Wash, repeat

In recent years, Recycla has been looking for ways to cut back on her family’s waste. Paper waste has been a particular concern of hers because, while paper is easily recyclable, as she mentioned in a recent post on e-readers, the paper industry is one of the most toxic and damaging in the world. Anything she can do to cut back on her consumption is a good thing.

Recycla’s family has had great success in a number of areas, including using cloth napkins more often, nearly eliminating paper towels, and entirely cutting out single-use cleaning cloths (such as Clorox Wipes). And, after much testing, Recycla finally found a toilet paper with recycled paper content that she’s happy with. This was important to her since virtually all of American toilet paper comes from old-growth trees in Canada, whereas much of the rest of the world uses TP made from recycled content or reusable cloths. Recycla knows of people who use reusable cloths in the bathroom, but she’s not ready — now or possibly ever — to take that step.

Luckily, there are some other areas in which Recycla has been able to make easy, positive changes.

To begin with, she (just her, not her family) stopped using tissues and started using a handkerchief. Actually, to be more accurate, she started using rags made from old t-shirts because when she started, she wasn’t 100% certain that she’d stick it out and didn’t want to spend money that might go to waste. As it turns out, rags made from t-shirts work really well for her, as they’re soft on the nose. They also don’t fall apart on her when she’s running and her nose decides to run as well. After using them, she tosses them in the wash and they come out as good as new.

Recycla has tried buying tissues with recycled paper content, but while they were fine during times of normal usage, they failed abysmally when her children had colds. Both girls rubbed their noses beyond raw and to the point of bleeding, so the family went back to lotion-infused tissues for tender noses.

If you’d like to try handkerchiefs and want something nicer than Recycla’s cut-up t-shirts, there are lots of places to buy them.  Recycla has seen men’s handkerchiefs at drug stores and big box stores, as well as all sorts of pretty hankies at Etsy.

Another way that Recycla has cut back on paper usage is to stop using one-use make-up remover pads. Even though they were compostable and came packaged in a recyclable metal container, she still felt that this was an area in which she could still eliminate some waste. She didn’t want to use washcloths, since 1) they were too rough to use around her eyes and 2) mascara would stain them.  She is now using eye make-up remover (again, in a recyclable container) and cloths made from cut-up t-shirts. They’re soft on the delicate skin around her eyes and easy enough to toss in the wash when dirty.

Finally, Recycla and her daughters don’t use nail polish very often, but when they do, instead of using cotton balls to remove the polish, they’re now using — yes, you guessed it — rags made from old t-shirts.  As with all the other uses mentioned, they’re free and easy to wash. If they stain, it doesn’t really matter.

So that’s the latest eco change Recycla has made in her life.  It hasn’t been any extra work and hasn’t cost her a dime. In fact, it’s saved her some money.

For more information on the problems with the paper industry, see this excellent post by Enviro Girl.

Tell the Eco Women: How have you cut back on paper in your life? Are you using cloth napkins, handkerchiefs, or rags?

The Eco Women were not asked to endorse any products mentioned. Photo credit: Yahoo Images.

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8 thoughts on “Wash, repeat

  1. We’ve done the cloth napkin thing for a couple of years, and I’ve never really liked the waste of single-use wipes, except when my daughter was a baby (couldn’t really come up with a good, portable solution for baby wipes). I used to use hankies, and would like to try some of your ideas, but my husband and I go around and around about the relative merits of using cloth (especially napkins) versus paper. He says washing so many things (we use the cloth napkins for three or four days before washing) uses more water and energy, therefor equaling the resource use of paper napkins. What do you think about that argument?

    • From my research, it would seem that cloth napkins, rags, etc., don’t add much to one’s laundry. From my own personal experience with doing laundry for a family of four, I can attest that the extra rags have no impact at all — probably the equivalent of adding another towel to the load.

      Environmentally speaking, however, the savings are significant, especially when multiplied by hundreds or thousands of people who cut back/out on paper towels, paper napkins, etc.

      – Recycla/Jen

  2. Well, ladies, I am one who has made the switch to cloth in the bathroom. After testing several materials, including T shirt (pretty good), I have settled on old sweat shirts, ripped into size. Comfy and efficient. (It does make you wonder what people did in the old days. In a nondisposable environment, what did they do with what they used after they used it? And what did they do next time? Isn’t this an interesting conversation?)
    And I also switched to hankies – my mom died and I found the Mother lode.

    • I think they used corn husks and cobs, and later the Sears catalogue, which would not be comfortable at all. I suspect that with the hassle associated with washing clothes (just thinking about what my grandmother did, running everything through the wringer before hanging it to dry), rags were not the material of choice for TP, especially for a family with 7 kids.

  3. Totally on board with the cloth in the bathroom and kitchen. We never buy paper towels or make up pads or other types of wipes. I have a friend whose husband is British–and he uses handkerchiefs. That was charming (despite his blowing his nose into it)

  4. We use rags in my house for sure. It takes us several months to go through one roll of paper towels. Cloth napkins are up next. I’m a little wary about using cloth for tissues, though. We have allergies and it can get gross! But I love the idea of removing nail polish with a rag. I never thought of that – thanks!

  5. For removing makeup and washing my face, I use the oil cleansing method. I use baby washcloths (which are super soft) and a combination of olive oil, avocado oil, jojoba oil and castor oil and the makeup comes right off!

    I also love the idea of using handkerchiefs instead of tissues. I’m definitely going to give that a try!

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