Welcome to the Norwex Movement

Are You Wiping Out Forests When You Wipe Your Hands?


leaf
Are You Wiping Out Forests When You Wipe Your Hands?

51,000 Reasons Not to Use Paper Towels

There’s a lot of talk these days about paper towels. Some folks use them without giving much thought to when and how many they use. Others may be a little more judicious in their use of paper towels, opting to keep them on hand for just a few necessary jobs. But does it really make a difference which tool we choose for wiping up spills and messes?

A Brief History of the Paper Towel

Paper TowelsPaper towels were invented in 1907 by the Scott Paper Company. Popular belief is that they were created as a reuse of a rail car full of toilet paper that didn’t meet specifications. In 1922 individual paper towels began to be regularly mass produced, and in 1931 rolls of paper towels were first introduced for use in the kitchen.

Today, paper towels are a staple of daily life for many of us. But, however convenient this single-use product may be, their environmental toll is not insignificant.

The Cost of Convenience

  • According to the EPA, paper in general makes up the largest share of municipal waste in the U.S.
  • More than 13 billion pounds (6.5 million tons) of paper towels are used each year in the U.S. alone.
  • To make just one ton of paper towels, 17 trees and 20,000 gallons of water are consumed.
  • Lots of energy is also required to manufacture and deliver all those towels from the factory to the store—along with the accompanying CO2 emitted into the atmosphere.
  • As many as 51,000 trees per day are required to replace the number of paper towels that are discarded every day.
  • Globally, discarded paper towels result in 254 million tons of trash every year.
  • About 3,000 tons of paper towels a year goes into U.S. landfills after just one use. There, it generates methane, a greenhouse gas, during decomposition.

What You Can Do

Obviously, one of the best ways to reduce the environmental impact of paper towels is simply to use fewer of them.

  • Use Electric Hand DryersIn public restrooms, choose to use the electric hand dryer if one is available. If there isn’t one, use only one towel instead of three or four, and use the shake-shake-fold method to get your hands completely dry.
  • At home, rely on reusable, high-quality microfiber cloths to tackle messes and clean up spills and dribbles. Not only are they a more sustainable option than paper towels, they also work better, cost less over time, and they’re better for the environment.
  • Cloth Napkins at the Diner TableAt the dinner table, place a cloth napkin at each place setting. Again, they are much more sustainable than paper towels and napkins. (There’s even a set of microfiber napkins that are made from recycled plastic bottles!) In addition, cloth napkins add an elegant touch, and they are a good way to help children learn table manners.

Did You

According to The Paperless Project:

  • If every household in the U.S. used just one fewer 70-sheet roll of paper towels, 544,000 trees would be saved each year.
  • If every household in the U.S. used three fewer rolls per year, 120,000 tons of waste and $4.1 million in landfill dumping fees would be saved.
comment_2Have you taken steps to reduce your paper towel usage? We’d love to hear about it! Just leave us a comment below.

Resources:

Do you use cloth or paper towel for quick cleanups?

View Results
 
Cloth:
 
89%
Paper towel:
 
11%
Total Votes:
166
View Poll
guest
16 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Sharon Campese
Sharon Campese
3 years ago

I have always made my own napkins from fabric. I always take a wet travel size envirocloth with me when I go out to eat: for myself and washing up the little kids. I always have a few damp kitchen cloths with me when traveling. So easy to avoid the use of paper towel.

Moderator
Admin
Moderator
3 years ago
Reply to  Sharon Campese

Thanks for the great ideas, Sharon!

Christy Balch
Christy Balch
3 years ago

Finally! We have eliminated paper towel use! Enviro cloths for wiping go in the wash. Napkins at our table! And now, a kitchen cloth to drain bacon on…that was the last step. No more paper towels here!

Moderator
Admin
Moderator
3 years ago
Reply to  Christy Balch

Way to go, Christy! Congratulations and thanks for sharing your inspiring success!

Miranda Waddill
Miranda Waddill
3 years ago
Reply to  Christy Balch

A kitchen cloth or our all purpose kitchen cloth? I’ve wondered what I should do, not give up bacon!

Christy Balch
Christy Balch
3 years ago

All Purpose Kitchen Cloth. Grease rinsed out with dish soap!

Gingi Freeman
Gingi Freeman
3 years ago

I am now ONE MONTH without paper towels, and I never knew it could be so easy!! I’m also now using the shake shake fold method in public restrooms.. I even shared the method with strangers at a movie theater! lol!

Moderator
Admin
Moderator
3 years ago
Reply to  Gingi Freeman

That’s wonderful, Gingi! Keep up the great work—especially sharing with others!

Shanie Cormier
Shanie Cormier
3 years ago

It’s actually been a couple of years now since last time we bought paper towel! My 5 years old son actually found a old roll of paper towel in the basement a couple of weeks ago and asked ”what’s this?” lol

Linda Watson
Linda Watson
3 years ago

It’s been difficult to get my husband out of the habit of using paper towels. However, when I explained that our Magnetic Enviro Cloth hanging on the side of the fridge is our Paper Towel for the week, it helped tremendously. Any spill, even on the floor, can be cleaned up with this cloth, then rinsed out. Thrown back on the side of the fridge to dry, it’s ready for the next spill! I’m loving our reusable napkins and still working on getting him to use these! Can’t wait to try the new kitchen wipes!!!! I want the day to come when he no longer adds Paper Towels on the shopping list!

Stephanie Turner
Stephanie Turner
3 years ago

I agree that being responsible with how we use trees is important, however, it is also important to remember that trees are a renewable resource and an entire field for labor and production and economy boosting jobs.

Christy Balch
Christy Balch
3 years ago

The lumber industry takes care of jobs. Other uses are just contributing to over deforestation.

Stephanie
Stephanie
3 years ago
Reply to  Christy Balch

There’s more to responsible forestry than just cutting down trees. Trees are a renewable resource and understanding the whole of tree farming is crucial to keeping our forests healthy and thriving.

Heather Wiese
Heather Wiese
3 years ago

Yes, I still use paper towels, mostly in the kitchen for grease and water regulation in stored produce, but not as much as I used to. I use Norwex microfibre products and water for my house cleaning.

Jacey
Jacey
1 year ago

Can you please point me to the primary source for this statistic: “To make just one ton of paper towels, 17 trees and 20,000 gallons of water are polluted.” Thank you so much!

Moderator
Admin
Moderator
1 year ago
Reply to  Jacey

Thanks for your question, Jacey. We found this information information at this site:
https://www.drgreene.com/perspectives/13-facts-about-home-paper-products-that-may-inspire-you-to-hug-a-tree
Please note we have changed “polluted” to “consumed.”