6 Tips for Ditching Paper Towels

Paper towels were invented in the early 1900s by accident. A railcar full of paper was too tightly wound to become toilet paper as intended. Instead of sending the paper back, they cut it into sheets roughly 18" x 13" to make paper towels.

6 tips for ditching paper towels from www.goingzerowaste.com

Then they launched a marketing campaign to make sure that everyone knew they needed paper towels. Rags were deemed unsanitary to make way for the new and improved paper towel. 

It took a long time for paper towels to become a more permanent object in the home. People were not used to throwing things away. But eventually, we bought into the marketing hype. 

While I fully believe sanitary disposables have their place in life (medical, science, etc.) I don't feel as though the home is one of them. Let's talk about all those places you use paper towels and you can switch to cloth! 

the tools: 

I have tried lots of dishcloths, and most push water around instead of absorbing it. Paper towels are EXCELLENT at absorbing water. So, are microfiber towels, but microfiber comes with a whole slew of other problems. Every time a synthetic fabric is washed in a washing machine it releases thousands of microplastic particles into the waterways and eventually the ocean. This is a huge issue which we will get into at another time.

I have tried huck towels and was highly disappointed. I recently got these towels from Sur La Table and have been thrilled by the results. They absorb water like nobodies business. I can highly recommend these towels.

the application: 

after meal clean up:

This seems like the silliest and most frivolous use of paper towels. After you've finished making a meal, there's probably some crumbs on your counter. There's no reason to reach for a paper towel.

Brush all the crumbs into the sink or the palm of your hand. If you have a particularly sticky mess, dampen the cloth and wipe it up. 

windows and glass:

You don't need paper towels to get a streak free shine. I have had excellent luck with the dish towels I linked to above. You can't swipe once and expect it to be perfect. It takes a little bit more to make sure the window is dry.  

But, I hear that newspaper works well in a pinch! 

6 tips for ditching paper towels from www.goingzerowaste.com

drying your hands:

I lied, this is the most frivolous use for paper towels. 


When I cook meat for Justin, there's typically grease left in the pan. Depending on how much there is in the pan, I'll either sautee with it or store it for sauteing later. If there's not enough for either of those things, take a piece of bread and use it to absorb the grease.

You can cut it into chunks to make croutons or give them to the dog as a treat. Just don't over do it, because, grease isn't that good for your furry friends. 

If you have something like bacon that's exceptionally greasy, place it on a drying rack and place a plate or baking sheet underneath. 

drying produce or meat:

After you wash your produce, dry it with a cloth towel instead of a paper one. Now, meat is a trickier subject. Often times you'll hear chefs tell you to pat your meat dry before cooking it. The only time I really deal with this is holidays. 

Instead of patting it dry, I put it naked on a drying rack on top of a baking sheet in the fridge for at least a couple of hours, but preferably overnight. Super crispy skin and no worries about paper towels. 

vomit and other gross stuff:

This is the one thing that Justin would like paper towels for, and I get it. But, I don't at the same time. If something happens, just wipe it up. Rinse the towel in the tub or sink or with the hose outside. Then throw the towel in the washing machine.  

I haven't use paper towels in years. I tried to think of everything you could possibly use them for, but what did I miss? What are some other tips you have for avoiding paper towels? 

Zero Waste Weddings vs Elopements

Alright, we're past the craze of the holiday season. It's now time for me to focus on planning this wedding. A zero waste wedding certainly feels like a daunting task. 

And, with most things in life and especially zero waste, there are no right answers. There are rather an array of choices ranging from good, bad to worse. All of these decisions have to factor into your time, budget, and location. 

If we had a large budget, we'd easily be able to hire a caterer to take care of everything. We are not this fortunate, and it will be more of a DIY wedding. In that case, time becomes our biggest hindrance. Not the amount of time we have to plan, rather the amount of time we'll have to spend transporting and cleaning up on the day of the event. 

