Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Reducing Paper Waste

We joke in our house that we should hold stock in paper since we use so much of it. Sad, but true. Our little budding artists use reams of paper to create their masterpieces. Rolls of paper towels disappear before my very eyes. And I am forever printing something out to read, misplacing it, and printing it again. I just like paper. I'll be one of the last people on the planet to own a Kindle. I love the tangible weight of a book in my hands.

So, how does a family like ours make a dent in our paper usage? As with most things in our going green project, by taking baby steps. Over a week ago, the last paper towel was torn from the last roll left in the house. And what did I do about it? Nothing. I ignored it. I didn't rush to the store. I didn't even add it to the grocery list. We've just gone without. It was difficult at first. There are plenty of kitchen towels, but which ones would be used for cleaning and which for wiping the baby's sticky face? My husband still reaches for the empty paper towel holder and sighs (loudly) before rummaging through the drawer to find a clean towel for whatever spill needs his attention.

I found a couple of products that made the transition a little easier. We bought a couple of sets of Skoy Cloths – in different colors for different uses. Skoy cloths are made of natural cotton and wood-based cellulose pulp and are completely biodegradable within five weeks. An amazing fact considering they are also dishwasher and washing machine safe. Mine have lasted quite a while now, and although slightly stained, they are still usable for cleaning up spills and wiping down counters. I even occasionally microwave mine to make sure they are germ free.

We've also invested in some high quality microfiber cloths for kitchen use, which I promptly destroyed by putting them in the dryer with a load of towels and a dryer sheet. Never use fabric softener or dryer sheets with microfiber cloths. They'll never absorb another drop. Lesson learned. I'm avoiding microfiber due to the inconvenience of it for now, but am looking for another set of good kitchen towels for drying dishes.

We've gone completely napkinless for some time now – much to the dismay of my mother when she has dinner with us. But, I am planning to pull out a set of cloth napkins that have been tucked away in the china cabinet. Being able to put some things we already have to good use is a bonus.

As for the artwork, we are purchasing reams of recycled paper for drawing and printer purposes. It's a step in the right direction, but we're still using A LOT of it, and it's getting expensive. We have an easel with a whiteboard and a chalkboard, and have even painted a wall with chalkboard paint, but it still doesn't serve the same purpose as good old crayons and paper. And a day would never be complete for my four-year-old without a new set of drawings to hang on the wall.

I am making a conscious effort to print less - starting with a better recipe organizing system to cut down on the printed and then misplaced recipes that I later find three copies of stashed in a drawer. We do have an iPad, and if I can tear it away from my husband long enough to do some research, I'm sure it can help me keep my recipes filed digitally.

So, we're making some progress, but there's plenty left to be done. Now I have to work on switching from disposable to cloth baby wipes.

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