Since I've started this site, the most satisfying aspect has been to hear my friends get excited about one particular disposable problem, or to hear about things they were already doing to make their lives more reusable. My friend Megan has been a long-time user and champion of cloth napkins. And now, I have received her much-anticipated manifesto on the subject! I've been using a kitchen towel as my home dinner napkin, so now I'm totally inspired to go to a thrift store and attempt to make my own...Thanks, Megan! (That's her and said napkins at a little house gathering, and her buddy Tasha with her own napkin below).
"I have a lot of habits that are bad for creation, but I have one that is good. I always use cloth napkins at home, and I almost never use paper towels. It makes me crazy that we use so many trees to make napkins, tissues and paper towels, when almost all of the uses for these items can be done easily with reusable cloth.
Cloth napkins are cool. First of all, they are like an accessory for your table, but not a dorky one, like placemats. There are hundreds of kinds of cloth napkins. I have some that I bought on sale at Anthropologie (striped corduroy, $1.25 each), some that I bought an estate sale in Washington DC (cotton, 25 cents each); and some fancy Irish linen ones (gift from my godmother). If you are really out to be a stellar re-user, you could buy some material at a thrift store and cut them up into napkins. That would be really cheap and very environmentally aggressive of you. So - cloth napkins - stylish, and easily obtainable. How can you resist?
Secondly, they are easy to care for, unlike, say, a biodiesel car. At my house, we use them for about a week (longer if we are lazy, shorter if we are eating a lot of messy food) and then throw them in with our regular wash. I keep some in reserve for when company comes over, but our everyday ones look, shall we say, loved. They have little faded stains and whatnot, but they are napkins. Not clothes.
To me, using cloth napkins is a no-brainer. It saves trees, it is (potentially) stylish and it is easy.
As for paper towels? I have one word. RAGS. This has to be the craziest thing corporate America has invented. Paper towel. Seriously. What is wrong with a torn up T-shirt to wipe your sink, or to clean your floor or toilet? How about a washcloth for a kid's face? Obviously, not the same piece of cloth for all those tasks. That would be gross. But you get the idea. If you have to clean up dog vomit, however, I think a paper towel is OK. I understand. That is nasty. The occasional paper towel can be a good thing. But the over-paper-towelfication of America is just stupid.
On the tissue front - I do actually have handkerchiefs, and I have used them when I have a runny nose. It's amazing - using cotton on your nose instead of crazy lotion-laden tissues (how do they do that, anyway?) is much gentler on your skin. The only thing is, if you have a really gross snotty nose you do need several handkerchiefs. Or you can be like me and hold out for a while and then cave and hit the Kleenex. But you are probably a better person than me and would never do that.
And do I really need to say anything about paper plates? I think not."