What if a whole group of people did the same “green” activity at the same time?
That very question was the foundation for a campaign spearheaded by Reduce Footprints called “Change the World Wednesday (#CTWW)”. Each week a new challenge is posted on the site and anyone can join in. The challenges are manageable for all-for example last week’s challenge was to take 5 minute showers all week. It was so bloody hot here that a 5 minute cool shower was doable.
The big picture: each challenge represents a small, simple change that, if done by few or many, can have a tremendous impact on the earth.
This week’s challenge was to avoid using or buying paper towels for 7 days.
Seven days isn’t unbearable-even for paper towel lovers.This one was pretty simple for me since our home is already paper towel free. About 6 years ago we let go of our addiction to paper towels and made the switch to reusable rags and towels. It wasn’t an easy transition, but now it’s integrated into our lives.
- The US produces half of the world’s garbage, but has only 6% of the world’s people.
- According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average American produces about 4.4 pounds (2 kg) of garbage a day, or a total of 29 pounds (13 kg) per week and 1,600 pounds (726 kg) a year.
- Paper waste makes for about 35 percent of the total material filling up landfills.
Problems with paper towels
- They’re single use-we use them once and then toss them. And we don’t only use one-we use many. This creates a lot of waste that ends up sitting in our overflowing landfills trying to biodegrade.
- Paper mills producing the paper towels are the largest industrial polluters in the US. They’re the ones who emit those horribly stinky smells that make you roll up your car windows as you drive by.
- The mills use a long list of hazardous chemicals to turn a tree into a paper towel.
- Much of the waste from mills is released into the air and our waterways causes pollution.
- During the production process paper towels are generally bleached with chlorine, which can cause dioxin, a highly toxic chemical that can cause cancer and birth defects in humans.
- Don’t forget the trees that are being chopped and diced to turn into your paper towels.
- Creating the paper towels requires a tremendous amount of energy that is often provided by coal or natural gas, which release greenhouse gas emissions.
- A crazy amount of water is needed to make one roll of paper towels.
- They’re packaged in plastic-adding to the landfill and water way problems.
- Paper towels are expensive and need to be replaced often.
If every household in the U.S. used just one less 70-sheet roll of paper towels, that would save 544,000 trees each year. If the switch was to using three less rolls per U.S. household per year, and that would save 120,000 tons of waste and $4.1 million in landfill dumping fees.
Tips on how to switch from paper towels to reusable towels
- Just do it. Stop buying paper towels and have old rags ready to go. I use old towels and t-shirts that are ready to be reused.
- Put them in a convenient place so you won’t be tempted to reach for the tissues or toilet paper (been there!).
- Check out People Towels Reusable Hand Towels. I really like their 100% organic reusable towels and they have some great designs.
With three kids and a dog, there are plenty of times I wish I had a roll of paper towels. But we are well trained over here and know to reach for a reusable rag.
Ready to up the ante?
Already using reusable towels and clothes? A few CTWW community members decided to take the “no paper towel challenge” to the next level. I’m on-board with most…
- Use reusable napkins–DID IT
- Reuse old clothing (t-shirst etc. ) as the towel. DID IT
- Carry cloth napkins with us so we’re ready for eating on the go. WORK IN PROGRESS
- Use a Wee Cloth instead of toilet paper. NO WAY. CAN’T DO IT-could you?
Are you willing to join in the fun? Can you go for 7 days without paper towels? Hop on over to Reduce Footprints to check out next week’s challenge and to see how others are doing with the current challenge.
There is an Amazon Affiliate link in this post. If you use the link it will place a few pennies in my pocket. Thanks!
[Photo used under Creative Commons from Josh Mormann/Flickr]