Monday, August 31, 2020

How to Save the Environment With Ease at Every Meal


"Hey, can I have a napkin?" My friend yelled at me from the kitchen.

"Yeah, just grab one. They're on the counter." I responded from the other side of the house. I was dealing with my screaming toddler, and if left to her own devices it was unlikely her high-pitched voice would soften any time soon.

"No, they're not. There's nothing here!" The increasingly frantic voice called out again.

"Alright, hold on..." I grumbled, picked up my daughter, then walked into the kitchen. There was iced tea dripping from the counter and onto the tile floor. I grabbed a napkin from the table and held it out to my friend.

"Wait, that?!" She squeaked in confusion.

"Yes?" I replied, checking to see if my green cloth napkin was soiled, or if a spider was crawling on it.

"But that's... fancy. I can't use that!"

This incident occurred roughly nine years ago. Similar exchanges still happen from time to time. Apparently, one should only use cloth dinner napkins for fancy occasions.

I didn't get the memo.

In fact, I've used cloth table napkins for more than 11 years, and I've used them at every meal. Indeed, they make more sense than paper alternatives. Why, you ask?

Less Waste: They last years before they need replacement. 

Data published by the Statista Research Department shows that approximately 241.33 million Americans used paper napkins in 2019.  
Let's say that each person used only one 400-pack of paper napkins per year. This equals out to less than 2 napkins per day, at roughly 1.76 pounds per year. 
That's 424.74 million pounds of napkins filling landfills every year! And remember, this estimate figures in at less than 3 meals worth of napkins in a 24-hour period. I'd say that estimate is pretty conservative.
In contrast, cloth napkins add nothing to the landfills for years. I've only tossed one in the past decade, and only because a faulty washer shredded it.

You have a variety of textures and colors to choose from.

Are you in the mood for smooth and green, rough and white, soft and paisley? Do you want cotton, bamboo, hemp, or polyester(yuck)? Casual or fancy? Search long enough and you'll find exactly what you're looking for.

They take up a negligible amount of space in the washer.

This means that switching to cloth napkins produces no noticeable added energy consumption. A week's worth of napkins takes up the same amount of space as a pair of pants, or less, depending on how many you use. I never noticed a difference in my own laundry frequency after I switched to cloth napkins.

It's easier to clean away sticky food and grime with cloth than with paper.

Do you like chicken wings? Perhaps toast with jelly? I'm a huge fan of sticky and oily foods. I know, I know... it's not the healthiest choice I can make, but who doesn't enjoy the occasional fatty food? Fortunately, I don't have to worry about picking pieces of stuck-on paper from my fingers. Cloth napkins are way more durable than their disposable counterparts.

It's way cheaper than using the paper stuff.

While I bought my first pack of table napkins at a retail store (probably Target), The rest came from a second-hand store, costing less than $2 per pack. Each pack had about 4-5 cloth napkins within it. Remember, I have used these for over a decade, and I'm not a particularly delicate person.

You get to tell people amusing stories about your friends' reactions.

I don't need to explain this one. That friend I talked about in the beginning wasn't the first person confused about my decision to use cloth napkins, and she wasn't the last. Once people get over that initial shock they adapt. In fact, many express newfound interest in the subject!
Think about it. Not only is it an easy money-saver. It's also one way to do your part to save the natural environment from a growing problem. Human waste disposal.
These are just a few ways that cloth napkins save the environment while also saving money. I'm sure you can think of several more. List them in the comments below!

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