper towels per week, and with costs around $1/roll, that’s $100 per year. Cloth shouldn’t cost more than $10 to buy, and probably less to make.
I could keep convincing you about the environmental impact, but as you can see, it’s huge. Most paper products are produced in a similar way and we, as Americans, use WAY too many of them. The easiest and best thing to do is to make your own cloth to use at home. Here are some (mostly no- sew) ideas for doing it yourself:
*Cut up old terry cloth towels in 8 x 8 squares to use as rags, toilet “paper,” etc. No hemming necessary.
*Cut up old beach towels to use as napkins
*Cut old sheets
*Buy flannel and sew it together (right sides together), leaving a small part unsewn. Then turn it and sew it closed.
*Cut any fabric and “hem” the edges with an iron and finishing tape
You can also buy these re-usable items at various stores. Many good (and reasonably-priced) items are on Etsy.
We’ve replaced some our tissues with cloth, and I’ve used cloth “toilet paper” before (right after Daniel was born). It was a LOT softer. I really preferred the cloth. I’ve used cloth instead of paper towels too and it’s fine — I keep a laundry basket in my kitchen so I can toss used ones there along with my kitchen towels (and downstairs bathroom towels). They get washed every couple of weeks. Bathroom wipes go in a special bag then get tossed in with diapers or bath towels. If they don’t have their own wash, then they really don’t increase water usage at all.
I thought up a great kitchen project (a year ago, that I have yet to try): making 12 x 12 cloth towels, and making it so they can snap together and get rolled up! Of course, you can just set your towels in a small basket, they don’t really need to get rolled, but it would be kind of cool.
Finally, since I haven’t tried everything myself, I’ve provided some resources from people (mainly other bloggers) who have tried this cloth in their homes.
Did you learn anything new about the environmental impact of disposable items (I did!). Will you consider changing some of your family’s habits?
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