Almost 48% of the $12 billion spent on paper towels in 2017 was spent by Americans alone. Joe Pinsker, of The Atlantic, wrote: “In an era of waning American exceptionalism, inhabitants can at least pride themselves on an underratedly important, probably shameful distinction: They reside in the paper-towel capital of the world” (Pinsker, 2018).
Disposable paper towels are wasteful and can only be used once. Some can be composted, but many of them are treated with chemicals and dyes that are bad for the environment and make them impossible to compost. These chemicals are often bad for our health as well.
Creating, packaging, and transporting paper towels generates carbon emissions. This is true with almost all products, including a widely used alternative to a paper towel - a reusable cloth. But a cloth will last much longer than a paper towel, so instead of buying new packaging and paying for more transportation every month or two when you need another package of paper towels, you’re only buying a few towels every couple of years.
There are concerns that reusable cloths trap germs and contaminate surfaces that you’re trying to clean, but there is little evidence to support this. According to Brad Gray, Head of Campaigns for environmental organization Planet Ark, you won’t have to worry about germs as long as you regularly clean your cloths and use hot water.
For the next two weeks, use a reusable cloth instead of a paper towel. This will help you reduce your carbon footprint and your paper use!
One great alternative to paper towels is a reusable cloth. You can easily make one by cutting up an old shirt or other piece of cloth. You can also buy more sponge-like ones at many stores, or use a tea towel.
One not-so-great alternative is a sponge. Sponges often contain harmful chemicals and are disposable. Here is a link to Project 5 Billion’s challenge to avoid sponges from fall of last year. If you want an extra challenge, try avoiding paper towels and sponges for two weeks. Reusable cloths are a great alternative for sponges, too, so you’ll only need one cleaning tool!
Blatchford, E. (2016, July 15). Paper Towels Vs Cloths: Which Ones Should You Use In Your Kitchen? Retrieved July 16, 2020, from https://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2016/02/22/paper-towels-versus-cloth_n_9294566.html.
Pinsker, J. (2018, December 10). Americans Are Weirdly Obsessed With Paper Towels. Retrieved July 16, 2020, from https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2018/12/paper-towels-us-use-consume/577672/.
More than 1,500 plastic water bottles are produced every single second in the United States alone. Much of this plastic is only used once, and then thrown away. Even the cheap, thin plastic water bottles take 450 years to decompose. That's 450 years for something that you used for a matter of minutes.
Many plastic water bottles end up in the ocean, polluting the water and poisoning fish and other ocean life. A 2016 study by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and World Economic Report estimates that by 2050, the amount of plastic in the world's oceans will outweigh the fish.
Drinking bottled water also costs 1,000 times more than drinking tap water, which is an added advantage to not using it.
The challengeThis week, don’t use any plastic water bottles. It doesn't count to simply recycle plastic bottles after using them.
Instead of grabbing a plastic water bottle on the way out the door, just fill up a reusable water bottle. Each refill saves one or more plastic bottles, since reusable bottles usually hold a lot more water. Insulated water bottles also keep your water cold much longer.
Comment below to take the week-long pledge against plastic water bottles!
The planet thanks you.
These challenges ask you