Welcome to week two! I had best intentions of getting this written before hand and posted first thing this morning, but I’ve become rather lost in a little research project, and every time I’ve sat down at the computer I’ve ended up diving into that, instead of this. J Don’t forget to link up with your posts, sharing your story of going green, or a favorite tip!
An easy place to get started in the cloth realm is getting rid of stuff like paper napkins, paper towels, Kleenex and disposable wipes.
As a wedding gift, someone gave us a (homemade) tablecloth along with a dozen or so napkins in various calico prints. That made it quite natural to plunge into using cloth napkins, which we’ve loved from the start. I soon added a dozen or two more to our collection, so we could use them when hosting large crowds. Before getting into a more “thoroughly” green lifestyle, we bought paper napkins once for a large open house Christmas party. Otherwise, though, we haven’t bought or used paper. Cloth napkins are so easy- and convenient to have on hand. Not only do we use them as napkins, I use them to clean up spills, wipe Vivi up partially when she’s done eating (where a paper napkin would just shred and make a mess), and lots more. When they’re dirty, I just throw them in a load of laundry, and for maybe a minute a week (for the folding/putting away) we use cloth. They’re really pretty, too….it’s a easy and inexpensive way to spruce up your dining room table. My siblings think they’re the coolest thing. Especially the first several months after we got married, they were quite faithful to ask, before food even came out, if they could “please have a napkin”.
If you’re going green in other areas, paper towels are easy to get rid of, too. We have a package of paper towels my in-laws left here when they were painting, but otherwise have never had to buy paper towels. We’ve gone through 2 rolls in our 2 years of marriage- including for Vivi’s birth. This would be a good place to add- births are one area where we don’t intend to go totally non-disposable. We’ll still use paper towels, bed pads, etc., to make clean up from the birth much easier for my husband. I know it’s not perfect, but we figure if that’s pretty much the only time we’re using disposable stuff, we’re not doing too bad. :-) Getting back on topic, rags, sponges, or whatever other cloth things you have on hand work as great replacements. (for example on the “other cloth stuff”: if you use cloth Kleenex, they double wonderfully to wipe down a messy toddler.)
Kleenex is a recent switch for us, though over the winter, Vivi and I also used her cloth wipes- just not exclusively, there weren’t enough to go around. I used my diaper scraps to make them- most are made out of bamboo velour, and they’re the softest, silkiest things ever! I’m in love… These, too, just get thrown in the laundry. And no, it’s not even gross, like I thought many years ago!
Cloth wipes just make sense if you’re going to do cloth diapers. If not, or if you’re beyond the diaper phase, or not into it, cloth wipes or something similar can be really nice to have on hand for various quick wipes. Mine are all made out of flannel or bamboo velour, and usually I just wet them. There are also many solutions you can make and spray on the wipes, and I’ve done this as well. If you don’t sew, another option I’ve heard works really well is baby wash cloths. Some people have found these dirt-cheap at Goodwill.
If you do sew, all these items are really easy to make- and all are made very similarly. Basically, you just cut the fabric and serge (regular or rolled edge) around the edges. If you don’t have a serger, you can hem or zig-zag the edges. Especially of fabrics that don’t unravel, like bamboo velour. If you want something thicker, especially for your wipes, you can sew two layers together (either serge or sew/turn/topstitch). Personally, I’ve preferred just one layer of fabric. Dimensions of my napkins are 14” square. Cloth wipes and tissues are about 8-8 ¼” square. I also like to do some wipes that are ½ sizes- 4”x8”. I still use this size most of the time for Vivi, but it was especially nice when she had a tiny little bum!
If you don’t sew, these items are available in various places, and as mentioned before, baby wash cloths make great wipes. The first place I would check is Etsy, where lots of moms make “green” products, and you have the opportunity to support stay at home moms.
Although it might sound overwhelming at first, these items are an almost effortless way to get started. I’m sure it does take me a few extra minutes per week, but I don’t notice. If you’re totally new to green concepts, consider picking just one item- say, napkins- to eliminate, instead of jumping into everything. Or (as I still do) keep a roll of paper towels on hand, but out of site…so that if you feel the need to use it, you can, but they aren’t there to be automatically grabbed. It really doesn’t take much or any extra effort to clean a bathroom with a sponge and/or rag, but I know it was nice to have paper towels on hand for cleaning it when I had morning sickness for Vivi, especially since Ben was doing so much of the housework, in addition to his job.