Sunday, February 6, 2011

EYCC: Paper towel tips and an update

 Andrew and I haven't bought/used paper towel in over three years. Not once. Not even for bacon fat, cleaning the bathroom, toast or cleaning mirrors and windows. You know what? I don't miss it at all. Why does your paper towel habit matter? I wrote a detailed post about it in December 2009, but I'll give you the main points:
  • If every household in North America replaced just one roll of virgin-fibre paper towel for 100% post consumer recycled we'd save 550,000 trees
  • 400,000 ha of Canada's Boreal Forests are harvested each year with most for paper mills
  • Typical paper towels are bleached with chemicals, use virgin-fibre and extremely wasteful.
My steps involved switching to recycled paper towels, only to be used for emergencies and then one day I just didn't buy any more. Ya know, when you don't have any as an option in the house, you eventually forget why you'd ever need it in the first place.

My strategies and changes include:
  • Using rags for everything cleaning related: including mirrors, toilets, bathtubs etc. I just have a system where I clean the toilet last, so that I'm not spreading toilet germs in the bathroom. Also, mirror and faucets get cleaned first to avoid streaks (vinegar and water seriously works the best).
  • We use plates for all snacks, sandwiches, crackers etc. I figure the energy required to wash the plates is significantly less than the chemicals and processing required to make paper towel.
  • Bacon fat: we just don't sop it up. I know- gross eh? But we rarely eat bacon... An option I have considered, however, is using a baking rack to allow the bacon to drip onto a plate underneath. Another option would be to dab the bacon with a cloth napkin to soak up some fat that way. We also pour the fat into a jar.
  • Cat grossness: if the cats make some gross mess on the floor, we usually clean it up using a rag and the strongest eco-cleaner we have around (usually a 7th Generation spray). But if we have to pick something up (ew!) I usually grab some toilet paper and flush it....
  • Napkins: we use cloth.
Seriously, I have no idea why I ever thought paper towel was necessary and that cloth alternatives and rags would be difficult to manage. 

UPDATE for: Decrease Paper Week 1
Well, our grocery shopping has been interesting. Instead of buying box board packaged mac and cheese, pizza and frozen goods, we've tried a few from scratch alternatives.
mmm Growler. The mug is so you can get a feel for the size...
  1.  Andrew made pizza dough from scratch and actually even froze one! They turned out delicious. Now we just have to make MORE.
  2. Mac and Cheese is our next step... maybe tonight?
  3. I bought granola (from La fourmi bionique) with no box board packaging (I could make my own, very easy, but a bit time consuming... so didn't happen yet).
  4. We bought yummy yummy beer from the market in Growler form (2 litres) from Granite Brewery at the market. No box board for the bottles (since it's one big jug) and the bestest yummiest beer- The Peculiar. It does mean that we have to drink the entire 2 Litres upon opening... Also we had a bit of a problem with the Irish Stout- was completely flat. This supposedly happens due to the nitrogen needed to keep it creamy in draught form, which doesn't translate to jug form.

How has your challenge been going?

article and photographs copyright of EcoYogini at


  1. Anyway, bacon fat, in moderation and contrary to popular belief, isn't that bad for you. We need fat to make brain cells...

    I use old newspapers a lot. Himself reads the paper the old fashioned way every day and I use newspaper and vinegar to clean mirrors and newspaper houses cat yuck also!

  2. Loved what Rachel said - I agree. I don't think we need to worry about animal fat quite as much as we have been led to believe. And like her, I use newspapers on the rare (like twice a year) occasion that we need something to drain oily food on.

    I have given myself a month to tackle pizza dough, but will likely get on to it next week. I'm excited. I made it once before and enjoyed it a lot!

  3. yeah and if you're eating bacon already, is a couple extra drips of fat going to kill ya? :)

    i've been without paper towels & paper napkins for a few years as well and the only thing that i miss is oiling my cast iron skillets, loaf pans, etc. so i keep a 'junk towel' just for that kinda stuff.

  4. I regret to say I am an avid paper towel user. BUT after reading this post, I will try my darndest to lessen my use!

  5. I made my very first batch of homemade granola last night, actually! A very simple recipe from Joy the Baker's blog that turned out DELICIOUS. It only took 35 minutes, total (if you make half the recipe- if you make the whole thing, you'll have to bake 2 trays separately). Give it a try! Now I can't believe that I ever spent the money on the store bought kind...

  6. Whoops! Forgot to give you the link to the homemade granola recipe:

  7. I never cease to be amazed at how much liquid old cloth diapers will absorb. It's insane...probably 5-6 paper towels worth of stuff. (Remember to rinse them out if you're wiping up spilled milk...peee-yuuu)

  8. Haven't been by in awhile, but I wanted to give you props on an excellent post! Bacon fat can just be left to congeal (gross) and sort of scooped up and thrown out. I love that you don't use paper towels and that you are making such strides in reducing paper packaging in general! Thanks, Kitty


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