My paper towel challenge

It officially feels like spring has sprung. We’ve been spending so much time outdoors, our flowers are miraculously still alive (!! It’s amazing what water and sunshine will do), and we’ve been hanging out with lots of great friends now that Liv is 100% better from the famous San Diego virus ick of 2013.


Liv knows that we have to wear shoes outside (too many pointy little rocks), so she’ll bring me her shoes and say, “Please.” It makes me happy that she’d rather be outdoors than indoors, so we play outside most days. We’ll blow bubbles, draw with chalk, water the flowers, and play fetch with the dogs.

Patio  1 of 1

We don’t have a pool, but I’d love to get a little kiddie splash pool, especially for later this summer.

Outside play  1 of 1

I was trying to think of a good personal challenge for April and then remembered that Earth Day is this month. I’m always looking for ways to be more green in areas that are appropriate for our family, and when I thought of Earth Day, my mind flashed to paper towels.

Mountains upon mountains of paper towels.

One of my vices:


I use WAY too many paper towels. I don’t use them as often for cleaning (I like to clean with cloths and rags), but for food: all the time. It’s so easy to just put a tortilla on a paper towel and microwave it, chop an apple on a paper towel (we have granite, so it doesn’t scratch the counters), etc. I’ve always thought I could cut back, but it was the convenience factor that kept it going. Here’s the thing, though: cloth is also super convenient. I ordered a 24-pack of cloths to use for cleaning, and to remind myself that I’m going to drastically cut back on paper towel use. It feels wasteful when I can put food on a plate to heat up, chop on a cutting board, and continue to clean with cloth.

So that’s my challenge for the month! I’m a firm believer that every little bit counts, especially when I think about the amount of paper towels I use over the course of a year. This is a challenge I hope to become a habit and eventual longterm change for me.

What’s something you’re going to do to be more green this month?

Some ideas:

-Carpool, ride your bike, walk, or take public transportation to work

Make your own cleaning products

-Recycle plastic bags or bring your own cloth bags

-Turn off electric appliances when not in use

-Turn the water off while you brush

-Donate items instead of throwing them away

-Stop paper bank statements and pay bills online

Here’s to a lean, clean, and green month <3



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  1. Michelle @ A Healthy Mrs on April 2, 2013 at 7:16 pm

    Ugh, I’m terrible with paper towels too — they’re just so easy!
    So I think it’s a great idea to consciously cut back at how many I use — lets do it!

    • Fitnessista on April 2, 2013 at 7:21 pm

      yay, glad i have a friend joining me 🙂

      • Pinky on April 2, 2013 at 8:59 pm

        My fiancé is constantly calling me out in my paper towel wastefulness. I’m joining in the challenge!!!

    • Lauren @ Confessions of a First Time Mom on April 3, 2013 at 7:51 am

      Count me in too! I’m super guilty of going through them like they’re water.

  2. Darien on April 2, 2013 at 7:24 pm

    my hubby is super bad about paper towels if he can see them. that’s just how he grew up – you use them for everything. since they are very useful (especially for company, pets, and cleaning mirrors), we keep them around…but hidden under the sink. out of sight, out of mind. instead, i just always have a clean kitchen towel on the counter or oven handle for wiping down the counter or drying hands. it really has made a huge difference! (the only downside is that the puppies think they are super fun toys. at least they don’t shred as easily as paper towels!)

    • Fitnessista on April 2, 2013 at 7:28 pm

      i love the idea of out of sight, out of mind. under the cabinet they will go.

  3. Bekki on April 2, 2013 at 7:33 pm

    I am horrible with paper towels- i just ordered some washable ones on etsy- This is a great challenge

    • Fitnessista on April 2, 2013 at 7:35 pm

      washable ones?! how have i not heard of this?

  4. Deena on April 2, 2013 at 7:51 pm

    I, too, have stopped usage of paper towels in favor of microfiber cloths (which I also use for dusting, and on the swiffer).

    I seem to be horrendously addicted to multipurpose cleaners, even the “natural” ones, but I feel wasteful because of how much plastic is used, and even more wasteful because I know it’s not necessary to buy a specific product for the job. I think I am going to give vinegar for cleaning the countertops and mirrors, as tons of people have used it with fabulous results.

