A few months ago we were about to run out of paper towels, plastic wrap, and aluminum foil all at the same time, so I had the idea to try to go without those things for a month, just to see what would happen. We have been slowly trying to reduce the amount of trash we generate, and those three things were contributing to so much excess waste every week. For our family of two, we were taking the trash out at least 3 times a week, and a lot of that was paper towels used to wipe up tiny spills, pieces of plastic wrap used to wrap a bowl once and then thrown away, and aluminum foil that had covered a dish in the oven, but then discarded immediately, even if it was still perfectly clean!
I knew that as long as we still had those things in our home, I would be much more likely to continue wasting them, but if we just didn’t have them, it would be much easier.
So, I did a few minutes of research on Pinterest and found that going paperless(including foil, plastic wrap, waxed paper, plastic sandwich bags, etc), was actually really simple and cheaper than I expected. The next day, I went out and picked up a few supplies to get going on this new venture. I was able to get everything I needed at our local grocery store and the total price came out to less than I would have spent on just one month’s supply of paper towels! Woah!!
The first thing I purchased was a pack of 20 basic white washcloths. These are for everyday spills, wiping down countertops, cleaning bathrooms, spot cleaning the floor, and any other daily purpose that you might have used paper towels for. There are only 2 things that I still sometimes wish we had paper towels for, but they’re easily solved using another method. Most days we’ll have some toast with peanut butter and we used to set our toast on a paper towel, but now we either opt for a plate or just use our hands. The other thing that I somewhat miss is being able to grate cheese onto a paper towel, then scoop it up and pour it into whatever dish I might be needing it for. That’s a really simple fix – it just gets grated onto a cutting board now, but I just wanted to give you an idea of how simple it’s been to adapt.
The second thing I purchased was a 4 pack of ribbed scrubbing cloths. On one side they’re a soft, almost microfiber fabric with ribbing and the other side is a mesh material for scrubbing slightly more gritty messes. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, scroll down to see a clickable list of what I purchased! These cloths are for the tougher messes and are also great for cleaning surfaces that might have crumbs or dirt that need to be trapped and picked up easier. I also like using these in the bathroom because they pick up hair easier (sorry, gross). Oh, and these are colorful, so they’re set apart and easy to identify from the basic white cloths.
The third purchase was a pack of 4 reusable wipes. These haven’t been utilized a ton, and turns out they only survive in the washer a few cycles, but they’ve come in really handy for the few times I’ve used them! The two things that I’ve used them for the most are laying out on a plate to drain bacon (because that’s one thing that you almost definitely use paper towels for right now) and cleaning the mirror or other shiny surfaces like the fridge or oven in the kitchen. These aren’t a must for going paperless, but they’re really cheap and I like having them on hand for those special circumstances.
The fourth and final thing that you’ll need in your quest to go paperless are some cloth napkins! I always felt like cloth napkins were reserved for fancy dinners, but when you go without paper towels or napkins, it just becomes an everyday situation. If we’re being honest, we only use napkins at meal time a few times a week because usually we’re not eating with our hands much, and since it’s just us two, we may or may not just be a little messy and then wash our hands after dinner. If you’re having company over though, you can set out the cloth napkins and they’ll think it’s fancy and never know the difference! I bought my napkins at a thrift store – a set of 12 basic white cloth napkins. If you’re crafty, you can sew your own, or pick up some cheap ones at a store like Home Goods or TJ Maxx.
I’m guessing a few of you are thinking, but that sounds like so much extra laundry! And, won’t you be paying the same amount for water as you are saving on not buying all these things? The answer is no, and no! I wash all of our dishcloths and cloth napkins once a week. It’s a really tiny load, so it uses a minimal amount of water and only takes me about 3 minutes to fold and put everything away. As for the re-usable containers that I’ll talk about below, those get thrown in the dishwasher with all of our other dishes, so it’s no extra work. Plus, we now take the garbage out only once or twice a week now, so that’s a time saver and we’re reducing our waste!
The last thing I want to quickly talk about are the substitutions we’ve made for plastic wrap, waxed paper, aluminum foil, and sandwich bags.
In place of plastic wrap, my mom sewed me a group of stretchy fabric covers to fit over the majority of my dishes. I requested a few specific sizes, so she made one for my 9X13, one for my 11X7, and then a variety of sizes of circles that magically fit over 98% of the remainder of my dishes. These have been really awesome, and I almost never have to wash them unless the food is at the top of the dish and gets onto the cover. If you’re not crafty or don’t know someone who is, check the link at the bottom for an Etsy shop that sell them! The other option for a plastic wrap substitute is bees wrap, a thick cloth dipped in wax, which can be formed to cover a bowl using just the heat of your hands which slightly melts the wax and helps it adhere to the dish.
Waxed paper was the easiest thing to get rid of, as the only thing I really used it for was to hold baked goods fresh out of the oven. I already had 3 cooling racks, so my cookies always go on those now.
Aluminum foil was the trickiest, and to be honest, we still have it on hand, but just use it much less and when we do use it, we try our best to re-use it as many times as possible. There are things like dishes that need to be covered by foil in the oven or lining our toaster oven tray that is just hard to avoid. And, like I said before, as long as we’re re-using the foil as much as possible, I’m good with that!
The last thing we no longer have in our kitchen are sandwich bags or freezer bags. We received a few re-usable velcro sandwich bags from our MightyFix subscription, so we use those or we just put the food in tupperware which gets thrown into the dishwasher after every use. I was scared not to have freezer bags for awhile, wondering if my food would get freezer burn quicker, but I bought a couple of large freezer safe tupperware and they’ve been great! We also had a few freezer bags still in use, so once we ate the food out of them, we’ve been washing and re-using them.
So, what steps can you take to become paperless?
#1. Use up the rest of what supplies you have on hand. There’s no reason to throw away or waste what you’ve already purchased, so start by going through your supplies.
#2. When you start getting low on things, purchase any re-usable supplies you don’t yet have on hand. (See links below)
#3. Set up an area in your kitchen for clean supplies as well as a system for the dirty ones. I have all of my clean cloths organized in a wicker basket right on our counter, so it’s just as easy as grabbing a paper towel when a spill happens.
#4. Replace cloths as needed, although I’ve been using and washing mine for 4 months now and haven’t seen any decline in the materials.
Here is a list of the supplies you’ll need:
If you decide to take the challenge to go paperless, I’d love to hear about it! Feel free to either send me a message at [email protected] or take a picture and tag Kitschen Cat on instagram.
Also, if you liked this post and know someone else who might benefit from it, please forward it on! I’ve been so excited about how easy it was for us to switch over and reduce so much waste, that I’d love for others to try as well.
*This post contains Amazon affiliate links, which means that if you choose to purchase an item after clicking on this link, Kitschen Cat receives a small percentage of the profits. In other words, you’re helping to keep Kitschen Cat alive — so thank you!!