Monday, July 14, 2008

Challenge #2: Use Cloth Napkins

A few months ago, I started throwing my used napkins in the recycle bin. I had thought “they’re paper, why don’t I recycle these?” Well, I sleuthed around and found that paper napkins, paper towels and tissues are not actually recyclable. They are a “low” grade of paper and also considered “unsanitary.” Now, I want to get rid of this bad habit of using a paper napkin with my meals. I often use one with breakfast, one with lunch and yet another one with dinner. Between my husband, me, and any guests, we go through a large pack of generic napkins in two to three months.

I looked around my house and found 10 cloth napkins that I could use for daily dining (aside from the four that match some place-mats that I use for special occasions and a set that goes in the picnic basket). I need to increase this supply.

I found a pack of four cloth napkins at T@rget for $7.99. I looked on an end cap and found packs on sale at $5.58. I figure, if I buy a pack of four napkins, maybe once every two months, I will have a large enough supply for this two-person family within a year. I will buy them off the sale end caps (almost always something is there since the patterns are seasonal) and I don’t really care which season they are supposed to reflect, as long as the pattern isn’t atrocious. The generic paper napkins cost about $3.20 for 500 (and certainly are ugly). Over one year, my cost for paper napkins would be approximately $16. I think I need, at most, to buy 10-12 more cloth napkins, so four packs, coming to a cost of approximately $24 for the year, but without the need to buy so many the following year. I shouldn’t need to buy any for some time, but might wish to round out my collection for when we have guests.

I plan to wash these with the kitchen towels and washcloths. I don’t plan to iron them for everyday use. If I am having guests over, I probably will hit them quickly with the iron. That much ironing is within my skill set- square pieces of cloth with no seams!

Join me in this self challenge: replace your use of paper napkins with reusable cloth napkins.

This challenge will REDUCE the use of nonrenewable paper pulp by REUSING washable cloth napkins.

Buy cloth napkins made of organically grown and non-bleached cotton.



Patricia said...

Great point!

We use cloth napkins at home, mostly linen ones (inherited from our grandparents). We only use paper napkins in our lunch box and for large parties.

What we found is that if you hang-dry them, instead of putting them in the dryer, they stay stiff as if they were starched and ironed. Works well for table cloths too.

Also, reusing your napkin is not a big deal. A lot of times all you are doing is covering your lap with them. We only change them when they are dirty.

Sarah said...

I have a couple of favorite cloth napkins. One is from the material my mom wrapped my Christmas present in one year (five or ten years ago). She probably bought a couple yards of fabric and ripped them into in suitable-size pieces. The other is a valentine's day print from (you guessed it), my mom. I have NO idea how long ago she sent this. Maybe 15 years ago?

One year I had a big thanksgiving dinner and bought a couple yards of seasonal fabric and made "napkins" out of those. You don't need to hem them, just rip apart and after a few washings they seem to stay about the same level of frayed.

If I ever need more now, I'd look in a thrift store for the fabric.