Waste Not

attempting to waste less and live more deliberately

Paper Towels, Paper Towels Everywhere!


During the week of our trash audit, we found one item that continually made an appearance – paper towels! Paper towels everywhere! Why so many? Well, Sam and I both wash our hands several times a day – let’s say an average of 5 times a day. We also blow our nose from time to time – let’s say once a day. Together, that’s 12 paper towels a day (note: this does not include kitchen paper towels).

Math Time

12 paper towels a day x 7 days a week = 84 paper towels a week

84 paper towels a week x 52 weeks a year = 4,364 paper towels a year

That’s a lot of paper towels. While many paper towels are made from recycled material (which is great), there is still a large amount of energy and resources being expended for the production of my paper towels. I look forward to delving into that topic, but for now, back to wiping my nose.

These paper towels are in a category called Single Use Items. Dry the water off of my hands, pitch it. Wipe my runny nose, pitch it. Dab the sweat off my forehead, pitch it.  So here’s the question: what can we use to complete all of these tasks that is not a single use item?

You guessed it – handkerchiefs! Handkerchiefs, or as I like to call them, hankies, have been around for quite some time and they work well!  A handkerchief is a thin square of fabric; it can be carried in one’s pocket or purse. A hanky serves the hygienic purposes of wiping one’s hands or face, blowing one’s nose, or drying tears. In addition to their utilitarian use, hankies are beautiful! They can be simplistic – think white with lace trim – or ornately decorated. The possibilities are endless.

Clean hankies can also be used to carry small items. Just the other day, I asked the cashier at my favorite coffee shop to wrap my morning croissant in my clean hanky. One less wax bag used, total victory as far as low waste is concerned, and it looked pretty darn cute too!

Not Convinced? 

ImageFeel a tickle in your nose? Grab a hanky!

ImageWaving goodbye to a dear friend? Grab a hanky!

ImageFeeling toasty? Grab a hanky!

Image Running an ad agency? Grab a hanky!

ImageHaving nervous feelings? Grab a hanky!

ImageSitting for a painting? Grab a hanky!


Giving a presidential speech? Grab a hanky!

ImageCrying happy or sad tears? Grab a hanky!

Grossed Out?

Carry two hankies: one for your nose, and one for hand-drying and other snot-free activities. If you choose to go for it and blow your nose into a hanky, don’t worry! They are quite big and there is certainly enough room on them to blow your nose several times a day. When you are done with your nose hanky, just throw it in the hamper and grab a fresh one. I will admit, the first time I blew my nose into my hanky, it felt a bit odd, like rubbing my nose on my sleeve. However, now I am used to it and feel quite pampered!

If you are still grossed out by your own germs that you live with daily, still consider carrying a hanky for hand drying. This small step will greatly reduce your waste!

Have you ever used a handkerchief? How did it feel?

♥ ali


2 thoughts on “Paper Towels, Paper Towels Everywhere!

  1. Great idea – I remember as a child, I used to embroider hankies for my dad. Sounds like a new project in my future. Anyway, in case folks think that laundering the hankies will add to the waste of other resources, I would recommend hand washing in cold water, using a little vinegar to sanitize, but really, how much space does a hanky actually take up in your routine of doing the laundry, whatever it may be. You might want to also consider hanging your hanky out to dry, either outside or even on a drying rack in your tub rather than using your dryer. I also like to spritz them with some lavender water, made from the lavender I grow in my garden. We also go through a lot of paper towels, so I have started making dishcloths, knitting and crocheting, from scrap yarn I have left over from previously completed projects. I like the idea of wiping the counter off with something I can use over and over again, rather than using a one time paper towel and then pitching it. I keep a spray bottle of vinegar water handy to use as well.

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