One of my grocery shopping staples was paper towels. Like clockwork, I probably went through 50-55 rolls a year, along with two or three 250-count packs of colored and/or printed paper napkins.
That single roll of paper towels might be convenient, but the end result is anything but eco-friendly.
It’s been cited that about 90% of all U.S. households use paper towels, and this means approximately 3,000 tons end up in landfills daily. Having been in existence only since 1932, paper towels now account for the 3rd largest item found in landfills.
And yes, that seemingly innocent roll does come from tress, and a lot of them in fact. The majority of conventional brands come from freshly cut virgin wood, and then bleached with chlorine. Does that sound healthy? What’s more, that virgin wood doesn’t come from tree farms, but from a massive boreal forest in Canada. When a tree is replanted, then it’s done in a controlled farm situation, and not back to its place of origin.
Armed with that piece of knowledge, I stopped, and went “cold paper” in one day. While not quite 100% paper-free, usage is down by 90% over the last 18 months!
Staring in May, 2009, the first roll lasted until mid-July—about four months. That followed another roll lasting four months until November. With the arrival of 2010, that third roll held out until March. That meant only 3 1/2 rolls were used in eight months instead of my usual 30.
Last year, only 3 rolls were used, and currently I’m just about finished with a roll that started on September 5—nearly 5 months ago. If you compare 3 rolls as opposed to 50-54, that’s a 95% reduction—almost zero-waste.
On the subject of paper napkins, none were purchased last year. But carryout has been more of a challenge. About half the time, I’m able to ward off the stack of paper napkins stashed in my order bag. Sometimes, I hand them back to the server. Otherwise, I’d bring them home to a small “emergency pile” for visitors who still use paper.
The next post will share some tips about how you can reduce your own paper towel usage.