I have a confession to make. For the past many years, we’ve been using paper napkins. I don’t know why we had this disconnect…. perhaps it has something to do with the transition from having kids to young adults, and we’re behind in making that transition. Neither Tom nor I grew up with paper napkins, but when kids are little, it sure is handy. And I would comfort myself that many of those used napkins would go in our compost, to be reborn in our garden. But many went in the trash. What a waste of resources.
Likewise with paper towels. I tend to reach for them more than for the cloth towel that is hanging on the oven door.
Recently I somehow woke up to the fact that this was happening, and set about making a change. My mother has bins upon bins of unused cloth napkins and was happy to gift me a pile. I found cute napkin rings on Etsy which makes it more fun. I started putting cloth napkins in the kid’s lunch bags. And I asked my dad to figure out some kind of cloth towel rack that would sit next to our sink, in place of the paper towel rack. He immediately adapted an old Shaker design for a quilt rack and made me this beautiful thing.
I have a million cloth towels, so changing it out every couple of days is not an issue. And we won’t forgo paper towels entirely, I imagine. But just putting this in arm’s length, right next to the sink, will eliminate most of our paper towel use.
I recently, also, cleaned out our linen closet, and we had so many old towels and rags. There’s only so many that need to be saved for cleaning or painting; and so, when I packed up the Thanksgiving and Christmas items, I used these to cushion breakable things, instead of replacing the old ratty packing paper with fresh packing paper. It felt good to find a purpose for those cloths.
Tom also goes through undershirts; you know, those white t-shirts, and has to buy new ones a couple times a year. I had a pile of them that I wasn’t sure what to do with, and finally realized that I could spend 15 minutes cutting them into strips and storing them for summer, to use as tomato or pepper ties. And at the end of the season, they can be composted, since they are 100% cotton.
So all of this was making me feel pretty good! Maybe a little self-righteous… walking around like I had my stuff together, man. Then I went to do laundry. And I realized: All this stuff has to be washed. Which is fine, I don’t mind washing and folding (by the way, I love the Marie Kondo way of folding, I’ve become a convert), but WHAT ABOUT WATER? Isn’t that just as precious a resource as trees (which make paper)?
And so, chastened, I was newly cognizant of the fact that there is always a trade-off. Sure, you can argue that I’m doing laundry anyway, so adding these little towels and napkins isn’t that big a deal, and you’d be right about that. But it IS still using resources. No method is perfect. I mean, you can find this everywhere - like my seed starting mix from the other day. I’m not using peat, because it’s not renewable, but I AM using coconut coir, which comes from palm trees, which are a by-product of the coconut water and milk industry, which has it’s own BIG issues, not the least of which is shipping those coconuts to the United States. Or how about our electric car? It doesn’t use any oil, true, but it does use electricity, which in CA is partly wind-powered, partly water-powered, but also coal-powered.
I think, therefore, that we can’t be perfect. All we can do is make a better choice. And honestly, that takes some pressure off. We weigh our paths, our goods, our consumerism. And we make a knowledgable, conscious choice. That’s all we can do, really.
In other news:
I think we may have a skunk living under the train shed with the opossum.
My dad has a new website for his woodworking. You can access that site HERE. There are dozens of furniture plans available, along with step-by-step YouTube videos instructing you how to make them. Tom redesigned this website to make it more user-friendly, and I hope you’ll stop by and check it out, if for nothing else than to view the gorgeous period furniture.
Today is the 15-year anniversary of our son, Adam, being diagnosed with leukemia. He’s the healthiest person we know, now.