    I’m also trying to be a bit more green by means of composting, which my city (Seattle) plans on enforcing by 2015…so I have to get used to it!

    (…and as for the washable paper towels, look on etsy. They’d be super-easy to make yourself if you are able to sew 3-4 snaps onto the end of each towel.)

    • Stacey on April 4, 2013 at 4:24 pm

      I would suggest you try vinegar/water for cleaning. While I don’t use it for more high bacteria places (bathroom, toilet), I do use it for the kitchen cupboards, fridge, hardwood floors, etc. Works great for wood! The company who refinished our floors said to use 1/2 water, 1/2 vinegar and I haven’t looked back!

      I am surprised people buy washable paper towels… isn’t that what a normal cotton towel is like? Just use an old t-shirt, sweatshirt and cut into strips. Or an old bath towel, kitchen towel. Good reason to get new ones!

  5. Olivia on April 2, 2013 at 7:57 pm

    Great idea! My family stopped using paper towels a year ago and we haven’t looked back. We use cloth napkins…they easily fit into our many loads of laundry. I just found some cool kitchen cloths at Trader Joe’s a couple of days ago that are supposed to be paper towel replacements (they’re in the laundry now). Can’t wait to try them out on the next spill…

  6. Morgan on April 2, 2013 at 8:00 pm

    That bread looks amazing! Is it Gluten Free by chance?- Please say yes!
    Recipe? : )
    Good luck on cutting back on the paper towels!
    We stopped buying them altogether and it’s not too bad!
    I was thinking of making the kind you can snap together. One side is micro fiber the other
    side is cotton… if I ever get around to it!

  7. Liz on April 2, 2013 at 8:06 pm

    I think that’s an awesome goal. I rarely use paper towels for that exact reason – I feel too guilty about the waste. I’m going to join you in this challenge by being better about turning lights off when I’m not using them.

  8. chrissy on April 2, 2013 at 8:10 pm

    you guys blow bubbles a lot LOL paper towels aren’t a biggie for me since they’re relatively compact and “organic,” but i feel super wasteful shopping online. the big ups truck + ups plane + carboard box + paper protecting the goods + plastic protecting the individual items etc. it’s crazy wasteful!

    • Liz on April 2, 2013 at 8:19 pm

      So true!

    • Amy on April 2, 2013 at 10:21 pm

      if you throw your paper towels in your trash can, they get sealed up in your trash bag along with everything else, and sit in a landfill and don’t “biodegrade”, just like vegetable scraps and other organic stuff. The problem is that they end up in a lined landfill.

  9. RunEatRepeat on April 2, 2013 at 8:11 pm

    I use one paper towel every time I run for my mocos. So, I try not to ‘waste’ them for food. Isn’t that weird?

    Yes. Yes it is.

  10. Sabrina on April 2, 2013 at 8:18 pm

    I swear that I had this same challenge for myself a few months ago! We cut down our usage to 1 roll every 10 days or so. it isn’t perfect but it’s much better. I just got lazy with it and needed a refresher. Good luck!

  11. Jen G. on April 2, 2013 at 8:23 pm

    I’m a librarian, and just read an advanced copy of Zero Waste Home, which is coming out next week. I highly recommend it. The author, her husband and two kids went from filling a couple of massive trashcans weekly to having a mason jar full of trash for the past year. It’s motivating me to find ways to cut back: I’m getting a compost pail, and will take my scraps to a friend’s house who composts and has a garden; I’m using more rags for cleaning; I switched to the DivaCup; cancelled a lot of catalogs and coupon flyers; and bought reusable produce bags. I’ve got more ideas to implement as budget allows (airtight jars for bulk buying, for example).

    • Alissa on April 3, 2013 at 8:15 am

      I will be finding this book! Thank you so much for sharing! I can’t wait to see what tips they have.

  12. Amanda Perry @ Sistas of Strength on April 2, 2013 at 8:25 pm

    I use an absolutely excessive amount of paper towels. Actually, my husband is even worse. Sigh. Good challenge!

