Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Cloth Napkins

Sometimes I forget how strange things may seem to others that seem perfectly normal to Andrea and myself. When my Dad was visiting on Saturday, he asked for a napkin when we were eating lunch. I told him where the cloth napkins were, and he seemed hesitant to use them. I think he would have preferred using a disposable napkin, I suppose because dirtying a cloth one seems to create more work for whomever is going to wash them.

We've been using cloth napkins for months, possibly even a couple of years. Its been long enough that I've lost track of when we started. It has become completely routine for us, but its clearly foreign to many people. Initially we began using cloth napkins as a way of avoiding the waste that comes with using disposable napkins. What I found, though, is that I much prefer using the cloth napkins. Since switching I've noticed the same to be true in restaurants. Our napkins are nothing like those you get in a restaurant, but they work just as well.

To make the napkins Andrea simply cut some fabric into squares, and then sewed the edges to prevent them from unraveling. That's it. There is nothing fancy about our napkins, and they are not difficult to make. She used fabric that she already had on hand, but even purchasing the fabric new would cost very little. A single  yard of fabric can yield twelve napkins that are 11 inch squares.

I tend to re-use the same napkin multiple times. I find that most of the time when I use a napkin its simply to wipe crumbs away or wipe something like butter or pasta sauce from my hands. Once the  napkins get dirty, we can just throw them in the washing machine and let them be washed when Andrea does her next load of laundry. Even if all of our napkins are dirty, they take up so little space that there is really no additional cost or use of resources to wash them.

I don't know how many napkins we've saved from going to the landfill by using cloth napkins. Its really a hard thing to estimate as we don't always use napkins with every meal. Lets just assume, though, that we would each use 3 napkins per day, one for each meal. That is 6 napkins per day between the two of us, or 2,190 napkins per year. At $10.00 for 1,000 napkins, the cost works out to approximately $21.90 per year. That isn't a significant savings, but it is a savings. We didn't switch to cloth napkins, though, to save money. We switched because we wanted to reduce the waste associated with paper napkins, and reduce he demand for their production. Granted, the overall impact isn't great, but its just one small thing that we can do to reduce the impact we are having on our environment. It is a very simple change to make and saves us money, so for us it was an easy decision to make.

10 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. I finally created a profile so that I can comment. :P

    This entry is especially interesting to me because I've been trying to talk Tony into at least considering a switch to non-disposable "alternatives." Paper towels and napkins are one thing. (We haven't bought napkins in years. We've reduced our paper towel consumption via two-fold approach: I stopped using them for household cleaning, and we began buying higher quality towels that can be reused. We try not to use them much in the first place, but we consider them indispensable for things like pet messes.) When it comes to sanitation, though -- like suggesting a switch to non-disposable bathroom tissue or "women's products" -- people get touchy. Especially squeamish husbands. :P And even I acknowledge that this is pretty extreme, the former more than the latter, but I'm interested in it nevertheless. Have you and Andrea discussed this at all? The logistics and potential rewards of liberating my little household from bathroom tissue are intriguing. I'm just not sure it's possible, considering the level of resistance. haha

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    1. I appreciate you signing up for an account just so you can comment. You're my first commenter, but hopefully you'll eventually have some company.

      We have discussed reusable versions of other products. We use few paper towels. Andrea primarily uses flour sack towels in the kitchen. She also uses re-usable "women's products", as you put it, which she made herself. We've discussed cloth bathroom tissue, but that's one area I don't think we're ready to tackle yet.

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    2. Bathroom tissue is a touchy subject for a lot of people, Tony and I included. I've read testimonials from people who have made the switch. They keep their soiled cloths in a lidded hamper, and wash them every couple of days or so. Others have gone a step farther by adopting the Muslim custom of rinsing with water, and/or using stones. I don't know about that.

      I still use paper towels for draining greasy dried foods, like potatoes. If I could figure out how to avoid doing that, I could further reduce our paper towel consumption.

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    3. Greasy dried foods? Ewww. I meant greasy FRIED foods, of course, which sounds much less disgusting somehow. :P

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    4. We drain greasy friend foods by putting a cooling rack on top of a cookie sheet, and spreading the food out onto the cooling rack. It works really well for foods such as bacon. I can't guarantee that Andrea always uses this approach, but I can't recall paper towels being used for draining anything in quite some time.

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    5. Genius! And the drippings could be incorporated into the cats' and dogs' food, so an even further reduction in what's being wasted. I think I'll try that the next time I fry something.

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  3. Warm Greetings!



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    napkin making machine

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    1. Thanks for the kind words, Akasha. My hope is that the blog may provide info that helps others in some small way. I hope you find something here to help you on your own journey.

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  4. For the record, the napkins we use are
    1. Small for cloth napkins, more the size of a standard folded paper napkin.
    2. Are made from an old pair of linen pants that tore.

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