The household staple that Americans seem to not get enough of… know what it is?? Picture an average American home, open up the storage pantry, & you’ll probably quickly figure out its paper towels by the tower of back stock on the shelf. There is an instant reaction to reach for the paper towel roll when cleaning, cooking, or preforming everyday tasks. Maybe its the satisfying rip pulling one of the paper rectangles away from the perforated lines or maybe its solely convenience, but paper towels are way overused.
The USA is the top consumer of paper towels in the world. Looking at the average cost summary for paper towel purchases around the globe, the US tops the charts. To give you a greater picture, the US spent $5.7 billion in 2017 on paper towels which is 5x the amount that France spent. Now that’s a lot of paper towels. With this statistic, it is apparent that grabbing the roll for multi-purposes is a habit when there are other options at hand.
So why do we love paper towels??
When thinking about paper towel usage, I reflected on American culture, tasks that were taught to me & peers growing up, & the benefits of paper towels compared to alternatives. The main theme I settled on through research & brainstorming is convenience. There is a reason why America also stands above all other countries when it comes to fast food consumption. We love ease & convenience. American culture has ways of doing life that make it quick, easy, & fixable at the fingertips which, don’t get me wrong, I am SO thankful for in many situations. However…
Convenience does not always equal better & should not be the main goal.
The immediate convenience for us, creates an inconvenience for other living things as the habit of ripping away paper towels has a negative impact on the environment. Not only is there destruction of forests & habitats with the multitude of trees being cut down, but the production of paper towels also contributes to the global problem of water pollution. Not to mention, the disposal mindset does not improve quality of life for us & negative environmental outcomes later impacting health & wellness.
Reasons to Use Fewer Paper Towels??
When taking a step towards living a more eco-friendly lifestyle, I find that reducing paper towel usage is a doable change for anyone to incorporate into their life. A few reasons to ditch the paper:
- Save Money: Thinking about how many rolls of paper towels a family purchases in a year ends up being a large amount of money that could be going straight into savings or towards other expenses
- Eco-Friendly: Like I mentioned before, reducing paper towel usage is an excellent step to be aware & conscious of living a more eco-friendly lifestyle. Reusing is always the best option versus opening the trash can lid 50x a day
- Living Mindfully: Once aware of the paper towel habit, it becomes natural to implement mindful actions in other areas of life as well. When drying hands, next time you may stop & think “Wait no, I’m going to use my cloth towel or the hand dryer in public places or just one paper towel instead of 5.” This mindful way of living overflows into other areas of life whether its in diet, exercising, or even socializing leading to a fulfilling, higher quality way of life.
Tips & Tricks for Paper Towels Alternatives
- Keep a basket under the kitchen sink: the kitchen is a hotspot for ripping off paper towels. Whether it’s absorbing grease or drying hands a cloth can be used instead. Keeping a small basket under the sink is handy to throw in the dirty towels.
- Remove paper towels from plain sight: since convenience & habit are 2 main culprits in ripping from the roll, move the paper towel stand out of sight. The extra step of going to a different spot to get a paper towel stimulates mindfulness & reduces automatic reactions
- Cleaning: cleaning is another area that uses tons of paper towels. Whether its wiping up spills or cleaning a counter, once again, a simple cloth can be used. I find cloths most effective in cleaning because they are more absorbent & tougher. For window cleaning, I like to save the newspaper I get in the mail which can be reused in lieu of paper towels.
- Save old shirts: Old shirts make the perfect cleaning cloths. I love using old shirts because they’re already softened up from being worn. When their time in the closet is expired, just cut them up into squares & voila, cleaning cloths!