Let’s Talk Napkins!
With Thanksgiving just around the corner, this is the perfect time to “talk turkey” about napkins. Are you still using disposable, one-time use paper napkins? They can be a hard habit to break and to be honest, they can be extremely convenient. The problem is that we rarely use just one and their constant use creates a lot of waste. Taking the next step to switch to cloth napkins is really an easy one and here are five fantastic reasons to make the change this Thanksgiving and for every day.
5 Fantastic & Eco-Friendly Reasons to Switch to Cloth Napkins: Cloth Vs. Paper
- Cloth Napkins are Durable & Reusable
Paper: I’m really not a fan of paper napkins. They are only used one time and then are thrown in the trash without a thought. For a family of five like mine, that means at least 15 paper napkins per day, 450 per month, or a whopping 5,400 per year. And that’s assuming we only use 1 per person per meal!
Cloth: Unlike one-time use paper napkins, quality cloth napkins are strong, durable and can usually be used for more than one meal. Sometimes they can even be used for more than one day before washing and they can last for years!
- Cloth Napkins are Environmentally Friendly and Recyclable
Paper: Although the napkins are made from paper, they are packaged in a plastic wrap that is very dangerous to the environment, especially when not recycled. The film plastic litters the streets, ponds and often find themselves in the ocean where sea animals mistake them for food. (Not good!) It may not seem like a lot of plastic, but because we seldom used just one napkin, we buy them often which increases the amount of plastic consumed. When you multiply our own use by the use of millions of people across the country, it adds up fast to a mountain of plastic.
Cloth: Although they are also packaged in plastic, cloth napkins are long lasting and we don’t replace them very often, lasting several years. In comparison, cloth napkins create a lot less plastic and a lot less garbage overall. Then, once they’ve lost their main function, cloth napkins can be downcycled into cleaning cloths and used for our messier jobs. Once they have completely lost their use, most natural fiber cloth napkins (cotton, linen, hemp, etc.) can be shredded and added to your backyard compost pile.
- Cloth Napkins are Affordable and Saves Money in the Long Run
Paper: They may seem like the more affordable choice, even conservatively, the cheap napkins will cost a family of five at least $24 per year. But let’s face it, if we are trying to “go green” we want to avoid all of the other factors too: dirty manufacturing process/bleaching, chemical inks, lots of trash.
Cloth: Cloth napkins will cost you about the same as paper or a little more the first year, but they will cost you $0 for the following year and $0 per year for at least 4 more years, saving about $100 in the long run. Our family has been using the same two sets of everyday napkins for longer than I can remember, at least 6 years. They are really starting to show their age, so I’ve just purchased a new set to try. (See them here on Amazon.com.) Cloth napkins also save on the other factors: less manufacturing, less transportation, less packaging, a lot less trash.
- Cloth Napkins are Multipurpose
Paper: Paper napkins can be used to clean up a quick spill, but they don’t really serve many other purposes.
Cloth: Cloth napkins are multipurpose. My family uses them as table napkins, but we also use them to clean up the table after meals, wet to wipe our preschooler’s face and hands, to cover food in the microwave and just about anything else to replace paper towels. We don’t use them for really messy jobs since they return to the napkin pile, but I keep a supply of old washcloths available for that purpose.
- Cloth Napkins Look and Feel Great
Paper: Paper napkins can look nice, but it seems the prettier they are, the more ink they contain and the stiffer they become — not very comfortable and not very functional. (Ever have one that repelled liquids? I have. Doesn’t make sense!)
Cloth: Cloth napkins can come in many different beautiful designs and colors. I personally prefer them simple, but there are tons of options available. Not only can they look wonderful when ironed for special occasions, but they are soft and feel luxurious in comparison to paper. You can decoratively fold them for holidays and if you’re not into ironing (like me!), for everyday use, you can keep them handy in a pretty container.
Cloth napkins are a great step towards a greener home. If you find yourself still using paper napkins at every meal, I hope this post encourages you to at least give cloth napkins a try. Maybe start with introducing them to your family at dinnertime and slowly work your way towards a more eco-friendly table. I’d love to see your family using them, so please post your pictures in the comments!
If you’d like to check out my newest set of napkins, you can see them here: Cotton Craft Napkins, 12 Pack.