Americans use a lot of paper products. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, about 544,000 trees are used to make paper towels for U.S. households, and if you think that's bad, wait until you hear how many trees are required to make dinner napkins: If every household replaced one package of 250 virgin fiber napkins with recycled (or better yet, cloth!) napkins, we could save 1 million trees.
Even if you're using recycled products, the energy required for recycling paper, the chlorine used to bleach recycled paper products, and the chemicals in the plastic packaging for many paper products is pretty hard on the environment. So instead of switching to recycled paper, maybe it's time to cut your paper footprint.
With that in mind, here are five paper products you can eliminate from your Thanksgiving festivities this year. NaturallySavvy bets you'll be thankful for these paperless alternatives this Thanksgiving...
If you're looking to cut down on paper usage, sending e-invitations is the simple solution. Most e-card websites have at least a few Thanksgiving invitations, including 123greetingcards.com and americangreetings.com. Alternatively, a telephone call is a more personal way to invite guests. And if you want to get a little creative and will be seeing everyone you're inviting, collect some colorful leaves and write the details (your name, address, phone number and the date of the dinner) on the leaf with a eco-friendly marker—then the invites can be composted!
If you are hosting a formal Thanksgiving dinner and place cards are on the agenda, consider eco-friendly paperless options. Pick up lettered magnets and spell out guests' names, or place Scrabble racks at each setting and spell out guests' names with the tiles. If you want your table to shine, pick up some glass tiles from a hardware store and write the names of guests on them with window markers or water-based craft paint. The best part is you can reuse these place 'cards' until the tiles break! (Glass napkin rings can also double as place cards by writing guests names on them.)
Nix the paper napkins. There are tons of affordable fabric napkin options out there, so there's no time like the present to make the switch. Still think it's too pricy? Make your own napkins with a favorite material. And if you're thinking kids and fabric napkins don't mix, be sure to buy darker-colored napkins that will hide stains, or at the very least, toss napkins in the washer within a couple of hours of dinner.
For far too long paper plate manufacturers have been telling us that their products are a great alternative to washing dishes. Let's face it: using a paper plate every time we want to eat is unacceptable; we're killing trees rather than making the effort to wash some dishes. Plus there's something kind of nice about cleaning up with family during the holidays, catching up on the latest family or work gossip as you dry with cousins or aunts. If your problem isn't cleanup but simply that you don't have enough dishes to go around, ask a couple of family members to each bring a set of plates and, voila!, you have a fantastic eclectic table setting.
Cleanup after a giant Thanksgiving dinner is a nightmare, and spills before and during dinner are a given. But when the gravy sloshes onto the floor, or one of the kids spills some juice, don't reach for the paper towels this Thanksgiving. The new quicker picker-upper is an old friend: the tea towel. Tea towels are made to be absorbent and fabric is always more durable that paper towels, so they are an ideal choice for cleaning up. For those full-glass-of-red-wine-on-white-carpet spills, you might want to pick up some microfiber cloths, which suck up moisture like a Hoover.