ecostore New Zealand Blog

Reduce waste: say no to paper towels and serviettes
Posted On April 23rd, 2012
A stack of brightly coloured napkins

Cloth napkins can brighten up your table and are a great replacement for paper towels or serviettes. (Hint: depending on how messy the meal was, we don’t wash our napkins after every use).

Over the next few weeks I’ll be writing about ways to reduce waste at home, based on the 5 R’s – Rethink, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Respect. These are not meant to be hard and fast rules because it’s hard to get it right all the time but hopefully you will find practical tips and ideas to use and it’s good to remember that every little bit helps.

Tip #1 Reduce paper waste by saying no to paper towels and serviettes (which also come wrapped in plastic or cellophane).

What you can do instead:

  1. Buy a set of cloth napkins or make your own from old tea towels or linen.
  2. Keep some cloth rags in the kitchen for cleaning up spills.
  3. Buy a couple of microfibre cloths – these are even better than paper towels for streak free cleaning of stainless steel bench tops, windows, mirrors and other household surfaces and also reduce the need for detergents or cleaning products.

Pro-tip: A dab of olive oil on a soft cloth will give your stainless steel bench top a beautiful shine.

If you have any tips and ideas related to this one we’d love to hear them, just leave your comments below.


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9 responses to “Reduce waste: say no to paper towels and serviettes”

  1. Kylie says:

    One that I have been thinking about but haven’t implemented myself yet is cloth hankies instead of tissues. Although they don’t seem to be as easy to find as they once were.

    • Melanie says:

      Yes it’s funny you should mention that, I was thinking the same thing, I think the argument against hankies was that they were ‘germ factories’ but it might be time to stage a comeback. I think I’ll give it a go!

  2. Bec says:

    now my girls are too old for their cloth toweling nappies i keep them all in the kitchen to use as table cleaners, messy hand and face wipes, floor spills etc

  3. Bryony Lloyd-Fitt says:

    I use paper towels for my spills and for hygiene when cleaning the toilet – if i use cloths am i not just doubling the amount of washing i do and water i use rinsing?? I always had this struggle about this topic – which is worse?? More paper, less water or no paper, more water??

    • Melanie says:

      Hey Bryony, thanks for raising the issue of paper vs cloth in terms of which is the greener option. I found an excellent article about it that said, “When you factor in all of the components of making a paper towel or napkins (harvesting the material, processing and bleaching it, packaging it, shipping it, stocking it at a supermarket, transportation to and from the store to purchase it, etc.) all for a single use, you find that the paper towels and napkins are about twice as energy-intensive and create more greenhouse gases overall. A cloth napkin or dishtowel may go through similar processes to get to your kitchen drawer, but it will stay there for many, many years, rather than being sent directly to the landfill”. If you’d like to read the whole article, which is really interesting click here.

  4. I wrote a post about hankies if you are intersted!
    Great post on cloth napkins! I look forward to your next ones too.

  5. Doffo Gaunt says:

    My eldest daughter is 40 and I still have a couple of the old cloth nappies (with a red stripe) that I used on her, and her three younger siblings. There weren’t any disposables then of course. They have made wonderful dusters, dollies’ blankets, and heaps of other things…

  6. Marie says:

    I’m so glad that there are modern cloth nappies. Not only are they less expensive, they’re reusable too. Plus I find that my baby likes them more than the disposable ones.

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