The goal of me writing my experience and journey to a healthier lifestyle (for both the Earth and myself) is to evaluate all aspects of my life, see where I can improve, and go from there.
Especially recently, this journey has been a bit overwhelming for me. I have gotten rid of so many things and have started to reduce the waste I create, yet I find myself suddenly feeling claustrophobic as I look around my room, closet, bathroom, how full the trash/recycling is, everywhere seeing all of these items just simply there.
I have gotten rid of some items naturally as I have used them and emptied their containers, so I have seen some improvement on that front. For the most part that area is something that time will have to fix. I know I appreciate having them now and will wish I still did in the future at some point, so I am being sure to try and use an appropriate amount and not using it more than I actually need to.
Anyway, I did a fun experiment and tracked how many paper towels I used for a week. I considered the ‘half sized’ paper towels to be one, and a full-sized to be two. Let’s be real here, if a person is using a paper towel day to day, they on average need a smaller size—anything larger is for a messy mess. That concept of waste is a topic for another day, although sometimes it’s certainly uncontrollable. I paid attention to quantity and noticed some big contributing factors that I can improve upon. Then I mentally went through and changed a couple of habits and tracked my use the week after… The results are very interesting:
RESULTS FOR WEEK 1: 47 paper towels used.
47!!! That’s amazing, and not in a good way. Each brand is made differently, but that’s darn near a whole roll depending on which one you are looking at. How excessive!
Below is a breakdown of my daily usage:
|Saturday 2/24:||0 (Day off)|
|Sunday 2/25:||2 (Day off)|
|Tuesday 2/27:||2 (Day off)|
TOTAL FOR WEEK 2: 16!
So much improvement! I wasted 2.9 times (31 total) LESS paper towels than the previous week. Here are my usage amounts:
|Sunday 3/4:||1 (Off work)|
|Thursday 3/8:||0 (Off work)|
*: My cat pooped on the floor next to his litter box for the first time ever, and I used one full sized paper towel (so = 2 halved ones) to clean up his thoughtful surprise.
I did not think about this until after the fact but keeping track of WHY I used EACH paper towel would have helped me analyze my habits and find ways to reduce my usage even more. I did realize some differences that I could make right away. Progress is improvement, but I will know to pay attention to how much I use and any trends I notice in the future.
If you look at the chart, you notice that on my days off (three days off in a week is RARE for me, so I don’t know how it happened but I’m thankful for it!) my paper towel usage reduces drastically. That means something at work can be done to make a positive change in my habits.
What I changed:
At work we use regular paper towels supplied for both work-related use and to dry our hands after washing them, which we do relatively often. We recently got new paper towels, and they are the double paper towel size instead of the regular half-sized ones as they were last time, so it accounts for more waste. I could have torn them in half, but I usually didn’t think of that until my hands were already wet. These paper towels are a bit thinner than the last ones were, making it impossible to do without ruining both sides in the process.
Washing my hands and using not one, but two paper towels to dry them off is so wasteful. Even using one to dry them off is wasteful, especially if you can help it. I cannot believe I hadn’t noticed it before! After the first day of keeping track I felt my stomach sink and was wondering how much I would accumulate after a week. I did not over-waste, but I did try to keep up my regular habits to make it as accurate as possible. I even used to dry my hands off with a paper towel instead of towel in the kitchen at home until I started thinking about my consumption levels prior to SustainabiliMe. Thankfully I’ve become aware of it and am able to do something about it to impact the future in a positive way. See, doing nothing DOES make a difference sometimes. 😉
I switched over to using a towel about a week and a half ago. I brought the first one home with me when I knew I was going to do laundry, but if I forget it at work in the future I can just bring one in from home the next day and wash it next. I will have to admit it felt odd to me, and almost dirty at first, to use a towel. That I cannot believe… when did it become normal to use a paper towel when drying off my hands?
I have accidentally started to grab a paper towel a time or two, but thankfully remembered the hand-drying towel before I got it too wet. When I need a paper towel for something work-related I use as small of a piece as I can to achieve my goal since it would not nearly require whole, or even half, of a paper towel. I am glad to be holding myself accountable and actively reducing to start making a difference. I look forward to cutting down my usage even further aiming to use them barely, if at all.
Check out my Instagram this upcoming week and see some other ways I saw where I could reduce my paper towel usage! Take a chance this week to look at the way you use paper towels in your day to day lifestyle. Reduce that amount if you can help it, but at least notice when you reach for one. Or even feel free to track them this week and see how many you ended up using/would have used. Let me know how many you got at the end of the week and what you noticed you could change/improve upon!