Of course, I've wrestled with the idea of eloping on more than one occasion. Eloping would definitely be the easiest way to have a zero waste wedding. It would be small, private, and you could just go out to a really nice restaurant afterward. Even as I type this, I dream of the simplicity. 

On the other hand, our families are scattered all across the US. This might be the only time they ever actually get to meet each other, and that feels really important. But, instead of throwing a large bash, we're going to focus on immediate family and close friends. 

I feel that this is the easiest way to keep it under budget and as low waste as possible. The average wedding has 150 people and produces 400-600lbs of trash! That's crazy, and that's only the trash leftover at the end of the night. I can only imagine what the upwaste stream on an event like that is. 

goals for a zero waste wedding: 

have under 2lbs of trash:

I honestly pulled this number our of thin air. I don't think I've made two pounds of trash in the last two years, but I'd rather be proud of myself rather than disappointed.

I'm not going to be in control of a lot of aspects of the event... as much as I'd like to be. I'm relinquishing the power and letting other people handle it. I'd much rather relax and have a good time than worry about small details out of my control. 

figure out a way to compost all food scraps:

I don't have municipal compost in my city. Instead, I'll need to figure out a way to get it taken care of in a city that does have municipal compost. I can just imagine me and my bridesmaids running around town throwing compost into random people's green bins. 

This is definitely a logistic I'm working on....

forgo useless party favors:

I mean, does anyone really need a favor? When I go to an event, wining and dining me is the best favor you could give. I don't feel that there's any reason I should be given anything more than that. However, I would love to hear your opinion. 

Is there a favor you've gotten and loved? Do you love party favors? 

buy second hand or borrow when possible:

The obvious things that come to mind are the wedding dress and decorations. We're trying to streamline design as much as possible to reduce unnecessary resources being used for decorations. 

I think the best way to do that is to book a unique venue that doesn't need to be dressed up too much, especially since we'll probably be hauling everything. The first "r" of zero waste is to refuse. I'm going to let my inner minimalist shine. 

focus on people and loved ones rather than things:

I'm most excited about our families getting together. I think with so much love and happiness in the air, the decorations will be the least of my worries. I'm sure having plenty of wine will help too. I really just want to throw a fun party. 

stay under budget:

Oh, California. That's all I really can say. I have been fortunate to find some pretty awesome vendors though and to have lots of amazing and creative friends. 

have fun:

The most important thing! HAVE FUN. I am going to have so much fun during this process. I'm going to make the most conscious choices that I can, but I'm not going to sweat it. 

Remember, it's not about perfection it's about making better choices. In fact, I'm considering getting compostable plates for the event, so I can spend time enjoying my wedding night instead of washing dishes. 

I haven't made my mind up yet, but I'm considering it. I'm also still considering eloping. 

Have you been to or thrown a zero waste event? What tips would you give me? 

Dating with Lifestyle Differences

When Justin and I met, I was a little crunchy. I cooked from scratch, ate lots of veggies, and made my own cleaning products. I hadn't quite delved into full on flower child. 

After about a year and a half of being together, I went into full crunchy mode from homemade beauty products to quitting plastic. A couple of months after that I decided to go zero waste. And, even though it was my project, it definitely affected him and our relationship.

The beginning was tough. Finding a balance was tricky. My lifestyle change, was just that, MY lifestyle change. Not his. Of course, since we were in a relationship, there's bleed-over. My choices affect him and his choices affect me. 

Justin has always been pretty conscious of the environment, so going mostly zero waste for him wasn't a huge issue. However, coming around to that decision took a lot of time, some long talks, patience, and one fight. 

We're very well suited for each other. We discuss things clearly and try to be as open about communication as possible. I get a lot of emails from people about how they can get their partner on board with zero waste. 

Here's the thing. You can't try and convert anyone to anything. You just have to be patient and do your thing. After a while, they'll see value in it. They find value in it because it's important to you or it becomes important to them. 

But, these are my humble opinions and I am in no way shape or form a relationship expert. However, I had the opportunity of sitting down with Pari Livermore a world renown matchmaker for her opinion on what makes relationships work. 

