Ubiquitous, low-cost, and versatile, paper towels are ultra convenient—and easy to overuse. As tempting as it is to grab a few sheets every time you spray yourself with hot sauce or knock over a bottle of Lone Star, think twice before unwrapping your next paper towel roll. Need some convincing on why you should kick your paper towel habit? Check out these alarming stats from researchers at the Paperless Project.
Annually in the U.S., we use more than 13 billion pounds of paper towels, and that number is growing every year. This leads to over 3,000 tons of paper towel waste just in the U.S. each year.
If each U.S. household used one less 70-sheet roll of paper towels, 554,000 trees could be saved every year. If each U.S. household used three less rolls per year, it would eliminate 120,000 tons of waste. Discarded paper towels create 254 million tons trash every year globally.
By cutting back on paper towel use, you can save money, reduce landfill waste, save trees, and more. To help you reduce waste, we’ve rolled up six ways to use less paper towels regularly.
1. Break out the dinner linens.
Using linen napkins for everyday meals doesn’t just reduce paper, it makes meals feel fancier. Next time you set the table for dinner, break out the cloth napkins—don’t worry, that barbecue sauce will wash right out.
2. Shake it like a Polaroid picture.
If you’re used to grabbing two or three paper towels every time you dry your hands, you’re not alone. Americans are habitual multi-sheet grabbers.
To kick the multi-paper towel habit, shake your hands for 12 seconds after washing. Then, fold a single sheet to increase absorbency before toweling off the remaining drops.
3. Keep less paper towels around.
This is an obvious, but effective tip. When paper towels aren’t always within reach, you won’t use as many. Keep a single roll in the kitchen and keep unneeded ones out of sight to avoid temptation.
4. Save takeout meal napkins.
Even after banishing paper napkins from your daily routine, you may feel the need to supply paper napkins to guests when hosting dinners and parties.
Save paper napkins from takeout meals in a drawer and dig them out when your visitors come calling.
5. Make your own rags.
Cut-up old bathroom towels and old t-shirts, destined for the trash anyways, work great for tough jobs in the kitchen and around the house. Designate different towels for different jobs, and color-code cloths by using one shade for the bathroom, one shade for kitchen counters, one shade for drying dishes, etc.
Don’t worry if your homemade cloths don’t look like they belong in a Pottery Barn catalog. After all, they’re destined for wiping down the inside of refrigerator doors and drying pots and pans.
6. Remember that less is more.
Contrary to popular belief, more paper towels won’t dry your things more efficiently. In fact, science shows that a single folded paper towel is more effective than a wad due to super fancy science mechanisms known as “laminar flow”, “capillary action”, and “interstitial suspension”.