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9 More Reasons to Pass Up Paper


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9 More Reasons to Pass Up Paper

How Many Trees Must Die So Our Hands Can Get Dry?

Did you know that every day more than 51,000 trees are cut down to support North America’s paper towel habit? Or that the paper industry in general consumes more water than any other single industry on Earth? Maybe you weren’t aware that 254 million tons of paper towels are discarded globally every year.

Facts and figures like these help highlight just how dependent we’ve become on a product that’s used only once and then tossed. It’s alarming, but what can we do? After all, we’re just one person. But I suspect this may be exactly the kind of attitude that makes a bad problem worse. The kind of mindset that says, “Eh, no matter what I do or don’t do, it’s not going to have an impact. After all, I’m just one person.”

Turns out, there’s a lot we can do to help conserve resources like trees and water, especially when we’re talking about paper towel and napkin usage. When many of us commit to a few small, conscious choices, it’s amazing the difference we can make. And it doesn’t have to be particularly hard or inconvenient!

Here’s a progression of “good, better, best” ideas to help you reduce paper towel and napkin waste at home and on the go.

Good

Teach your kids to use only one paper towel when using a public restroom. Joe Smith’s shake, shake, fold method can help cut this type of paper towel waste in half!

And did you know that used paper towels, though hard to recycle, can be composted? Just make sure they are the unbleached, chlorine-free variety and that they haven’t been contaminated with any chemicals that could disrupt your compost.

Of course, using towels and tissues made from recycled paper also helps conserve precious resources. In fact, according to OneGreenPlanet.org, “If every household in America replaced just one package each of conventional toilet paper, paper towels, napkins and tissues with products made from recycled materials, we would save about 10 million trees!”

Better

Because electric hand dryers save trees and create less waste than paper towels, you may have wondered whether they were more Earth-friendly than using a paper towel. Well, you guessed right: there’s evidence that they are at least a little more environmentally friendly about 95% of the time. So when your choice is between paper or air to dry your hands, air is almost always the most Earth-friendly choice.

Best

But perhaps the best choice of all for today’s conscious consumers is towels and napkins made from high-quality, quick-drying microfiber. A good-quality microfiber is much more Earth-friendly than paper, and even offers a number of benefits over cloth towels and napkins:

  • It’s more absorbent
  • It dries more quickly
  • It’s extremely soft on the skin
  • It’s durable and resists pilling

What’s more, one company is now even offering a set of napkins made from 50% recycled materials. In fact, each set of four contains the equivalent of five 500 ml plastic beverage bottles. So not only are trees being saved—and paper waste reduced—but the problem of plastic pollution is also being addressed. I call that a win-win-win!

9 More Reasons to Pass Up Paper
  • num_1To make one ton of paper towels 17 trees and 20,000 gallons of water are polluted.
  • num_2Globally, discarded paper towels result in 254 million tons of trash every year.
  • num_3If just 50% of the U.S. population uses 3 paper napkins a day, that totals 450,000,000 napkins for 1 day—or more than 164 billion per year.
  • num_4If every household in the U.S. used just one less 70-sheet roll of paper towels, that would save 544,000 trees each year.
  • num_5Worldwide the pulp and paper industry is the fifth largest consumer of energy, accounting for 4% of all the world’s energy use.
  • num_6Over 60% of the roughly 17 billion cubic feet of timber harvested worldwide each year is used for paper and pulp.
  • num_7The paper industry uses more water to produce a ton of product than any other industry.
  • num_8Discarded paper is a major component of many landfill sites, accounting for about 35% by weight of municipal solid waste.
  • num_9Pulp and paper is the third largest industrial polluter to air, water and land in both Canada and the United States, and releases well over 100 million kg of toxic pollution each year.
comment_2What ways have you found to help reduce paper towel and napkin waste? We’d love to hear about them! Just leave us a comment below.

Resources:

When it comes to napkins, do you rely on cloth or paper?

View Results
 
Cloth:
 
60%
Paper:
 
40%
Total Votes:
360
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MJ
MJ
3 years ago

The stats are truly staggering! I try to make a conscious choice when using paper napkins. Will now work on reducing paper towels for drying my hands. Thanks for the valuable information.

Amy Hepfner
Amy Hepfner
3 years ago

Wow, I’m blown away by the information!! Although with Norwex I’ve greatly reduced my paper towel habit, I need to regroup and reduce more. I do have an issue with the forced air dryers though. I’m not a germophobe, but in an episode of the show Myth Busters in 2013 they found: Bacterial Load Reduction Air Dryer…………….23% Paper Towel………..71% The samples taken from the wall and floor around the air dryer and paper towel dispenser were cultured to determine if there was any truth to the myth that an air dryer spread bacteria around the room. They confirmed this was indeed the case, with 41 bacterial colonies cultured when testing around the air dryer and only 3 cultured from around the paper towel dispenser. So while using the air dryers are good for the environment, they are not necessarily good for your health. Currently I use the shake, shake, fold method when I do use paper towels. In dire situations, I use my pants. 🙂 I guess I’ll have to keep a Norwex cloth in my purse….now there’s the best… Read more »

Moderator
Admin
Moderator
3 years ago
Reply to  Amy Hepfner

Wow, that is great info–thanks for sharing, Amy!

