My kids don’t sleep so I spend many nights reading short articles about this or watching short YouTube videos of that, in an attempt to not fall asleep in the rocking chair with the toddler again and wake up with a stiff back and a panic that I could have dropped him.
And one of the topics that I’ve found myself drawn to is “Zero Waste”. I think, in part, because it reminds me of Vision Zero, an international road safety campaign which strives to reduce road casualties to zero. Everyone knows that it’ll never actually be zero, but aim for zero and you’re more likely to get as close to zero as humanly possible.
There are a few really amazing people who manage to live truly zero-waste lives, totally off-grid, growing their own food and re-purposing any waste for something else. For the rest of us, though, “Zero Waste” is aspirational. We know that this is not realistic given how our mainstream society is structured at the moment but, by aspiring to zero waste, we can significantly reduce our footprint on the world.
So I want to briefly talk about tea towels and the beginning of my own zero waste journey. Yes, tea towels.
We bought a stack of ELLY tea towels from Ikea and then liked them so much that we bought another stack. They cost next to nothing and they get used for EVERYTHING. We used to go through quite a few rolls of paper towels but we haven’t bought any in years and I think we still have a few rolls in the cupboard. We’ve got two young kids who make A LOT of mess and so we use a few of them a day to mop up messes, wipe faces, use as bibs, and occasionally actually dry dishes.
We do the laundry often enough that they very rarely get musty smelling in the wet/soiled pail in the corner of the dining room. I think it helps that the pail is actually a wire mesh wastepaper basket so they do breathe a bit — we typically throw cloths and towels over the edge of it until they’re dry and then knock them in.
We regularly use them as bibs — we just drape it over their front, and peg two corners behind their neck with a clothespeg. If you do the narrow edge around their neck, the length of the tea towel covers their whole front AND laps. They’re not waterproof and they don’t cover sleeves but they catch the vast majority of a spilled meal or drink and can just be tossed into the laundry pail. They can also be used to wipe faces and hands after the meal is over if they’re still clean-ish, and mop up the inevitable mess on the floor (because toddlers….)!
Use, pail, wash, dry, fold, repeat, for years! It’s a little thing — but it’s an aspiration and I’d like to think we’re headed in the right direction.