  13. Emily on April 2, 2013 at 8:36 pm

    Fortunately I only use paper towels to clean up dog messes, but I’ve been trying to cut down on using single-use bags for lunches and putting things in Ziploc containers instead. It sometimes is a little more volume than I like to heft around, but it sure is nice not experiencing that “oh no, we’re out of bags!” panic.

  14. Ali on April 2, 2013 at 8:43 pm

    My husband and I started working with a green energy company- we switched to 100% green energy in our home, and it makes me feel like I am really doing something. This program is really expanding in the US, and they make it so that you keep your current utility company, but a portion of that bill goes to green the grid. When people switch over to the 20% green energy plan, they end up saving on the electricity bill. I feel really passionate about this, and I am so excited that going green is becoming more popular- this is an easy way to do it that doesn’t cost anything. It is available now in MA, PA, NJ, NY, IL, MD, DC, DE, and CT. Check it out 🙂

  15. Hilary on April 2, 2013 at 8:47 pm

    I love this challenge. I am definitely guilty of the same thing!! Where did you get your cleaning clothes from?? I’ve bought some before and they were awful – everything would get stuck to them and they were so hard to clean! It made the paper towels even more appealing….

  16. Allison @ Train Eat Repeat on April 2, 2013 at 8:56 pm

    i do all sorts of green already. I make my own laundry detergent and hand soap, we also wash our hair with baking soda and ACV (called No ‘Poo). Hm what could I do next? I’ll think on that 🙂

    • Britt on April 3, 2013 at 5:27 pm

      Can you explain more about the baking soda/ACV?? What do you use for conditioner? I’ve been trying to find a good switch from shampoo. Thanks!

      • Allison @ Train Eat Repeat on April 6, 2013 at 1:47 am

        If you google “no ‘poo” theres a lot about it all over the internet! the baking soda is sort of the “shampoo” and the ACV is your “conditioner”, you don’t mix them together, so don’t worry about a volcano experiment on the top of your head! We swear by it here! Just search, or email me 🙂 ( AT gmail)

  17. Janice on April 2, 2013 at 9:19 pm

    I switched to cleaning with ultimate cloths last year – seriously changed my cleaning life! Check them out at wwwdotultimateclothdotcom. Cleans better than anything I have ever used on every surface and I’ve eliminated almost every cleaning product in my house. Makes me feel good to know my house can be clean and sparkly only using cloth and water!

  18. Christine @ BookishlyB on April 2, 2013 at 9:21 pm

    Paper towels are pretty horrible. We keep them on the top shelf of the pantry so that it’s much easier to grab a plate or towel. We end up going through maybe one roll a month, so it’s pretty effective in my household!

  19. Haley @ fullnfit on April 2, 2013 at 9:31 pm

    I am glad I am not alone in using too many paper towels. I feel horrible, but sometimes I don’t know what else to use!

  20. Emily on April 2, 2013 at 9:42 pm

    Ahhhh- I do the SAME thing. Paper towels are my go-to when I’m in the kitchen and I manage to cycle through roles at a ridiculous rate. I should definitely try to incorporate a challenge like this into my lifestyle too! Not only would it benefit the environment, but my wallet would love it too!

  21. Janie on April 2, 2013 at 9:43 pm

    What I fun and interesting challenge. I definitely fall into the paper towel trap way too often but I want to work on cutting my use down as well!

  22. Victoria @ Reluctantly Skinny on April 2, 2013 at 10:22 pm

    I’m the opposite. I’m very good about using plates and cutting boards for food, but I always clean with paper towels. This will be a good challenge for me when it comes to cleaning!

  23. Chelsea on April 2, 2013 at 10:23 pm

    What makes my horrible over use of paper towels worse is the fact that I have plenty of clean and readily available just down the hall in the closet – but I just never remember to grab one, and the paper towels are sitting right there…I love the idea of “out of sight, out of mind” – that would be hugely helpful!

  24. Lauren @ Fun, Fit and Fabulous! on April 2, 2013 at 10:47 pm

    I totally have a paper towel problem as well! I purchased sponges for cleaning and that has defintely helped a bit. My town, Austin, Texas, recently went completely bagless. No stores, including gorcery stores, Target, Wal-Mart, Office Depot, department stores etc., etc. give away free bags anymore. YOu have to bring your own reusable bags with you everywhere. I already used them at the grocery store, but I still forget at the mall. I think it is an awesome initiative, it just takes some getting used to!

