Every single day over 3,000 tons of paper towel waste is produced. To make just one ton of paper towels, 17 trees are cut down and 20,000 gallons of water are consumed. Simply put, it takes too many trees and too much water to produce a cleaning product used for 25 seconds before being thrown out.
We all know that over consumption of single use products like paper towel and sponges are bad for the planet, but most of us have never known anything else. A few of you might have had a wiser parent or grandparent that proclaimed the efficient simplicity of a towel or even hand knitted cloths, but not many and not me.
I was a paper towel addict. Small spill on the kitchen counter or floor? A quick swipe with a sheet of paper towel. Water and grime around the bathroom sink? Nothing a handful of paper towel couldn't fix. After dinner clean ups? Finish the paper towel roll and get another one from under the sink. They are quick, effective, and for the blissfully ignorant, easy to dispose of by throwing away.
The problem with paper towel, and its many single use counterparts like sponges and wet wipes, is that they are exactly that: single use. The life it lived before it was in my home and the process after it's taken from my bin after I've used it is almost tragically comedic given the short period it was in my hands.
I never thought of another way and I definitely did not think of a better way.
Enter the sustainable, machine washable, compostable, incredible Swedish dishcloth.
The epiphany did not happen instantly. My kitchen still had a roll of paper towel in it but sitting cutely beside my sink was an unassuming Swedish dishcloth that my partner got from our neighbourhood zero waste shop.
I started using it for small spills, quick counter wipes, and the like. Paper towel was still in the rotation; however, over time I used it less and less. It wasn't too long before my Swedish dishcloth was the first thing I grabbed when I started cleaning. It felt cleaner, more aesthetic, easier, and cheaper!
Eventually, I stopped buying paper towel. I had a rotation of Swedish dishcloths for the kitchen. When they started to wear down, I would pivot them for use in the bathroom. My garbage and recycling was noticeably lower (especially without that massive plastic wrap that usually accompanies paper towel packages). One Swedish dishcloth was replacing dozens of paper towel rolls: I was saving money! There was no need for any deliberation, the decision had happened: Swedish dishcloths killed my paper towel addiction and it's never coming back.
Swedish dishcloths are truly an upgrade in our home. They are a superior, environmentally friendly product. If every home has the epiphany I had in my kitchen, we are one step closer to healing, or at the very least mitigating the harm on, our planet.
It is my hope that many will join me and the thousands of others who said: Hello, Swedish Cloths!