Giving Paper Towels A New Purpose

When I started my mission to reduce waste at the beginning of the year, the first thing I did was remove anything disposable from our kitchen: paper towels, foil, saran wrap, sandwich bags, freezer bags, straws, skewers, even the paper plates, napkins, dixie cups and plasticware typically reserved for gatherings. Even though practically every last product was either nearly new to half way through being used, I still gave them the boot. While I am a firm believer in using something up completely rather than letting it go to waste, I went ahead with this step for several reasons:

1. The kitchen was where the most waste was occurring so I wanted to tackle the worst issue first.
2. I wanted to show my husband I meant business, rather than starting the year with this grand plan and nothing really happening for several weeks.
3. I had to start somewhere. Everything in my house seemed to be full or only partly used up.

Of course I didn’t throw them away but instead relocated them to other places within my house until I could figure out what to do with them. I didn’t want them to end up in a landfill but I also didn’t want them to go unused. But if I gave them to someone else to use, would I then be condoning disposable behavior? After sitting on it for almost 3 months, I needed to decide on their course of action. So, paper plates, cups and napkins were sent out to my in-laws to be used since they frequently have outdoor gatherings. The plasticware I plan to use for art projects or I will also pass them on to family to use then have them save the used disposables for me to then later use as art (I’m a big fan of trash art and while I’m not an artist I love the idea of finding ways to turn garbage that cannot be recycled into something else). Foil, saran wrap and plastic baggies are still sitting around in limbo waiting for a decision and straws have been put into a pile to be used for a future art project. I’m thinking I could use up the skewers since they could be composted. The only thing left were the paper towels.  We had “Viva” paper towels (basically like disposable cloth) and one day I had the epiphany that we could use them for baby wipes.  We had already done this when baby girl was a newborn and the doctors had recommending wiping her with these paper towels in lieu of normal baby wipes for the first couple of days.  Then I also remembered a friend telling me she used them as inserts with her cloth diapers.  The thought crossed my mind to use them for that purpose if I were to go down the cloth road but since I haven’t yet decided what I’m doing about her diapers, I knew I could easily use them to fill her wipes container. And thats what I did! Now at least the paper towels are going towards replacing something already being disposed of and there is one less plastic refill bag being purchased in the process. If you happen to be in the same situation, this process couldn’t be more easy!

Tear sheets in half.

Layer in a folding sort of pattern (so each wipe pulls the next wipe up with it).

Drizzle with water to lightly moisturize (not soggy).

Stick top paper towel through hole and you are ready to go! I haven’t been doing more than about 10-15 at a time (about a days worth) so that the wipes stay fresh and clean my container between refills.

I recognize this doesn’t eliminate the garbage related to wipes but its part of the step by step process of eliminating garbage from the big picture and not letting the resources we have go to waste.

Do you have any disposables that you eliminated from your life before you finished using them? What did you end up doing with them?

xo, Erica