  25. Sarah Fowler on April 2, 2013 at 11:09 pm

    I am recently trying to compost our food scraps. It’s harder with just a balcony and no real yard, but the pay off in my potted herb garden is SO worth it. Less waste and free fertilizer!

  26. Amy on April 3, 2013 at 12:39 am

    YAY for using less paper towels. I’ve been using cloth towels and rags for 8 years now. I rarely used paper products before that. If I have a really nasty moldy mess to clean up in the new place, we move once a year usually, I will buy paper towels to clean that up. If there’s not we forgo the yearly roll. I have decided to try washing our clothes by hand. I did it yesterday and decided I need to get a spinner or a wringer so the clothes will dry faster.

  27. Tara on April 3, 2013 at 2:52 am

    That’s actually a good idea. I use so many paper towels for too many different things and it would be a noticeable change in money and garbage if I thought about it more often.

  28. Lucie on April 3, 2013 at 3:17 am

    Oh I am awful with paper towels too, I need to make this a goal too. And I always ride my bike, I don’t even have a car!

  29. Jess on April 3, 2013 at 5:50 am

    Love that she is an outdoors girl! So

  30. Racheal @ Running with Racheal on April 3, 2013 at 6:24 am

    I rarely buy paper towels for this reason. However, I can’t tell you how many times I have guests give me a look of shock / horror when I tell them we don’t use paper towels. Bahahaha.

  31. Katie on April 3, 2013 at 6:35 am

    Not to be gross, but I’m horrible with toilet paper! I always use way too much and use it as tissues and to wipe up any spills on the counter top. It’s right there, why wouldn’t I? (!!)

  32. dotsie on April 3, 2013 at 8:27 am

    Any particular type/brand of cloth you like??

    • Fitnessista on April 3, 2013 at 9:59 am

      the last stack i bought was from target and they were designed to wash cars. Super soft (white and grey)- wish i knew the brand!

  33. Sarah @ Yogi in Action on April 3, 2013 at 9:22 am

    Yes- thanks for reminding people to be less wasteful!

    I took a course offered by my city last year, and it was all about reducing waste, recycling and composting. Composting is honestly so easy and ANYONE can do it- and it’s one of the best ways to reduce your waste.

    I never use paper towels at home- instead it’s all cloth. A big one that I didn’t see on your list is to buy things with less packaging! Sometimes bread is wrapped in plastic, and then you’ll open the loaf and it’s wrapped AGAIN in plastic. Buy the kind that’s only wrapped once- or even better, buy straight from the bakery and then there’s no need for plastic.

  34. Ali on April 3, 2013 at 9:40 am

    I’m not huge on paper towels – I probably use 2ish rolls a year and just to clean mirrors and the litter box (because, seriously, I never want to reuse a towel that was used to wash a litterbox!). I use a lot of paper napkins though, which is ridiculous since I have quite a few cloth napkins that I bought on the basis that I wanted to lessen the amount of paper napkins I use. They are in the pantry and the paper ones are out on the county. I need to switch that around!

  35. April on April 3, 2013 at 9:41 am

    This post made me LOL as i once had a roommate who went through at least one (maybe two) rolls of paper towels A DAY! Seriously, no lie! She would clean with them because cloth or sponges grossed her out, ha ha to each his own right?!?
    Anyway, growing up my Mom used the ‘handi wipes’ which are basically ‘washable paper towels’…they usually come in either blue or yellow colors and you can use them multiple times (washing after each use)…i use them now too.
    My husband isn’t quite on board as he tends to use the paper towels a little too much (in my opinion).

    I am going to turn things ‘off’ when not in use…and shut the lights out when leaving a room:)

  36. Emily @ Perfection Isn't Happy on April 3, 2013 at 9:42 am

    We were in Arizona for a week, and just got back. I was in love with your weather! It’s 37 degrees outside right now in Indiana. Where is spring??

  37. Alissa on April 3, 2013 at 10:00 am

    I was cruising on Twitter this morning and found this link with a promo code! It’s called PeopleTowels and they are on the go reusable towels!, the code is for 10% off and it’s ambassador3tha2. They are so cute! I can’t decide which ones to get!

