I was inspired a few months ago, by my friend, Terra, to work toward a paperless kitchen. I had been thinking about how much money we spend and how much waste we generate from napkins and paper towels and was wanting to make a change. I have truly enjoyed using cloth diapers with Elijah, but I wasn't sure I was exactly up for extra laundry around here. (And, fairly enough, Justin wasn't quite sure about me having an extra load of laundry either!)
I guess we have had a paperless kitchen for about 2 months now. I already had a few cloth napkins on hand (for "special" occasions, which never seemed to call for cloth napkins anyway), so we started using those (now every day is a special occasion!) and I set out to find replacements for paper towels. Wal-Mart was my store of choice, I guess, for finding some extra dish cloths, kitchen towels and reusable cloths. I really didn't spend a lot of money to buy extra kitchen towels so I wouldn't easily feel the need to reach for a paper towel when all of my kitchen towels were dirty and I had yet to do laundry. Also, I ran across a good deal on the Wal-Mart clearance aisle. I bought several packages of reusable (6 count) Scott Scrub Cloths for 99 cents each. These have been great. They weren't what I expected, but were even better. They actually have the feel of a thick paper towel, but have washed great and kept well so far. I fold these and keep them in what used to be our (paper) napkin holder, right by the kitchen sink.
Honestly, the switch from paper has been easier and less of a change than I expected it to be. It totally helped because Justin was completely on board from the beginning when I mentioned this possible change to him. I just wash all the extra cloths with our towels, so I'm not actually doing any more laundry than I was before. In fact, it's more of a full load now, so I feel like I'm not wasting any water on washing. It does take a while to fold the extra cloths, but it's not too bad. (Especially since we now have a TV in our living room, so I can be entertained while folding!) We've kept the paper towels tucked away under the kitchen sink, only to be used for cleaning up after the dog or grease from cooking, etc. Also, I added a bin under the sink that we already had so that I could just toss the dirty towels in there.
I would recommend going for a paperless kitchen! As I'm typing this I did remember that tomorrow is Earth Day (duh - maybe these subliminal messages all day caused me to start writing this post!), so what better of a time to make a change! The napkins were probably the easiest switch, but I would say that we save the most waste and money on switching from paper towels.
My next project...starting a compost bin. Justin has been wanting to do this for a while and I wish we would have earlier so I could have some good compost for my garden. Anyone already use a compost bin? I would love to hear your thoughts!