Reducing Waste in the Kitchen by Using Cloth


Happy Earth Day!

Earth Day is a day I didn’t really used to think about much. I was an elementary school teacher for a decade, and I talked about ways to be Earth friendly with my students-reduce, reuse, recycle-but, I never really took it to heart. Oh sure, we recycled, but not as much as we could have. I turned the water off when I brushed my teeth. We bought CFL light bulbs when they were shown to use less energy. But it wasn’t really until we started eating Paleo and started researching how the food we eat affects the world we live in that I really started to pay attention to other ways we lived our life, and how we could be more environmentally friendly around the house, too.

At first I was totally overwhelmed with all the changes I wanted to make, but looking back, I think the idea of becoming more environmentally friendly is more overwhelming than it actually is, as long as you take it one step at a time. It’s all about a change of habit. When you change even one small habit, master it, and then move on to something else, those small changes really add up.

We are very fortunate to live in a community with curbside recycling, and I already took full advantage of it. Our recycling container nearly always contains more than our trash can. So, to me, the next step was to eliminate even more waste by creating even less waste. I decided to start in the kitchen.

First, we stopped using paper plates. This was a no brainer, because we already had what we needed to make the transition sitting in our kitchen cabinets-Craig’s Corelle dinnerware set that he has had since his freshman year of college. We simply stopped buying paper plates and using and washing the Corelle.

Then, I got rid of all the paper products that I used for cleaning and those in our kitchen, and I replaced them with cloth.

If this has ever crossed your mind, you should do it! It saves money, reduces waste, and although it does add a little extra laundry each week, it has been very easy for us to implement and keep up with. On top of that, it has simplified how we take care of our home. I never have to worry that I forgot to buy more paper towels at Costco, and I don’t have a different product to use for every purpose. It has been SO easy!

So What Do I Use Instead?

After my friend, Google, helped me look around, I determined that there wouldn’t be one kind of cloth that would fit all our needs. I landed on pretty much these three cloths:

  1. We now use cloth napkins instead of paper napkins.
  2. We now use huck towels instead of paper towels or cleaning wipes.
  3. We now use microfiber cloths instead of cleaning wipes or Swiffer dusters.

If you haven’t heard of huck towels before, neither had I until researching good paper towel replacements. A couple of bloggers I follow use them in their kitchens, because these are the type of towel used to absorb fluids during surgeries in hospitals. That’s absorbent!

I opted for white huck towels and napkins, because we already have white towels in our bathrooms, and I can wash a load of whites every couple of days on the sanitize cycle, without worrying about discoloring something. Simple. Everything has come out clean and white so far, and I live with a messy 4 year-old boy and a new puppy!

I also already had a couple microfiber cloths for cleaning, which I love, especially for dusting, and cleaning smooth surfaces. Although you can get microfiber just about anywhere now, including the automotive section at many stores, these microfiber cloths are antibacterial!

I also continue to use my beloved Branch Basics for cleaning, but now I’m always wiping it away with cloth!

How to Make Cloth Work

When I switched to all cloth, I made sure I had enough of everything to make it work and I put a system in place to make it easy for everyone.

After using cloth for a while, I have found for our family of 5, this is a handy amount to have of each:

  • 3 dozen cloth napkins
  • 3 dozen huck towels
  • 1 dozen microfiber cloths
  • I also have the dish towels and dish rags I have used for a long time, as well as old socks, t-shirts and cut up towels on hand for cleaning/drying.

We keep the cloth napkins in a basket under the buffet table next to our dining table where they are easily accessible. I don’t even bother to fold them. We each get a new one every morning, and then our napkins go on the seats of our chairs when we get up, to be saved for the next meal, unless it is really dirty (which sometimes happens with a 4 year-old).

The huck towels, dish towels and microfiber all go in a drawer in the kitchen. We have a spot in the kitchen where soiled towels go, and at the end of the evening, if it hasn’t been done already, one of us takes the used towels to the laundry. Since everything is white, including our bathroom towels, as soon as the basket in the laundry room is full, I throw the load in the washer. The kids help me fold the towels and put them away, so we haven’t run out of napkins or towels yet.


Switching to all cloth for cleaning and the kitchen is a chunk of change all at once. You don’t have to do it all at once! Just take it in baby steps and start with cloth napkins. Also, just because I wanted everything to be white for ease of washing, it is easy to find cloth napkins on sale of all designs and colors. Maybe you don’t want to buy huck towels, but prefer to use old, cut-up t-shirts or towels. It is totally up to you!

To purchase the number of each towel/cloth I recommended above all at once would be less than $100. I figure that with the cost of paper towels and napkins, not to mention cleaning wipes or Swiffers, my stash of cloth will pay for itself in just a few months, and it will last for a very long time.

This has really been one of the simplest changes we have made in our home, but it has resulted in a huge change-so much less waste!





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