Hey! Now that we’ve gotten your attention with our greenwash-y, SEO-friendly title (thanks, Google), you should know that while there’s no such thing as “eco-friendly” paper towels, here’s what to be wise on when you’re shopping so you can pick the best option for you, the planet, and the people making your stuff.
We get it. You try to use dishcloths, but sometimes you’re in a pinch and just need something to wipe up your kid’s juice. At its core, the paper towel vs. cloth debacle comes down to water use and since it takes less water to make one square foot of paper towel (~.05 gallons of water) than it does to make the equivalent rag AND since it takes about five times more paper towels than rags to cope with similar messes, the two are equivalent from a water consumption standpoint. You could say it’s a wash. For the full breakdown on paper towels, check out our blog here.
WHAT TO BE WISE ON:
Many paper towel brands bleach the goods to give them that bright white sheen. Bleaching uses potentially harmful chlorine in the process, which produces several by-products like dioxins and furans which can lead to cancer and hormonal changes. Do we really need things to be extra white if they’re just being used to clean up messes?
THE FACTORS TO CONSIDER:
Go unbleached or look for either Processed Chlorine-Free or Totally Chlorine-Free
Avoid paper towels made out of virgin wood pulp to ensure you’re not supporting deforestation of Canada’s boreal forest. Stick with formaldehyde-free products with no added dyes or fragrances.
A FEW TAKEAWAYS:
The carbon footprint of paper towels is relatively small compared to other household goods, but considering soiled paper towels are unrecyclable, it’s important to use alternatives when possible. In the U.S., 2% of total landfills are made up of paper towels. (Sources: NRDC, EPA, and FSC)