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/.
These challenges ask you