The holidays are upon us and it is a good time to start new family traditions. Our waste is said to increase by 25% between Thanksgiving and New Years Day. What can we do differently?
When I was teenager, during the early years of the recycling movement, my family received a set of plates and silverware from a relative. This gift included napkin rings. My mum decided to use cloth napkins instead of paper ones. Our first set of cloth napkins were red bandanas. We each had our own unique ring to hold our napkin until it was ready for the wash.
A cloth napkin may be re-used for several days, depending on you, of course, and what you had for dinner. You can create your own napkin rings from any number of things. Most of my extended family still uses cloth napkins. I wonder how many trees we’ve saved? In addition to trees we saved landfill space. According to the EPA almost thirty percent of landfill waste comes from paper products. What about the energy, and chemicals from the production of paper napkins? Water too, despite the theories that washing uses more water, as napkins take up little room and are simply added to the laundry we already do.
More Tips For Reducing Paper Use:
- Use cloth towels instead of paper ones. Linen towels are well known for drying glassware to a sparkling shine. A friend has a cloth towel hanging by the sink for hand drying and one by the stove for dishes. I still use paper towels, however a roll may last me a year. How long can you make one last? Please remember to put your food soiled paper towels in your green waste bin. Food scraps go in the green bin too!
- Old t-shirts, bed sheets, and towels make great rags. Tear them to your preferred size and stash them under your kitchen and bathroom sinks and in the garage. They are absorbent and re-usable plus they won’t end up in the landfill. Turn less the worn sections of flannel sheets into dish towels.
- Buy responsibly manufactured toilet paper (and other paper products). When I was little, my mother told us that we only needed 4 sheets of TP. Now this seems a bit Spartan, yet it still provides me with a baseline for using less.
- Then there are plates and silverware. Use real ones and practice good dishwashing techniques. Some of the sweetest moments after a holiday meal are being part of the clean-up crew. Use this as another opportunity to connect with your relatives and help out. Or be a kitchen angel and sneak away for a break from the festivities.
In writing this I discovered my own weak spot, Kleenex tissues! Now my challenge is to buy or make cloth handkerchiefs. In the meantime I will buy responsibly manufactured tissues. Alas, this will be a small hardship─the greener products are not as soft as Kleenex.
Good luck with forming new traditions and keep us posted on your progress and creative solutions. Let’s re-think gift wrapping too! What do you do?
I look forward to this journey together on the Road to Zero Waste!
Sustainable Fairfax Zero Waste Committee Liaison
PS: Jennifer Hammond’s blog from last year about sustainable gift giving is still relevant except for the date of the Sustainable Fairfax Craft Faire this coming Saturday, December 8, 2012.