Giving Up Paper Napkins

Ah, paper napkins, those beacons of ease and cleanliness. Well, until you realize that they aren’t recyclable and suddenly the thought of all those napkins hanging out in a landfill (not to mention the trees that were used to produce them) bums you out. 

To avoid having to toss something in a landfill that’s only been used for a few minutes - or seconds - make the switch to cloth napkins. It’s way easier than you’d think. Your life doesn’t have to be fancy to incorporate cloth napkins into your routine. Here are some tips for making the switch:

Don’t. Iron. Them. 

Cloth napkins aren’t about having a perfect-looking table (though of course, they do look quite nice). Instead, make them a seamless part of your everyday routine. 

Choose colors and patterns to hide stains 

White and light-colored napkins are pretty… impractical. Choose ones in colors or patterns so you won’t have to cringe every time a drop of spaghetti sauce strays from your fork to your lap. Darker colors, vibrant prints: anything that looks like it could hide a stain or two is probably what you want here. You can even take it a step further and buy colors that match your kitchen or bath towels so that they can be washed together.

Stock up

You’ll probably want to have enough napkins that you can reach for a clean one as often as you’d like. You don’t have to use fresh ones every single day; instead, keep a napkin at each family member’s spot so they know it’s theirs. But, especially if you don’t have an in-unit washer or dryer, you won’t want to be doing laundry more often than you have to, so stocking up can be helpful here.

Look at thrift stores

A great place to find affordable cloth napkins is at a thrift store. Visit your closest one and take a peek at their selection. A wash in hot water and a dry on high heat, and the napkins you find there will be good to go. To find a thrift store near you, click here

Or, make memories

If you’re looking to start or add to your collection of cloth napkins, I can’t think of a better place to do it than when traveling. Many of mine are souvenirs from places throughout the U.S., picked up whenever I see a few I like. More fun than buying them at the big box store down the street, right? They’ll remind you of your trip every time you spill spaghetti sauce.

Bonus: bring it with you

For extra credit, you can avoid paper napkins when you’re out and about. Tucking a cloth napkin from home in your car, backpack, or purse means that you won’t have to use paper napkins at restaurants, coffee shops, and more.

Saving trees AND landfill space? Using cloth napkins just started to make a whole lot more sense.

Image: © Zero Waste Chicago

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