Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Going Green in the Kitchen - paperless kitchen

A while ago (OK, ages ago!) I wrote a post on greening your laundry, and promised to follow up with other areas. So today, finally, is the first installment of Going Green in the Kitchen - moving towards a paperless kitchen.

In my opinion, going paperless in the kitchen is one of the most important green steps you can take in your home. People in the US (and I assume the stats would be similar for those of us in other Western countries) use 55 pounds of tissue paper a year (which included paper towels and toilet paper). While I don't think I will ever be ready to give up toilet paper, giving up paper towels has been totally painless.

So, how do you go paperless when as mums we are constantly cleaning up messes? Aren't paper towels more convenient, and more importantly, more hygienic? The answer is a hefty stack of cloth! If you try and do this with 2 or 3 cloths on hand, this is probably not going to work for you. I have about 20 cleaning cloths, and about the same number of tea towels.

For general cleaning of counter tops, I use a damp cleaning cloth (old cloth baby washcloths) with or without some all-purpose spray. For drying our hands, drying dishes or wiping down faces and hands, I use our stash of tea towels. There is always one tea towel hanging on the dishwasher handle for drying dishes. The rest are in the drawer for faces and hands or to use in place of napkins at dinner. For a deep cleaning of the stove or really sticky messes (like spilt juice that I didn't notice) out come the microfibre cloths. I only have 3 of these since they are not used very often. I also have some nicer napkins for the rare times we have guests. I use my cleaning cloths the way I used to use the paper towels. So once I use it to wipe down a bench or table I leave it to dry and then it gets thrown into one of my sorted laundry baskets labelled "kitchen towels". The tea towel for dishes get replaced once a week, while those used for cleaning up the kids get put in the basket at the end of the day. Once a week, I throw all the cloths in together in a single hot load, with some eco-friendly bleach (Ecover Non-Chlorine Bleach).

To counter the convenience issue, make using cloth as easy as possible for everyone, I have them all within easy reach. The tea towels are in a bottom drawer so that both of the kids can reach them if they spill their drink or got yoghurt on their faces. The cleaning cloths are in the top drawer of the kitchen bench. The cloth napkins are in the top drawer of the buffet in the dining room make them easy to get for everyone, not just you. Don't get caught up in having a million different types of cloths for different jobs. If you go and look at the range at the grocery store, you will see colour-coded cloths for all the different jobs in the kitchen. I have three simple categories: cleaning cloths, tea towels and microfibre. This keeps it simple, we are not constantly trying to figure what cloth is for what, and saves money.

Before running out and buying cleaning cloths, have a look around and see what you can re-purpose. I had a whole stack of organic cotton baby washcloths, which are now my everyday cleaning cloths. They are super absorbent and don't drop lint so I can use them to clean benches, wipe down the chrome taps or clean the glass splashback. A lot of people don't use tea towels now days, so I inherited a huge stash from my MIL. Fat quarters are the perfect size for tea towels and are a great use for the one or two you may have lying around after a quilting project.

Making the switch to a paperless kitchen has been really easy and you will not only help the planet, you will also save money, big time. I've probably saved about $200 a year, based on using 2 rolls a week. So make the switch today, and stay tuned for more Going Green in the Kitchen tips.

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David said...

This covers all the bases = saves you money, helps the environment, helps your health, makes you feel better, it's so easy to do and it costs less than $50.00; Save money and the Earth and be clean at the same time! Add Bathroom Bidet Sprayers to all your bathrooms. I think Dr. Oz on Oprah said it best: "if you had pee or poop on your hand, you wouldn't wipe it off with paper, would you? You'd wash it off” Available at www.bathroomsprayers.com with these you won't even need toilet paper any more, just a towel to dry off! Don’t worry, you can still leave some out for guests and can even make it the soft stuff without feeling guilty. It's cheap and can be installed without a plumber; and runs off the same water line to your toilet. You'll probably pay for it in a few months of toilet paper savings. As for water use a drought is always a concern and must be dealt with prudently but remember the water use of industrial users far exceeds the water use of household users and in the case of toilet paper manufacture it is huge. The pollution and significant power use from that manufacturing process also contributes to global warming so switching to a hand bidet sprayer and lowering your toilet paper use is very green in multiple ways.

Anonymous said...

Bundle of thanks for Sharing these helpful tips with us!
Exfoliating Wash Clothes

Kalee said...

We have been using mainly cloth for a couple years now and love it. Our only conundrum was what to do with greasy pizza (that I used papertowels to blot). We realized that we could use the coffee filters we had (we no longer use a pot that requires them) and they absorb the grease like crazy and their fibers break down so much easier in the environment (you can compost them if it were anything but the grease). So we still use a disposable product, but one that breaks down easily so we feel okay (and honestly we eat pizza so rarely).

Robin said...

Does the non-chlorine bleach disinfect too or just brighten and remove stains? Are all of your cloth products white or do you just use whatever? I love how you have explained your system in so much detail as this has been my struggle so I went back to paper. I bought a HUGE package of white terry cloth rags at Costco when I first started. I used them for everything, and just bleached them in a sanitary cycle so it didn't matter what did what, but I want to stop using the bleach in my home and I am looking for a way to differentiate between face/hand/dish rags and cleaning rags. Thanks!

Chic Mummy said...

Non-chlorine bleach doesn't disinfect, but since I wash the cloths on the hottest cycle, and keep the face/hand/dish rags separate to the cleaning rags I feel that they are disinfected enough. As for differentiating, the three types of cloths I use look pretty different. My cleaning cloths (for benchtops etc) are white and the non-chlorine bleach keeps them looking pretty good. If you want to get rid off all forms of bleach, then hydrogen peroxide shoudl do a pretty good job of whitening them. My general face/dish/napkin cloths are tea towels, so they are multi coloured, and the microfibre cloths just look different, so it is pretty easy to keep them all separate.

If your cloths are all the same, you could sew a ribbon or cloth tag to one lot to differentiate them. I'm thinking off the old fashioned dishtowels that had a hanging loop in the corner - that way the loops would be practical as well.

Anonymous said...

Great article! What kind of towels do you recommend for wiping counters? I have the absorbent terry tea towel to dry hands, but they are linty.

Also, do you wash those countertop towels (the ones that would replace the disinfecting wipes) separately from the the hand towels? There is sort of an ick factor for me - I feel like washing the dirty towels (wiping up counters etc) in the washer will contaminate my washer!


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