  38. Monique @ on April 3, 2013 at 10:24 am

    I feel the same way! Although I do try and reuse the paper towels I use for “dry” things like bread or crackers. I also cut the paper towel in half (even the ‘select a size” ones) because I don’t need an entire one most of the time. These little tricks really helped me conserve my paper towel usage.

  39. Emily on April 3, 2013 at 10:26 am

    I do the same thing with paper towels and it drives my husband insane! lol

    I am going to try to remember my reusable bags. Half the time they are in my trunk and I STILL forget. So Silly! Thanks for the push to remember 🙂

  40. Irene on April 3, 2013 at 10:27 am

    Great challenge! I’m going to focus on minimizing my use of disposable cups (coffee, etc). I’ll renew my efforts with paper towels too; it is always good to have the reminder!

  41. Marguerite Miller on April 3, 2013 at 10:57 am

    I agree, we use too many paper towels! We helped stop how much by using the choose a size, so we are really only using a half of one instead of a whole one! I was also using too many paper plates, so my husband refused to buy more! He bought a few plastic microwave safe plates for reheating things in the microwave! (We use our good china every day, and it has metal trim and can’t be microwaved!) Since we run the dishwasher all the time, it isn’t like it is costing us any more money washing dishes!

    My grandfather would use a paper towel to dry his hands and then hang it up to dry so he could use it again! Sometimes he looked like he had a clothes line in his kitchen…with paper towels that he felt had more uses out of them! LOL

  42. Sonia the Mexigarian on April 3, 2013 at 11:13 am

    i’m terrible with paper towels as well. bah. i’ll get on board with this. i need to cut back the paper towel insanity. love the other suggestions too!

  43. Erin @ Girl Gone Veggie on April 3, 2013 at 11:40 am

    Great idea for mindfulness! I use way more paper towels and paper plates than I should. They’re just so easy! I’m going to work on being more mindful!

  44. mary on April 3, 2013 at 1:49 pm

    I rarely use paper towels. I bought the Costco pack 15 months ago and still have a few rolls left, and I was using them freely since I splurged on them!

    I think using a paper towel to eat lunch off is probably about ecologically equal to using a plate, since the plate needs washed. Though if you run your d/w half empty, one more plate in it has no eco-cost.

    If it helps you not cut on paper towels, it’s bad for your knife blades to hit the granite, even through a paper towel. A $5 bar-sized cutting board is handy for tiny jobs. I just leave one out. Though I think you said you cut with a steak knife or something? Then I wouldn’t worry about the blade.

  45. dominique on April 3, 2013 at 1:52 pm

    we use cloth napkins and towels for almost everything. i only regularly use paper towels to oil my cast iron pans. we’ve ruined enough towels with oil so i feel like i can justify using paper towels for that that.

  46. Tracy on April 3, 2013 at 2:27 pm

    Guilty here as well! This is a great challenge. You’ve inspired me!!

  47. Jane on April 3, 2013 at 2:35 pm

    Guilty on the paper towels thing! So challenge accepted!

    Since we moved here from South Africa at the end of last year I notice how much plastic we are using! We didn’t recycle much in SA and bought a lot of fresh produce not in containers so I am now challenging myself to recycle as much as we can. Have bought the separate trash cans with color coded trim so it really becomes a no brainer and a habit 🙂

  48. Brittany @ Kitchen::Candid on April 3, 2013 at 4:38 pm

    I made the switch from paper towels to microfiber cloths and it really hasn’t been that difficult. It’s been about 2 months now and I’m loving the extra money we’re saving from not buying paper towels in bulk. You can do it!! <3

  49. Ali on April 3, 2013 at 11:47 pm

    The spring cleaning bug has hit around here too – we have Earth Day’d it by donating much of the things we have cleaned out! Yay two carrots with one tug! <3

  50. Tamar on April 4, 2013 at 1:51 pm

    I think that’s a great idea to cut back on paper towels; I feel like I use too many also. BUT, I do want to point out that you CAN compost them! (Not sure if you compost, but paper towels are biodegradable!) I’m always trying to reduce packaging — I use reusable grocery bags but I just found reusable produce bags as well, so I’m going to try to remember those.

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