Pari Livermore is a woman with a big heart.  She has garnered national celebrity as a matchmaker for the Silicon Valley crowd.  She has over 300 marriages under her belt and gives back to a number of causes including the environment. 

She gingerly whispers in client's ears not to sweat the small stuff and focus on the entire person.

Q: How did you get into matchmaking?

A: When I started high school, and my cousin invited me to a sock hop at his school across town, I became "the new girl" that none of the fellows had ever met. I learned quickly what an asset a new girl can have coming into a crowd where everyone knows everyone else. Being new provided me with a lot of cache and consequently a lot of movie and soda dates.

When I saw how well it worked, I decided to introduce some of my friends from my school to some of my cousin’s friends. I soon realized that I could give people the gift of each other.  To up the odds, I started sitting on the opposing side whenever we had a football or a basketball game.  I would bring my yearbook, sit next to an interesting stranger and say, "I know the girl in this photo, would you like to meet her?" Or I would say, "I know this fellow, he likes blondes. You would be perfect for him."

After a few months, I couldn't walk down the hallway without being pursued by my fellow students, who wanted dates for the weekend. I went from being "the kid to ridicule" to  "the go-to-gal" whenever you wanted to meet someone.

I took my skills with me to college and beyond and I learned something about myself. Helping people through matchmaking made me as happy as the people I matched.

Today I am constantly matchmaking.  Since much of my matching takes place in Northern California today there are a lot of people who want to meet people who are environmentally aware and I take all of that into account when putting people together. 

Q: How do you handle the changing and growing with someone rather than growing apart?

A: I love a quote from Kim Novak, "If a relationship is going to work, both people have to be going at the same speed, at the same time in the same direction." I believe that is the best formula for a long-term relationship. If it isn't happening, prepare to accept a good time for a short time. 

If a good time for a short time is acceptable, then enjoy learning from everyone you meet, have fun and appreciate your differences. Big deal if he’s a vegetarian and you love a good hamburger.

Q: Would you recommend people with different lifestyles get together in the first place?

A: Let’s face it you simply can’t invent chemistry.  Many times opposites do attract.  I think you want to become your best self in a relationship.  Sometimes adapting to your mates lifestyle a little bit is good. Being aware of the environment and how to preserve it is good for the world. 

If one person drives an electric car and the other chugs around in a gas-guzzler, you must find a way to accept it or compromise.  It’s the same with a vegan and someone who enjoys eating meat.  One night it’s a vegan restaurant, the next time, it’s a steak house.

Q: Is there a breaking point where there's just too much change in a relationship?

A: No matter how many differences there are between you and the person you care about, be aware that chemistry is non-negotiable. If a relationship has a lot of chemistry there is nothing you can do to stop it. If there is not enough chemistry, there is nothing you can do to create it.

Q: Is it easier to be flexible and compromise when you're younger or older? Or is it always hard?  

A: I think we are more flexible when we are younger, but again, I’m going to go back to chemistry here.   If a relationship is going to work, it should be easy, like putting your hand into a glove. Too many difficulties are big warning signs. If a problem arises, it should be easy to fix with a small mention or a short, sweet discussion. Make it a sandwich, two slices of praise at the beginning and end and a tiny bit of criticism in the middle.

But don't try any major overhauls. If you can't accept a person for the way he is, don't try to change him. In the long run, it is better to find another. My grandmother always said, "You can't teach a pig to sing. You won't be able to and you will only irritate the pig."

Q: Advice for approaching and accomplishing a compromise?

A: Figure out what you can and can’t live with day-to-day.  I recommend choosing 3 qualities that are important to you.  Whenever you meet a person who does not have the character traits, which are important to you, turn your back before you get emotionally involved. Make up your mind to date people you admire and with whom you share common goals. Stay away from the "time gobblers."  Time is our most valuable asset on this earth.

I think the key takeaway here is chemistry and respect. People are different, and people are always changing. Justin and I have a lot of respect for each other even if we have different opinions. 

Do you have any tips for going through lifestyle changes with a partner?