a peek inside the fishbowl

19 Jun, 2006

you are what you wipe your mouth with

Posted by andrea in: Yaktivism

The usual brand of paper napkins we use was sold out at the local Loblaws. So I bought White Swan instead. And boy, are they shoddy. It’s the paper napkin equivalent of one-ply toilet paper. It’s cheap, so thin it’s practically transparent, and has no absorbent qualities whatsoever.

We can be a sloppy bunch. My children sometimes use up multiple napkins per meal. I am not so sloppy per se. My use of napkins extends out of a fear of leaving undigested food hanging in the outer corner of my mouth.

Hubby has been known to sneeze explosively into his.

So you can see how we go through napkins rather quickly. I buy them in packages of 500. They last a few weeks. I imagine we wipe away the equivalent of a small forest’s worth of wood every year.

My inlaws buy the premium brand of paper napkins at Costco. They are decadent things to use. And I have to admit that as far as paper napkins go, I like them. They’re way fancier than the P.C. ones we used at home. With these, I have multiple layers of cushiony fibres with which to wipe my saucy mouth. They’re great, but given our heavy-duty napkin use they’re not a good buy for my own messy family of four.

As I grow older I am becoming more and more weary of living in a society where disposable (read: products of convenience) are becoming the norm and the way they are marketed as if they are a need.

Take for example, someone’s recent brainchild of the disposable wash mitt. The ones I’ve seen advertised are intended for babies. They are impregnated with soap and sport images of Elmo and other usual suspects. It annoys me that this product even exists, and that I am supposed to be part of the target market. Yeah. Right.

The message is this: you busy working mothers (and fathers) don’t have time to use a traditional washcloth that has to be laundered… so make your life easy and use this instead! Just soap it up, wash your kid and chuck it in the garbage. But please, follow our guidelines for proper use: don’t get soap in baby’s eyes or mouth, don’t leave your child unattended in the bath, and do your best ignore the guilt you might be feeling about contributing to your local landfill.

What’s wrong with having a small stack of washcloths washed and ready for use? And a pump bottle of baby wash within arm’s reach? And here’s the rub: when you’re done nothing ends up in the garbage.

Okay. I’ve strayed off course. :)

Yesterday I bought a bunch of cloth napkins at St.Vincent de Paul. And I’m planning to head over to the fabric store and making a stack of my own. My “new” cloth napkins (in an assortment of blue hues) are my starter pack. They’re washed and ready to use. Starting today.

These will be for everyday use. In my mind I’ve promised myself that I won’t let the idea of salad dressing and spaghetti stains bother me. The fancy ones will stay in the linen closet for now. But I’m not going to buy paper napkins anymore.

Yes, there will be more laundry. And some would argue that the extra load isn’t environmentally friendly either, but our washing machine is a front-loader that uses a lot less water than the traditional top loader. And I can hang to dry instead of drying them in our (gas) dryer.

I know I’m creating more work for myself. But I’m already laundering our other table linens – the tablecloth and the placemats – so a few extra pieces isn’t going to make a big difference. It will make a (however tiny) difference in our grocery bill, in the landfill, and in a forest … and I think that in this day and age we have to start making some choices about the products we use and the garbage we create.

And I’m making this one.


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The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our two daughters Emma (18) and Sarah (16). I am the managing editor of our community newspaper, the Kitchissippi Times. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger, and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999... which makes me either a total dinosaur or a veteran, I'm not sure which! The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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