We Have a Paper Towel Problem

Last week, my family came to visit from GA to celebrate with us my daughter's high school graduation. I noticed one of my SIL looking for something, and when I inquired about what she needed, she asked where my paper towels were.
I took it out of one of the cabinets where I usually keep it and gave it to her. This sparked a conversation about paper towel usage, and I realized that not many people know how bad for the environment paper towels are. 
It can be hard to imagine that quilted, soft, perforated paper towel sheets originate from trees, but they do. Paper towels are made from virgin trees, meaning you require a tree to be cut down for an item you may use for 5-10 seconds.
Here are a few astonishing facts:
  1. Making one ton of paper towels requires 17 trees and 20,000 gallons of water. Furthermore, you can manufacture approximately 118 paper towel rolls using 1,176.47 gallons of water from one tree.
  2. We're using over 110 MILLION trees and 130 BILLION gallons of water every year just for paper towels in the USA alone.
  3. The United States is the #1 paper towel consumer. According to market research from Euromonitor International, the US consumes nearly half of all the world's paper towels. 
  4. Per capita, the average American spends 50-60% more every year than Europeans and almost 500% more than Latin Americans.
  5. Paper towel sales have soared since the pandemic, increasing by more than 200%.

This doesn't mean that you are a terrible person if you use paper towels! I still use them for certain things, but I have dramatically reduced their use.

I have a paper towel package from Costco that I bought back in 2020. I'm happy to say that out of the 12 rolls, I still have 10.

Would you like to know my secret? 

Put your paper towel roll where you don't see it. Instead, place your reusable dishcloths or cloth rags in an easy-to-reach place in your kitchen, bathroom, etc.

So simple, I know. That's why it works.

If you are not ready for a reusable swap, look for more sustainable options, like recycled paper towels or bamboo paper towels.

But first, use what you already have. If you have a ton of paper towels, use them up before moving to a lower-waste swap, and be conscious about it. Ask yourself these questions: Do I really need half a roll to wipe up spills or dry my hands? One sheet can go a long way.