Goodbye Napkins and Paper Towels

It seems that every day I’m becoming more and more aware of the waste I produce. I think some of that is media driven with all the headlines on climate change and the need for more sustainability. I also think it comes from gardening, composting, and that I am always thinking about everything that goes in and out of the kitchen.

With COVID-19, has come a shortage on paper products such as napkins, paper towels, and toilet paper. It was the nudge I needed to officially rid my household of disposable napkins and paper towels.

Getting rid of disposable napkins was the easy part. I stockpiled cotton napkins and made sure to get lots of colors so my three-year-old would find it fun to pick out his napkin. Each morning he picks out his daily napkin and he uses it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (unless it gets really messy). For our family of three I have found that 40 napkins is plenty to get us through until the next laundry cycle.

Getting rid of disposable paper towels took some research and thought, but I found a system that works for me. I have microfiber towels sitting in a crate on the kitchen counter so anyone can just grab one when they need it. For our family of three, 50 towels is plenty to get us through until the next laundry cycle.

Microfiber towels in a second-use crate on my kitchen counter.

Under the sink I hung a mesh laundry bag. When a towel or napkin is dirty, anyone can throw it in the bag. I have several bags under the sink, so when the hanging bag gets full it can easily be replaced with an empty bag and then the full bag goes into the washing machine.

A mesh laundry bag hanging from the cabinet door beneath the kitchen sink.

I do still have a roll of paper towels in the house, tucked away under the sink. I use paper towels for cleaning up grease since our washing machine specifically states to avoid putting grease-soiled items into it.

I know there are still a lot of ways our household can produce less waste, but I still feel really good about making this big change.


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