So I mentioned in the thredUP post that we went cold turkey on paper towels. This is a topic that I am 100% sure some other blogger wrote about years ago, and I am also sure that -- at the time -- I rolled my eyes so hard because that's some sanctimonious hogwash. Paper towels? Really? Sorry, I live in the REAL WORLD with REAL CHILDREN; gimme that good Quicker Picker Upper action.
But now the planet is on fire and my kids are coming home from school crying about the polar bears dying, and why isn't anyone doing anything to help the polar bears, and I admit to having had SEVERAL Amy-Poehler-in-Wine-County style breakdowns over the last couple years.
(Usually after consuming Amy-Poehler-in-Wine-Country levels of wine, but still. I CARE REALLY HARD!)
Anyway, I thought we made the switch just a couple months ago, but after combing through the photo evidence, we've actually been paper-towel-free since July, when I first spent an evening cutting up a stack of Jason's old undershirts into a satisfying stack of rags of various shapes and sizes.
Of course I took a photo of them. It was probably the most I'd accomplished in a single sitting in weeks! Plus Jason was out at some metal/ hair band concert I had no interest in, so I sent him this photo as evidence that LOOK I ALSO KNOW HOW TO PARTY ON A FRIDAY NIGHT.
Anyway, it's actually been seven months. Milk has been spilled. Messes have been made. Nobody has died.
I've grown the stack of cloth diapers (which are reserved for major spills) and we keep those in the cabinet. T-shirt rags are kept by sink.
(Incidentally I cannot recommend those Japanese Tawashi brushes enough. We bought a set of three last June and have not used or purchased a regular household sponge since. We use them for everything from scrubbing pots to washing vegetables; toss 'em in the dishwasher every now and then and they come out as good as new.)
(Also, yes, that is an avocado pit next to the scrubber brush, because Jason has not given up on his dream of growing his own avocado tree from one. It never works and they always die a slow death on our kitchen counter. Considering an avocado tree would likely die an instant death if he planted it outside, I'm not sure what his endgame is here. He doesn't even like avocados that much! 21 years of marriage and that man is still full of mysteries. And avocado pits and tires.)
I bought a cute little handled basket to toss the dirty rags in, just the right size to be a decent-but-manageable laundry load on its own but not too big that I can't top off a load of regular whites. MY ONE BIG MISTAKE. I need something with a lid, because the dogs CANNOT resist the smell of dirty greasy rags that once (ooooohhhhhhh) patted down raw chicken or (mmmmmmmmmm) wiped up some cat vomit and they'll drag the rags all around the house when I'm not looking.
But on the upside, when my children knock a glass over, they grab one of the bigger rags (or the diapers, but WE DON'T TELL THEM THAT THEY WERE ONCE THEIR ACTUAL DIAPERS) instead of unspooling dozens and dozens of paper towels. I go through one or two while cooking dinner vs. grabbing a towel and immediately tossing it out at almost every step. We have an endless supply of old/ripped/stained/shrunken t-shirts to replenish the stash when a rag gets too gross. I find cutting up new rags and folding/stacking the existing ones to be weirdly soothing and relaxing, much like I did in our cloth diapering days.
I am not bragging or fooling myself here, by the way. Oh wow, ditching paper towels and disposable sponges? Look out, we've got an environmentally-conscious badass over here!
I'm terribly dependent on Amazon Prime and Blue Apron and grocery delivery services and TARGET TARGET TARGET. I know that switching to reusable freezer bags and paper sandwich bags doesn't offset my gas-powered minivan packed with three children who own enough plastic bricks they could probably rebuild the polar ice caps for the polar bears.
And they would, too, if they thought it would help. Why isn't anyone doing anything to help the polar bears? And the rain forests and the hurricanes and the koala bears? Why isn't everyone doing something?
I don't have a good answer for questions like that. Lots of people are helping, I tell them. Lots of people care very much and are trying very hard. It's big and it's complicated and it's going to take a lot of people doing a lot of things.
It's easy to just feel helpless.
But it was easier to just stop using paper towels.