Starting a paperless kitchen might seem like a newfangled, eco-friendly concept; but if you really think about it, it’s a very vintage idea!
Homemakers like our grandparents and great grandparents (think Great Depression or WWII era) didn’t have the same disposable options that we do. They were also extremely interested in pinching pennies and saving resources.
In short: our grandmas are way cooler than us.
Their generation’s frugality is legendary, and their world was better for it! I think that’s something we can emulate.
Why Start a Paperless Kitchen
From a purely Zero Waste standpoint, starting a paperless kitchen is a wonderful opportunity to reduce trash caused by housekeeping. Just think about how many paper towels you use in an average day!
We’ve gotten so used to the convenience factor of grabbing a disposable paper towel to mop up a mess. They’re marketed to us as the ideal “quicker picker upper” – absorbent, hyper-convenient and utterly sterile.
Truth is, paper towels are a costly, wasteful solution to a problem that can be easily (and better) solved by a handy, reusable cloth towel.
To Answer Your Questions
When people find out that I don’t use paper towels or napkins at home they usually have a lot of questions. Let me see if I can put your mind at ease!
Doesn’t washing cloth napkins and towels waste water?
The amount of water it takes to wash your reusable cloth rags with the rest of your laundry pales in comparison to the millions of gallons it takes to manufacture paper towels and other products like them.
Josh and I haven’t personally needed to increase the amount of laundry that we do each week since we went paperless. We simply keep a little laundry bin in the corner of our kitchen to catch wet rags as we use them, then they go into the wash with the rest of our laundry. Easy peasy!
What about nasty messes?
The vast majority of the messes we clean up in our house are pretty tame. But sometimes we come across something especially gross that needs our attention (cat puke *ahem*).
For messes like this, we opt for a rag that’s already on its last leg and give it a nice soak in hot water and vinegar before putting it in the laundry. We’ve never had an issue.
What do you do about bacon grease?
I am a firm believer in cooking bacon in the oven. It’s simple, requires zero attention, and the clean-up is always a million times easier than mopping up a greasy mess on the stove top.
When the bacon comes out of the oven, I transfer it to a cookie rack where most of the grease drains off naturally. I store leftover grease to cook with later if it makes sense.
Is it inconvenient?
Honestly, no! The hardest part about starting a paperless kitchen is breaking the paper towel habit. But once you make the transition to cloth-only, it’s pretty much impossible to screw up.
We don’t have any reason to keep paper towels in our house today. If we did, they would be used for very specific, once-in-a-while purposes only: maybe in Josh’s wood shop or for a craft project that requires disposability.
How We Made the Transition to a Paperless Kitchen
Making the transition to a paperless kitchen was really simple for us. As soon as we used our last paper towel we just…stopped buying them. After that, our goal was to make using rags in the kitchen as easy as humanly possible.
Here are some tips to help you get started!
- Buy a couple sets of cheap, natural-fiber cloth napkins. If you have extra fabric around the house just sew your own! We bought ours at World Market in a beautiful, dark charcoal color so that we wouldn’t have to worry about stains.
- Invest in a number of bar towels for cleaning the kitchen counters. We were gifted some great sets at our wedding that we use daily.
- Hunt around your house for cloth that can be repurposed. Do you have some old cotton t-shirts, bath towels or pillowcases that need a new life? Cut them to size and store for dirtier messes in the bathroom.
- Put hand towels in convenient places throughout your kitchen. I keep cloth napkins on the dining table, counter rags by the sink and a pretty dish towel over the oven door to dry hands. This will make it easy to grab them!
- I made most of our cleaning rags out of a couple of old bath towels. We differentiate between kitchen messes and bathroom messes by color: blue ones are used in the bathroom and gray in the kitchen.
- Keep a small laundry bin close by. We have a nice little wire basket that we keep in a corner of our kitchen. Rags that are wet are laid over the side of the bin to dry thoroughly before washing.
- Keep your rags smelling nice. If you notice a musty smell (which only happens rarely for us) wash your linens in warm water with a splash of vinegar. Works like a charm!
- Develop a system that works for your whole household. Try to make the process easy and intuitive so you can keep your convenience level the same as when you used paper.
Starting a paperless kitchen is easy, affordable and wonderfully eco-friendly. Just give yourself a little time to make the transition and make the routine your own!
Want to know how to make the transition as cheaply as possible? Read my second post on starting a paperless kitchen here!
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