The Paper-Free Kitchen


This week, at the prompting of my husband, we made the switch back to a paper-free kitchen.  Yes, back- we had done this several years ago but had regressed back when we lived with my parents for a bit and sharing laundry between 14 people, well…paper was just easier.  But we kept our cloths, and I am thankful!

The basic premise of the paper-free kitchen is just like it sounds- no paper. We don’t keep any disposable dishes or utensils in the house at all, and we have just one roll of paper towels under the sink for emergencies (like a pet accident or something grotesque involving raw meat juices….bleh). Disposable dishes are a big step for many families- but it is a big step for the environment, too. While it definitely takes more time to wash dishes, and you may use more water, you aren’t wasting money on things you’re throwing into landfills, either! Plus, washing dishes is a great community-building activity. One person washes, one person dries, one person puts away, the others stand around and keep them company…it’s like magic. Maybe not, but remember the environment!

Steering your kitchen away from paper towels and napkins is definitely a more daunting task- though I’ve found being prepared for anything makes it a lot easier! We have a variety of different cloths for different purposes:

Hand towels: These are your standard kitchen linen, I’m sure you have some. We probably have 6-8. We dry our hands with these after washing or doing dishes. They are usually decorative and seasonal. Super cute.

Cloth napkins: We do have one set of these (4), but to be honest, we don’t use them that much. We probably should more often. Maybe we’re just clean eaters? We also use placemats, which helps keep the table clean.

Microfiber: for ‘dry-cleaning’ mostly, dusting and sweeping up dirt messes, cleaning off the kitchen table, or giving the floor a once-over with the Swiffer. Also, if there is a big spill, these are much more absorbent than our cloth rags, so sometimes we use microfiber instead. I think we have around 6.

Cloth rags: For us, these are cut-up old t-shirts. We have a big basket of them, probably around 30 or so, which works well for our household of 3. They are thin and we aren’t emotionally attached to them (anymore haha). When we would normally reach for a paper towel or napkin, we instead grab a cloth rag. They work really well with the citrus-infused all purpose spray we use for the kitchen counters! If they get crumbs on them, we give them a quick rinse and then hang them on the oven handle to dry. Once they start to get a little grimy, we take them upstairs and throw them in with our laundry, and replace them with a new cloth. It’s really that easy!

Some people prefer to use all microfiber, which does works great for everything but can be a little bit of an investment. Our shirts were headed to Goodwill anyway, and they have served us well so far! I’m so happy to put them back in action.

So yes, we do keep a roll of paper towels around just in case. But our usage is SO MUCH LESS than it was before, and we are spending much less money! Next step, moving to cloth in the bathroom….maybe when we have a house with a laundry machine 😉

Do you use cloth in your kitchen?

WATCH THIS: No Impact Man

One of the very first documentaries I viewed after getting Netflix a few years back was No Impact Man.  Recommended to me at work by a fellow health nut, I was surprised and challenged by this family’s brave quest.

The premise of the documentary (and corresponding book of the same title) is that the Beavan family (husband, wife, and child) attempt to live with no environmental impact for an entire year- while residing in the middle of Manhattan.  Many challenges arise, from transportation (bikes become a favorite) to food sourcing (how can you eat locally?) to what to do about toilet paper (do they ever answer that one?).

The participants are very honest about their feelings during the experiment, and how it affects them in life afterwards as well.  It’s quite entertaining to see the whole family stomping laundry in the tub, or experimenting with ancient preservation techniques in lieu of a refrigerator.  They even go to visit the farms (just outside of NYC) where most of their food was coming from.   There is great dialogue interspersed about different industries (dairy and “organics” being two big ones) that may change the way you think about things, too.  This film changed that way I view “antibiotic free” labeling.

While I know that not everyone can live like this family, I love that they inspired little changes in my life, and caused me to question what I could do differently to lessen my environmental impact.  After seeing this, Matt and I started walking to the grocery store when we could, and using cut up old tees instead of paper towels for small messes.  We also made use of power strips so that we can turn off unnecessary electronics when we are gone for an extended time.  We might not live without refrigeration, but we certainly were moved to make changes where we could.  If you have a free night, I highly suggest watching this film- you wont regret it!

Lessening impact alongside you this weekend,