life without napkins

One of the easiest green changes to make is to embrace life without napkins.  Paper napkins, that is.  While eating so daintily that drips and spills cease to exist might be the ultimate green solution, I am not a good candidate for trying that method.  When eating spaghetti, it always turns out that I’m wearing a white shirt.  When finished eating spaghetti, it always turns out that I’m wearing a polka-dotted shirt.  Weird.

So napkins are a must for me, and for most of us humans.  I have three sets of cloth napkins, which used to come out only on rare occasions — usually when I was serving a nice dinner to guests.  Now they have a permanent place at our table. 

I don’t know that I’ve ever given out a challenge on my blog before, but I am today.  Stop buying paper napkins.  It is so easy to make the switch to cloth.  Don’t buy particularly fancy cloth napkins.  Or better yet, don’t buy them at all.  Turn the fabric of old clothing into napkins.  Seams are nice and keep the napkins from unraveling, but if you don’t have access to a sewing machine, they’re not essential.  Another tip: go with colored napkins.  At our house, one set is purple, one is burnt orange, and the other is black with flowers.  The great benefit of dark-colored napkins is that you can’t see the stains.

I thought I may be overwhelmed with the laundry when I started using cloth napkins, but they’re so small they can be thrown in the top of any load without weighing down the washer.  And you can use them several times without washing them, too; they really don’t get that dirty.  Don’t worry about ironing, like I used to.  Just fold them up as soon as they’re dry, and they’ll be beautiful and ready for your next meal.

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  1. Excellent post! I wrote about this recently, too. I have always used cloth napkins. Every night can be fancy night … they are easy to wash and pleasant to use. I have a few that are “fancy” (i.e., new) and don’t get used except with company … then as they age they move down the social scale. I’ve found inexpensive bandanas to work, too, and the extra/odd ones become napkins to go in my daughter’s lunch box or in my purse to dry hands in public restrooms before moving to the rag bag.

  2. Another point for Carrie!

    We did this as a family back in High School some 25 years ago. Back before it was cool to be ‘green’. Mainly as a $$$ saving opportunity. Mom had cut up an old tablecloth or something, and dad made a wooden box/holder that was kept near the table. So we used cloth napkins for as long as I can remember. Mom still does today.

  3. Oooh! Good challenge.

    It’s one that’s never crossed my mind (presumably because they are cheap and we buy them 3 times a year).

    I accept!

  4. Yes!!! We made the switch a few months ago and would never go back. You’re right — it would be easy just to cut up some old t-shirts. They don’t unravel, and they’re soft and absorbent. If I just had tons of time, I would make cloth napkins for all my friends out of the closetful of fabric I’ve accumulated.

    And it’s true, you can use them several times. And blow your nose in them if you want.

    Anyway, yay for cloth napkins!

    • Rachel
    • June 2nd, 2008

    I actually made the switch a couple months ago, inspired by you, Carrie. Making my own detergent seemed just too challenging for me, truthfully, so using cloth napkins became my baby step. And also, packing only reusable containers in our work and school lunches. I just wish the reusable containers weren’t plastic!

  1. July 26th, 2008

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