When you gather friends or family for dinner, how do you set your table? Do you have a set of dishes you use everyday or perhaps a ‘good’ set that you save for special occasions? Besides the dishes, glasses (or cups), and silverware, do you set out napkins? If your answer is yes, do you use paper ones or cloth?
Most people use paper napkins for the convenience. What this means is that once the napkins are used, they are simply tossed in the trash rather than being cleaned and used again like their cloth counterparts. But that convenience comes at an environmental cost.
According to Enviro Napkin, there are several interesting statistics for paper napkins. They are:
- 2.5 paper napkins are used by each diner per meal
- over 160 billion paper napkins used annually in the U.S.
- equates to 34 million trees cut down each year
Paper napkins are not a sustainable choice. Look at the quantity of trees used to produce a throw away product. What about the cost of paper napkins annually compared to buying a set or two of good quality cloth napkins? Cloth napkins are a sustainable choice for your home.
Reasons to Use Cloth Napkins
- Cost savings over time of cloth over paper
- Less trash using cloth over paper
- Durability of cloth over paper
- Multiple uses (years of cloth compared to single use of paper)
- Provide greater protection from spills on clothing
- Available in fabrics that launder well
- Become softer with each washing
- Conveys a sense of occasion over paper napkins
- Can readily be packed into lunches for school or work
- Available in colors and patterns that coordinate/complement your dinnerware
Now if you are thinking that cloth napkins means more laundry and work, don’t worry. Based on the type of fabric and colors, toss them in with specific loads of laundry. Dark blues or burgundies… toss in with a load of darks. White or very pale pastels… toss in with your whites. As far as ironing, the choice is yours. Initially, I ironed every single napkins after every single wash. Now? I just remove them from the dryer, smooth flat with my hand and fold.
Over the years, I have picked up napkins at a variety of locations for not much money. Flea markets. Garage sales. Tag sales. And even the occasional estate sale. In many cases, the napkins were either brand new or just lightly used and still looked new. If there are an odd number of them… such as five, don’t worry, just get them anyway. I have a collection of damask napkins in a rainbow of pastel colors. Most of them are orphans that came from many different places, but yet when the table is set, they look like they go together because of the type of fabric and the colors.
If you worry about the durability, let me ease your fears. Most of the napkins that grace our table have been in use for over 25 years. While the fabric has softened and there has been some color fading, the napkins are still going strong. There are no holes or rips in the fabric, but then dabbing around a mouth or wiping hands does not cause wear and tear on the fabric. And should a napkin no longer look nice enough to set out on the table, it will be relegated to ‘dust cloth’ status.
Go ahead and buy cloth napkins. They come in a range of colors and fabrics. Are extremely durable. Are easy to just toss in the wash with other laundry. Provide much better clothing protection than paper napkins. They provide a cost savings over time and they are a sustainable choice for your home.