Let me start out by saying that I am not a proponent of the over-use of paper products in our society. I am far from it. Every household should make an effort to move to cloth wherever possible and most practical to reduce the amount of paper we waste. However, like with every tool ever invented, I feel that every PREPared household needs to stock some paper products.
There are good reasons to curb your over-use of paper products in the PREPared home:
- Trees are killed to just throw away (yes, we’re building new forests as we take them down, but it does seem such a waste for something we just throw in the trash because we’ve dirtied it);
- the chemicals used to make paper, the pollution created in the processes, the bleach and chemicals used to make it home-friendly;
- the fact that we just toss the stuff away. It may degrade, but we still killed a tree to get it there.
Yes, I think every family needs to stock paper plates, paper towels, paper napkins, toilet paper and plastic utensils. Before anyone jumps all over me for being an anti-green, tree hatin’, neocon, environmental science-scoffer, just hear me out!
Why You Need to Stock Paper Products in Your PREPared Home
Every great once in awhile a family gets sick all at once. Whether it’s from rotovirus, norovirus, the flu, or a handful of other highly transmittable diseases, it can attack a family all within a matter of hours. Sharing bathroom towels, not washing utensils or dishes properly or not cleaning linens fully can only help spread that virus. And in the middle of the household epidemic, who wants to do laundry or have extra chores when you’re feeling so awful?
Tip: At the first sign of a viral sickness in our house, we immediately pull out the tissues from the storage closet, the disposable cleaning wipes, and extra toilet paper to fend off cross-contamination where we can.
PORTABILITY & USABILITY
In your emergency kits (72 hour emergency kit or car emergency kit, etc.), you may be able to stock cloth equivalents to ordinary paper supplies. But what you may not be able to do is easily clean them to make them useful to use again. If you don’t have sanitary cleaning supplies or water or equipment to boil laundry, paper supplies might be a better option for short-term portability and usability.
Tip: While our family does use stainless steel utensils and reusable canisters for our water supply, I do choose to stock a roll of TP and paper towels in the car kit and in our emergency bags because it’s just easier for us. I pull out the cardboard tubing to make it easier to squish and store. I also cut the paper towel roll in half.
Extended power from outages due to emergencies may mean that you no longer have access to electricity to run your washing machine/dishwasher, have hot water from your water heater, or the ability create boiling water on your stovetop to boil laundry to clean it or have water hot enough to clean dishes to sanitize them. Long-term emergencies may keep that ability from you for quite awhile.
There are times when an emergency strikes and having reusable products may not be able to get the full job done. Take a neighborhood being wiped out from a weather disaster. If you plan on jumping in to help your neighbors, you may not have enough plates to go around to feed them. You may not have enough family cloth or kitchen cloths to help clean up after them. This is a time when paper products do come in handy. And as with the power outage issue above, you may not have the capaibility to clean after an emergency, and having disposable options may be the best option.
Sometimes, there are just cleaning jobs you are not comfortable using cloth on. For me, it’s vomit and chickens. Those are my lines in the sand when it comes to the choice between using my rag towels and paper towels. I’m going to choose paper (or my disposable cleaning wipes that I keep for these very reasons) every single time. I’m certainly no germaphobe, but these are deal breakers for me. They may not be for you, or you may have other issues (like poo cloths for my husband – they aren’t gonna happen for him). But it’s something to carefully consider when deciding to get rid of paper products all together.
I do not wipe out messy dishes with paper towels before cleaning them. I actually do use a silicon scraper to scrape out the pan into the trash before cleaning. I don’t want that grease and stuff going into my drains, nor gunking up my kitchen towels and washing machine, but I don’t see the point in wasting a paper towel to so it.
Tip: You can make your own disposable cleaning wipes with a homemade cleaning solution and paper towels (for those really messy jobs) if you don’t want one more thing to have to purchase or store or to stay away from those chemicals.
While you may be gung-ho on your switch to no paper products in the home, your friends and extended family may actually be horrified by the idea. The kitchen may not be the battleground you need to face as towels, cloth napkins and washrags are fairly common, but the bathroom may very well be that place. Not only will they not know how to clean themselves with your “going green” processes, they may be horrified by the idea of leaving behind a poo cloth for you to clean after them, or to be exposed to your cloths in the communal bucket. This is a great time to educate, but not a great time to stand your ground with others who aren’t ready to join you.
When I rinse off store bought meats, I need to dry them to help with the cooking process. While I worry mostly about salmonella coming from store bought chickens, I’m not about to also wipe other raw meats with the same kitchen towels that I clean my hands and counters with. It may seem counter-intuitive knowing that those cloths are going into the laundry to be washed and sanitized, but there are just a few instances where I prefer to use a paper towel to do that job, instead. It’s not just a convenience issue – it’s a PREParedness one, too – I don’t want my family to get sick.
Tip: Keep a silicone scraper handy to scrap out the greasy remains from a frying pan into the trash instead of gunking up your kitchen sink or washing machine by using a rag towel, or wasting paper towel or three in the process.
You can be conscientious in your choices of paper products to store and use in your home by purchasing environmentally friendly products, not purchasing styrofoam, getting recyclable plasticware, etc. You can also keep your paper products stored out of the way so they aren’t convenient to use. We go through a paper towel roll every two months or so, and have cut down on toilet paper to 1/3 of what we were using before by switching to cloth. (See some of the alternatives to toilet paper here.) But don’t completely rule out the use of paper products, which are a huge convenience for sure, to help better PREPare your home.