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All articles here are written by Melinda Briana Epler (that's me!) unless otherwise noted. I'm a documentary filmmaker, writer, and brand experience designer - I've dedicated my life to living a sustainable lifestyle and helping others do the same. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions or thoughts for articles. Welcome!

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Ten Ways Cloths Can Save the Planet Paper and Save You Money

Saving paper is one of the easiest ways to save both trees and money as you’re redefining normal on your path toward sustainability.  Some of these changes are difficult to get into at first – for some reason we have a mental barrier against making these types of changes.  But once you’ve passed that initial barrier, it is extremely easy to get used to using cloth.

10 Ways Cloths Can Save Paper and Money

  1. Handkerchiefs – instead of paper tissues.  Quick tip: if you’re going to buy handkerchiefs, try to buy ones that will look ok to you without ironing – it’s a handkerchief after all!
  2. Cloth Napkins – instead of paper napkins.  There is an elegance that cloth napkins add to a meal as well!  Again, make sure to buy napkins you don’t need to iron – 100% tight-weave cotton seem to work best for us.
  3. Rags - instead of sponges or paper towels in the kitchen or around the household.  Make these out of old worn towels – if you don’t have any old towels, you can find some in a local thrift store.
  4. Kitchen towels – instead of paper towels.
  5. Cloth Diapers – instead of disposable paper diapers. There are so many diaper services now, that if you don’t want to clean them yourself, you can just send them out to be cleaned!  However, if you can handle doing it at home it is sooo much cheaper!
  6. Glad Rags or Luna Pads – instead of menstrual pads.  You can read more about greening your cycle here.
  7. Cloth wipes – instead of toilet paper.  While I have not yet been brave enough for this change, Crunchy Chicken is full of cloth wipe challenges to get you started on the path.
  8. Dusting Cloths – instead of paper towels.  You can use the special microfiber dust cloths (I have some of these), or just cut up an old t-shirt or cloth diaper.
  9. Cloth Bags - instead of paper (or plastic) bags.  I wrote about how to make these very easily here.
  10. Cloth wrapping paper – instead of paper wrapping.  I have loads of cheap scarves I’ve been collecting over the years from thrift stores.  Several times I’ve wrapped gifts or flowers in old scarves and given them away – it is a beautiful wrapping paper that can be reused over and over again!

Many times using cloth instead of paper ends up emoting a feeling of nostalgia for older times.  That rag that used to be your favorite beach towel, that handkerchief that used to be your grandmother’s, the dusting cloth that was once your husband’s favorite t-shirt or your grown child’s old infant blanket….  So come, try it out!

What Else?

I’m sure several of you have more clever ways to save money and paper – please share.

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8 comments to Ten Ways Cloths Can Save the Planet Paper and Save You Money

  • Great post! I hadn’t thought to use cloth as wrapping paper, but it’s brilliant! I refuse to buy wrapping paper (more out of frugality than conservation, I admit), but cloth might yet adorn a special gift. :) Easy to save and reuse, too!

    I love your point about nostalgia. I’d been keeping several old t-shirts in the drawer because they held some significance, but were too ratty to wear or even to give away. In a fit of cleaning, I finally cut the images off a few to use as casual scarves and headbands; the other bits went into the rag bag. It’s so funny that I actually do get more pleasure from using the rags than I did from keeping the shirts in a drawer!

    Thanks for your sensible ideas!

  • Ivy

    Great list. I hadn’t thought of using cloth gift wrapping (I like to use gift bags, which in my family are saved and re-used for decades) but I do most of the rest. I do draw the line at cloth wipes, though. There are just some places I’m not willing to go.

    I do have to say, ironing isn’t all that bad. It’s one of my favorite chores, and as a kid, I loved doing it. I felt so grown up and I got 10 cents for each napkin or handkerchief that I ironed! (I’m not sure what that would be adjusted for inflation.) It was a great way to add to my allowance. And I got to watch TV at the same time! Ahem. Yeah. Still one of my favorite chores, which is a good thing, as I’ve got a pile of fabric as big as person sitting on my couch waiting to be pressed.

  • Ann

    Most people have trouble with the cloth wipes. I have found that for women, using them for #1 saves lots of toilet paper and isn’t that big of a deal to wash. There are compromises in everything, so why not this?

    This is a great list, by the way. Thanks!

  • Rob

    Like this post. I made a shopping bag out of an old pair of jeans martin threw away. I dug them out of the trash, and cut them off at the crotch, like making cut offs. Then I sewed the legs together and used some jute rope for the handles. Looks primitive but does the job.
    Another trick here is I take paper that comes in the mail, or flyers left on my windows and save it for printing and scratch paper.
    Also, some strange guy (me) can be seen around the coffee shops down here getting the empty disposable cups out of the trash and taking them home. Why? I use them for planters for starting plants.

  • Tree

    Instead of buying paper/peat seed starters, use the cardboard insert from the toilet rolls (for those of us who still cant quite bring themselves to change in that area) and fill with 1/2 potting mix 1/2 sand (or your own mixture). they are awesome for getting seeds and cutting started and by the time the plants are ready to plant out, have decomposed enough that they are not a hinderance to the roots :)

  • TheMom

    A few of these i already do and I just told my husband last week i wanted to start getting cloth napkins. Is there a site anyhwere that anyone knows about that does the math on water/power usage washing cloth as compaired to the making of paper napkins? I would love to see the difference. And of a few other things as well.

  • Thanks for the post.
    It’s encouraging to see that we do all of the above, minus the cloth TP. We tried it, but it didn’t stick with us.
    -Heather

  • rosa maria

    me encanto hojala todos hisieramos estos cambios seria para el veneficio propio y del mundo . gracias por la alluda lo pondre en practica

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