Monday, July 21, 2008

Why Cloth Napkins Are Better Than Paper

10. Paper cranes look more like wounded sparrows
9. Cloth napkins don't clog your lint trap
8. Napkins rings look silly on rolled up Bounty sheets
7. Paper doesn't soak up the red sauce before it stains your skirt (leaving an embarrassing red stain where it ought not be)
6. Hard to emphasize your point in an argument by angrily throwing down your paper napkin
5. Can't snap a paper napkin at a cute guy's ass
4. Takes your table from trailer-trash to Martha Stewart in under 10 seconds
3. Initial investment vs. 10 year cost analysis
2. Reducing AND reusing all in one change
1. Deforestation in the name of mouth-wiping = bad eco karma

It's been over a year now that I've been gracing my table with soft, cotton, love-squares and I'll never go back to paper again. This is one of my earlier changes, and since its implementation, our little family has avoided using over 2,000 paper napkins.

My favorite Christmas gift last year came from my 2-year-old niece, Libby, who took a set of nearly-new napkins from Goodwill and used fabric paints to add her handprints to them. They are absolutely adorable and we use them every single night.

Switching from paper to cloth is not a difficult change to make and I'm surprised more people don't do it. It's cheap and classy, how often does that happen?!? Let's face it: cloth napkins aren't just for Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. They are for everyday, every meal.

Today's challenge is to give up the paper napkins in your house and switch to cloth napkins for daily use. If you're already a cloth-convert, then scour the second-hand shops for a set to give to a friend or neighbor. Personalizing them, as my niece did, or making them yourself is a beautiful way to say "I love you, now stop killing trees".


ib mommy said...

I have two sets of cloth napkins. One I bought when I worked in retail, got wholesale but still cost a small fortune and the other I bought in France last year. We have them all piled up in the cabinet and just grab them as needed. Sure, my kids are teenagers but they've always got some kind of goo dripping down their faces at dinner. Every once in a while during dinner I look up and one of them is staring at me with her hands up in the air, face poised above the plate and a big glob of red crap on her chin, knowing she better not wipe that on my napkins. I jump up, make a mad dash for the kitchen and hurl a 2 dollar dishtowel across the room. My aim is getting pretty good.

Joan said...

I am in the process of switching. I've been picking up a few here and there. It is difficult to convince certain family members (my 15 year old son).

Jenn said...

I made this change by picking up a 12-pack of bar towels. They're the right size, very absorbent, easy to clean and perfect for kids. It's back-to-school season, so you can find a cheap solution at the discount stores if you can't find anything at goodwill. I also had a lot of misc kitchen towels that could be used as napkins. Now the bar towels are ready to become washing cloths and I'm thrifting/sewing nice squares to replace them.

Bobbi said...

This is a hard one for me to do. Although I still buy paper napkins 50% of the time, I do recycle them in my compost heap. I've had the hardest time trying to convert my hubby; he loves his paper napkins, especially when packing his lunch for work.

School starts in 2 weeks, so I'm going to try and make the change to total cloth napkins at that time.

Thanks for the info!

organicneedle said...

Haven't any of you people heard of sleeves?

I also find, if you happen to be wearing halter top, that thin wash clothes, which can often be purchased with super heroes on them, work perfectly for the messier members of the family. They double for catching big spills instead of reaching for the paper towels too.

Anonymous said...

I've been using cloth napkins for years (since 1998) and would never go back to paper napkins that shred or disintegrate when wet. A couple tips for new cloth napkin converts:

1) Don't buy white napkins for everyday use. They will get stained, especially if a preschooler takes one in the lunchbox. (Yes at one time my everyday napkins were white, now they are spotted.)

2) Buy napkins with a pattern if possible because it hides the stains. Brown is another good color.

3) Buy an additional set for when you have guests over for dinner. The good napkins are the only ones I treat for stains and iron. Also, this way you can have to pleasure of having guests ask if you use cloth everyday and you have the stained everyday napkins to prove it. ;-)

4) If you have small children, you will need more cloth napkins than you think. We go through 12-20 napkins a week.


Allison said...

Great list! I have been using my shoulder, sleeves and inside of my shirt since I was a child, when nobody is looking. Ha ha. But I discourage it with my kids. I will take on your challenge and see how my family takes it. One step at a time with them.

The Green Routine said...

lol, funny post. I especially liked #6. I can't count the number of times I've thrown my paper napkin down in anger, only to have it float gently to the table, completely taking the emphasis away from my speech.

leslie said...

