Paper towels, to me, are the epitome of the "throw away society" we have become. What a waste of $ and resources!
Thankfully, eliminating your paper towel use has to be one of the easiest changes to make. We used to be one of those families that would grab a paper towel for every dinner setting, spill, or messy face. Starting one year ago, I decided to make a conscious effort to reduce or eliminate our paper towel use. With surprisingly little effort, we have nearly stopped using paper towels altogether. Here's how:
Step 1) go to Target and get:
* a 20-pack of white wash cloths (whatever they have on sale)
* a 12-pack of cloth dinner napkins (preferably white or light colored)
Adjust quantities for your family's size so that you have a week's supply.
Step 2) put the washcloths and napkins in a small basket in a convenient location in the kitchen (we put ours on top of the fridge).
Step 3) stash a small soak bucket in a convenient place off the kitchen (our laundry room is right off our kitchen, so we stash it in there). We got a small plastic trash can at Target for $5 to use as the soak bucket. Fill the soak bucket with water and a small scoop of OxyClean.
Step 4) whenever you have the urge to reach for a paper towel, reach for a washcloth instead. When finished, throw it in the soak bucket. At dinner, use cloth napkins instead of paper towels or napkins.
Step 5) Launder wash cloths and napkins in your normal laundry.
If the wash cloths and napkins are white or light-colored, you can launder them along with any of your regular laundry without fear of the colors running. So, you can easily throw them in with any load that is not completely full. This way, you are not really using up extra water and laundry soap for these things. Soaking in OxyClean keeps them rather stain-free.
In the one year since making this change, we have used fewer than 4 rolls of paper towels!! I can't believe how easy it was! Now I am feeling supremely guilty for not having done this 10 years ago!
Note (10/29/08) - At Target this weekend, I saw a 12-pack of washcloths on sale for $2.99. So, the washcloths are almost as cheap as a few rolls of paper towels!