Dyan Galloway
Dyan Galloway
3 years ago

Very informative, I will definitely be more conscious of my paper towel usage. I’m all for going green thanks to Norwex it’s easier than you think.

RuthAnn Ross
RuthAnn Ross
3 years ago

I use the Norwex hand towels, kitchen towels and the chenille hand towel. My grandchildren use the pet to dry hand towel and love using them. I use cloth napkins and always travel with one, but sometimes I will use a paper napkin if I have forgotten my cloth napkin.

Tanya Aoyagi
Tanya Aoyagi
3 years ago

We made the switch from paper napkins/paper towels to cloth this year, and I LOVE it! When we are out in public and paper towels are all that’s available (sometimes I forget my microfiber…), we teach our kids the shake, shake, fold method. It’s a game to them, and I’ve had more than one person ask about it, so we are even spreading the word!

Dianne Miller
Dianne Miller
3 years ago

I have become very conscious of consumable paper product waste and try to always use cloth whenever possible or the forceful air dryers. You know the ones that blow the skin on your hands. The wimpy air dryers are worthless. Businesses should definitely invest in the more powerful ones. They are so much faster at getting your hands dry. But they should have one for every sink in the restrooms.

Jennifer Rottman
Jennifer Rottman
3 years ago

This was an amazing article. I am so glad a month ago I stopped buying paper towel and replaced with Norwex Kitchen Towel. I am looking forward to purchasing the napkins.

Karen zanette
Karen zanette
3 years ago

Since I’ve joined norwex i use our amazing chanelle towel to dry or hands. I love it!

Moderator
Admin
Moderator
3 years ago
Reply to  Karen zanette

We love it too, Karen—and all the new colors are so pretty! Thanks for your post!

Jeni
Jeni
3 years ago

I haven’t bought paper towels in nearly 5.5 years.

Heather Wiese
Heather Wiese
3 years ago

Hmmmmm…I use paper towels in the kitchen for food prep, i.e. Soaking up grease from bacon and sausages, as a moisture moderator when storing fruits and veggies. What would be the best thing to use in these situations, other than paper towels. I’ve been puzzling over this for some time…

Moderator
Admin
Moderator
3 years ago
Reply to  Heather Wiese

Great question, thanks Heather! One blogger we read suggested using old t-shirts cut up in smaller pieces to absorb grease from cooking. After using once, simply toss them in the trash. She also suggested cooking bacon on a slotted pan in the oven and catching the grease on a pan underneath. Then you simply scape the grease into the trashcan after it cools. For moisture absorption for fruits and veggies, you might experiment with a microfiber cloth . . . and please let us know if these ideas work for you!

Heather Wiese
Heather Wiese
3 years ago
Reply to  Moderator

I don’t like the idea of throwing away old rags when they can keep being reused. Also, I’d be worried about my microfibre becoming moldy and mildewy. I’ll have to research this some more. Thanks, though, for the suggestions!

Lorrie Hymel
Lorrie Hymel
3 years ago
Reply to  Heather Wiese

I have the same question. Thanks for asking!

RuthAnn Ross
RuthAnn Ross
3 years ago

I have found using my Norwex hand towels and kitchen towels at home work very well but using while out is a matter of remembering to bring my enviro cloth with me but will only use 1 paper napkin while eating and will use the hand dryer instead of paper towels where possible

Shauna Wing
Shauna Wing
3 years ago

Since I became aware of Norwex products, my family and I have drastically reduced the amount of paper towel usage in our home. One roll will now last us months compared to weekly usage before. Thank you Norwex!

Fawn Chan
Fawn Chan
3 years ago

I will remind the little kindergarteners in my class to be more mindful when it comes to using paper towels from the restroom dispenser. A little goes a long way.

Stephanie Mallard
Stephanie Mallard
3 years ago

I just bought some microfiber cloths to use instead of paper towels. I also hope to get a couple microfiber towels to replace the paper towels too.

Gingi Freeman
Gingi Freeman
2 years ago

I am trying to make the switch to cloth napkins in 2017! Have already ditched paper towels use though!

Anna
Anna
2 years ago

I’m very curious about the source of your statistics. Could you possibly point me to the studies cited to come up with these numbers? Thank you so much!!

Moderator
Admin
Moderator
2 years ago
Reply to  Anna

Hi Anna, thanks for your great question. It turns out that one of the references we cited when the blog was written, The Paperless Project, has since been pulled down. However, the following references also provide these stats too:

https://recyclenation.com/2009/11/going-paper-towel-less/
https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/31/paper-alternatives_n_4704796.html
http://www.upstate.edu/green/pdf/tg-news/tg-news-summer-2016.pdf

We hope this helps, and thanks again for your question.

Cecelia Warner
Cecelia Warner
1 year ago

The Shake & Fold movement (founded with blessings from Joe Smith) is alive and well. Go too http://www.shakeandfold.org. You can send for free stickers to post on paper towel dispensers.

Moderator
Admin
Moderator
1 year ago
Reply to  Cecelia Warner

Thank you for this update, Cecelia, and for the great work you’re doing to spread the word about the impact of paper towels on our planet! We’d love to have you as Norwex Movement member, if you’re inclined. Just click on the “Join the Movement” link, above.