Paper towels in my household have become the universal replacement item for one too many tasks. Paper towels sometime replace sponges to clean, plates to eat on, or rubber gloves to pick up what we rather our fingers not touch. While this provides a major convenience for us and many households, it’s true cost is gargantuan to our home at large. Researching the effects of paper towel usage sheds a light in how short-sighted and wasteful are American consumers’ tendencies. We need to understand how our seemingly insignificant everyday behavior directly correlates to the destruction of our home. I realize that most spills and messes in my apartment are unnecessarily cleaned using paper towels, and that replacing those rolls with sponges or cloth towels will make a bigger positive imprint than expected.
If every household used just one less paper towel roll each year it would prevent an approximate 544,000 trees being cut down. This problem encompasses more than just the unnecessary chopping of trees. The process pollutes 20,000 tons of water (thepaperlessproject.com). Tree farms consist of trees planted for the purpose of use in paper products in there for are regulated with chemicals that pollute our surroundings (Inhabitots.com). These farmed trees are not considered sustainable. If we were to keep our forests in tact instead of clearing them to create tree farms, they would provide more than clean air; forests act as a natural water filtration system, provide temperature control, flood control and of course house wildlife. See this and other benefits here.
Environmental justice means to me to respect nature as the life-giving force it is. It is realizing that nature is not solely here to be subject to our consumption, but rather that we will suffer greatly if we keep on depleting, polluting and neglecting it. It would be just if we would collectively sustain nature and give back some of what was taken, and in turn sustain our own lives.
Because environmental justice should be exercised both collectively and individually, I do expect to be willing to keep using cloth towels beyond this semester. This new habit is relatively easy to maintain. While paper towels are very convenient, convenience should not consistently trump environmental responsibility. Cleaning and hanging the cloth towels to dry in between laundry loads would be an added effort, but the benefits clearly outweigh the extra energy I will extend. Even using sponges would be beneficial, as they only need to be discarded after many uses. As it is imperative for all of us to consider how our every day product usage has sweeping effects on our environment, it should always be asked: what paper products do you use that can be replaced with more responsible options?
“How to reduce your paper towel use”The Paperless Project . Sept 4 2016. http://www.thepaperlessproject.com/how-to-reduce-your-paper-towel-use/
“Why your family should quit using paper towels immediately” Inhabitots. Sept 4 http://www.inhabitots.com/why-your-family-should-quit-using-paper-towels-immediately/
“Top 10 benefits of trees” Earth Share. Sept 5 2016. http://www.earthshare.org/2013/07/treebenefits.html