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You hear a lot about “going green” these days, and of course it’s a good idea. Nobody wants to go destroy the environment or kill baby squirrels or melt the Arctic ice floes so we all have beachfront property (well…), but let’s face it. We’re busy moms. There are only so many hours in a day and very few of us are going to spend it churning our own butter, no matter how much we object to factory farming. Not all families are in the market for a new hybrid car (although if you are, they’re awesome!). We do what we can, when we can. Because when it really comes down to a tradeoff, the environment vs. convenience, most of the time we just go with convenience.
But, every little bit counts! It really does. And the great part is that a lot of the time, going green saves you money. Is it possible to have it all? Saving money, lessening your environmental impact, and convenience? YES! And we here at Gen X Moms are going to tell you how to do it in our series “Conveniently Green.”
Get it? Conveniently green? Green and convenient? Ha ha, I’m so clever!
There are many ways to go Conveniently Green, and today I’m here to talk to you about cloth napkins. Yes, cloth napkins. Does your family use napkins or paper towels at the dinner table? If not, then stop reading here. But if you do, then pay attention. Paper napkins and paper towels aren’t particularly expensive (or they shouldn’t be–if your paper napkins and paper towels are expensive, you should be reading The SoCal FruGal), but they can’t be recycled once they have food on them, they take up space in a landfill, they are a paper product so at one point they originally came from a tree (even the recycled ones) and like most disposable products, in the long run it’s going to be more expensive to use something once than to use something many times.
Cloth napkins are one of those products. Now I know you probably associate cloth napkins with things like nice restaurants, your Martha Stewart mother, and those things you got for your wedding so you take them out on Thanksgiving and hope nobody really makes a mess with them because you’re not going to wash and iron them more than once a year.
Those aren’t the ones I’m talking about. I’m talking about cheap, cotton/polyester blend no iron cloth napkins. See that no iron part! That takes care of problem number one!
Because let me tell you ladies, I ain’t ironing anything either.
And washing them? Well you’ve got two options here. Get white ones and bleach the crap out of them every now and then, easy-peasy, or get colored ones and don’t give a second thought about stains or anything else.
And who cares about stains? These aren’t the wedding napkins you’re going to serve to guests. These are every day napkins you’re going to use at the table to teach your children that they should put the wedding napkins on their laps when the time comes. It’s like those stained and slightly ratty dishtowels you still use because they’re still clean and you’re not trying to impress someone, and on Thanksgiving you’re just going to pull out the fancy dishcloths with the embroidered turkeys and cornucopias that your mother-in-law gave you anyway.
See where I’m going with this? Doesn’t sound so bad now, does it? Here’s the thing. You buy your cloth napkins and you keep a bag of some kind in or near your laundry. When the napkin gets gross, toss it in the bag, and when you wash your dishtowels (not the ones with the turkeys and cornucopias) you throw the napkins in too. They don’t require any special handling. Wash them with your towels, or with anything else you like. They don’t care. Since you don’t iron them, it takes very little effort to fold them and put them back.
Aren’t cloth napkins expensive? Nope. If you happen to live near an Ikea, you can get their “Iris” white cloth napkins for $3.49 for a 4-pack. These are the ones we have and let me tell you, talk about low-maintenance. They’re white so I toss them in some bleach every now and again, but not a whole lot, because they’re not the ones we use for guests. I mean think about it, if you normally rip off a paper towel for your lap at dinner, who are you to scoff at a white cloth napkin with some spaghetti sauce stains?
If you don’t have an Ikea nearby, you can find a restaurant supply store. Restaurant supply stores carry all kinds of neat goodies, and they often have linens or can tell you where to get linens at a cheap price. You can also order off of the internet. You will likely have to pay shipping, but you can always go in with a friend (or four) and split the cost, especially if a site is running a flat rate shipping deal. You may be able to get cloth napkins at your local warehouse store as well.
And talk about the cost savings? The Iris napkins at Ikea are $0.88 cents each. If you use one of those every night for a year, that’s a cost of $0.002 per day. Yes, that’s less than one cent a day. Much less than one cent a day. And you can get cheaper napkins if you look hard enough. With the added bonus of not filling up a landfill, killing fewer trees, having one less thing to buy at the grocery store, and teaching your kids the polite way to sit at the table and eat.
Go Conveniently Green with cloth napkins!