The Best Eco Friendly Alternatives to Paper Towels
5 Minute Read
Paper towels. What a great invention…right? You don’t have to clean them, and they take care of just about any mess or spill in your home. But here’s the thing: paper towels have a ton of environmental drawbacks that far outweigh the ease and benefits of using them. And today, there are so many eco friendly alternatives to paper towels that it’s a much easier and more affordable swap than you’d think. Which means there’s really no reason to be using disposable paper towels anymore.
Here’s a fun fact for you: Guess how much money the world spends on paper towels each year? $12 BILLION!!!! (Source: The Atlantic). At least that’s how much we spent in 2017, and you bet your ass that number is growing. That’s a lotta freakin’ money that we could be spending on…figuring out climate change, or I don’t know … removing plastic water bottles from the ocean. Money aside though, $12 billion worth of paper towels also equates to a lotta resources going into something we only use for a few seconds before putting it right into the trash.
Now, you may have heard some people drop the argument that reusable towels aren’t that much better than paper towels since you have to continually wash them, which uses water and energy. But this comparison analysis argues otherwise. And that argument also doesn’t take into consideration all of the other resources used to produce paper towels. Here are some things to think about that you may not have thought of:
Each roll of paper towels requires:
- 5 gallons of water
- chemicals to treat and bleach the paper
- plastic packaging (made from fossil fuels) to package the rolls
- energy (aka more fossil fuels) to power the machines that cut, transport and convert the trees into paper. Some of those machines, like the trucks that transport the paper, also emit carbon into the atmosphere
Plus: paper towels can’t be recycled, so unless you’re putting them in a compost (which most people aren’t), they’re headed straight to the landfill.
[in a nutshell]: why sustainable alternatives to disposables are better for the environment:
Sustainably-made, reusable alternatives to the products you use are always gonna be better for the planet when compared to something that’s cheaply made and intended to be thrown away just seconds after being used. Of course, there are many factors that go into this idea, such as resources, transportation, carbon emissions, end of life disposal, unintended byproducts, and toxicity. But that’s the rule of thumb when it comes to judging what’s more sustainable.
So without further ado . . .
Here are some eco friendly alternatives to paper towels:
Reusable Un Paper Towels
made out of cotton (a natural fiber) • infinitely reusable
replaces thousands of paper towels • machine washable
can absorb as much as 17 paper towels would • great for wiping down counters & surfaces and cleaning up heavy spills
air dries quickly so it doesn’t breed bacteria • can be washed in the dishwasher or washing machine hundreds of times
made from natural fibers (cellulose and recycled cotton) • biodegradable/compostable
lasts 9-12 months (and can be composted when its time to be put out to pasture)
INSIDER TIP: Opt for a colored swedish dishcloth instead of a white one. They look less dingy over time since the color hides any stains or wear and tear. It’s the same logic that applies to keeping your clothes clean over time, e.g. its harder to keep a white t-shirt looking clean and bright than it is for a colored shirt.
Organic Cotton Dish Towels
made of 100% organic cotton (which is better for the environment than traditional cotton)
Organic Cotton Napkins
[first of all, these are gorgeous!! and they make using a paper towel look cheap AF]
made of 100% organic cotton • machine washable • infinitely reusable
And a few more sustainable paper towels (just in case):
Now, I get that some situations may call for paper towels, like cleaning up oil and grease in the kitchen, or cleaning up after your pet when they “release themselves” on your living room floor. You get where I’m goin with this…no need to elaborate.
Or maybe you’re one of those people who’s always used a paper towel and has no interest in ever switching to anything other than a paper towel. Don’t you worry, I’ve got somethin’ for you too.
If you’re a die-hard paper towel lover, then you can at least switch to an eco friendly paper towel that’s made of all natural fibers with none of that synthetic crap or toxic chemicals in it. Here are a few sustainable paper towel options that are free of toxic chemicals and are sustainably made (in case you want that emergency roll of paper towels on hand).
Reusable (and Disposable!!) Bamboo Paper Towels
extremely absorbent • can be used up to 80 times • machine washable
one roll equates to 3-6 months worth of traditional paper towels
made from 100% organic bamboo
Recycled Paper Towels
made of 100% recycled paper • compostable
free of toxic chemicals, dyes and fragrances
More Recycled Paper Towels
free of toxic chemicals, dyes and fragrances • made in the USA
Unbleached Recycled Paper Towels
made of 100% unbleached recycled paper • compostable
free of toxic chemicals, dyes and fragrances