This is just the funniest, bestest blog ever.
That list is hilarious and all true!

I was on the floor by the time I got to 'napkin rings look silly on rolled up Bounty sheets'. Then I had to wipe the tears from my eyes with my cloth napkin when I read "...angrily throwing down your paper napkin."
I had to temporarily click away after #4, to catch my breath.

Then when I think it's safe to read the comments, I get to OrganicNeedle and the sleeves...

Does Going Green mean the color your face turns from laughing so hard?!

Oh. I use cloth. I keep a basket of them on the table.

Heather @ SGF said...

I've been doing this for the last 6 months and love it! I also take a cloth napkin with me to restaurants or with my sack lunch at the office. Once you get used to it, it's easy and you can feel good about all those paper napkins you AREN'T using!

Robj98168 said...

5. Can't snap a paper napkin at a cute guy's ass

DO that often fo you? BTW I am still waiting for your email so I can send you the green book. OUCH put down that napkin, my heiny is sensitive!

Burbanmom said...

Rob.... Hmmmm, I sent it out to robj98168 at yahoo dot com... but my mail serve sucks... if you don't get it tonight, let me know and I'll leave a commment on your site (if you promise to erase it :-)


- 'Burbs

Callie said...

I am trying to convert from paper to cloth napkins, and ended up running across some like new ones at a garage sale this weekend. I was happy about that and enjoyed using them last night. When this huge bag of paper napkins we have right now runs out, I'm not buying more!

amy purple said...

You have a great sense of humor for motivating the switch! We should really do this! Organic needle made me laugh because i was thinking that too, ha, couldn't i just use my sleeve? I have to wash my shirt anyway right? I mean, that's where I sneeze anyway.

Anonymous said...

We've been using cloth napkins for a couple of years and love them. Biggest problem is that one of the cats likes to sleep on them (we leave them lying on the table between meals). ALso the same cat has been known to lick them - ewww!

Condo Blues said...

I started using cloth napkins because I was lazy, too lazy on a snowy yucky winter day to jump in my car to buy napkins because we were out. When I went to change the tablecloth on my kitchen table, I saw a bunch of cloth Christmas napkins I got way back in another gift. I started using those cloth napkins and haven't looked back for the last 6 months. In fact, after some more rooting around in the cupboards, I found that I had more than enough matching/coordinating cloth napkins already and a set of napkin rings! Greenest thing to do is to use the stuff you already have. It's free too. :)

Heather said...

And hey, when you run out of napkins because you were too lazy to do laundry all week, grab one of those dish towels from the drawer and toss one on the table. On a few occasions we have had "community towel" night.

Before you go pickin' on me for spreading family germs, Like those walking petri-dish kids ain't already spending the whole day sipping from my glass anyway.

"What's that, Mom? You have a fresh glass of no-backwash chai tea? I wanna contaminate THAT!"

Jenni said...

I have a few sets of cloth napkins, some that are fancy and some for eating bbq! I pick up beautiful linens at garage sales. We dry our hands on dish towels. We clean up spills with old tee-shirts. I keep some recycled paper towels on hand for cleaning the toilet. What do the rest of you do about the toilet? Also, after we wash our hands in a public restroom, if we aren't dressed up, we dry our hands on our jeans. It kills me to see ladies taking four paper towels to dry their hands! Great post, glad I was already meeting the challenge! JenK

Heather @ SGF said...

Washcloths work too

Mother Earth said...

another idea that's rather inexpensive and along the same theme is to use bandana's for napkins - at hobby lobby I have found them for as little as .25 each! They are bright, large and wash up wonderfully. It's very easy to also do themes, orange and black for halloween, spring colors, autumn - well you get the picture

Anonymous said...

Oh I just love how that was put! Especially the throwing of the napkin to emphasize a point :-) Cloth napkins hmm? I think I can make mine!! WOOHOO! LOVE your blog by the way-what a delight!

equa yona(Big Bear) said...

And don't forget, if you suck yer fingers real good, the napkins stay cleaner longer.

Robj98168 said...

And cloth snot rags are better than tissue snot rags.

knutty knitter said...

Hubby couldn't find the paper towels :) I 'forgot' to buy any...he had to use the dishcloth instead. Conversion is a loooong sloooow process punctuated by many 'I forgots'

viv in nz

leslie said...

We have never been a paper towel/plastic silverware/paper plate using family, but we always use paper napkins. This is my new goal.

This is a fantastic blog!