I’m taking a break from my post-Guatemala reflections to write something a little lighter. Today I’m guest-posting for one of my very favorite bloggers, Addie Zierman. She’s hosting a series called One Small Change, about small steps we can make toward a more just world. Today I’m sharing about how and why I made the big switch from paper napkins to cloth. Here’s a sneak peek.
When I moved to San Francisco four years ago, I was recycler. I was passionate about picking trash off the ground. And I felt a lot of guilt for using disposable diapers. But that was as far as my environmental awareness had taken me. Those feelings hadn’t forced me into any big lifestyle changes. It wasn’t all that hard to put the plastic in the plastic bin.
Living in San Francisco changed that. And probably not in the way you might assume. Of course, it’s a cliche that people love their clean air and electric cars around here, but I never really felt like environmental consciousness was forced down my throat.
It was just…there. Literally, outside my window there was the green bin. A whole bin just as big as the blue recycle bin and the black landfill bin! And I was supposed to fill it! The idea of composting was entirely new to me. So I watched people. I bought some compost bags. I got fruit flies in my kitchen. I got frustrated.
And then I made friends. I never talked composting or sustainability with those friends. I just spent time at their homes and saw how they lived with children in their tiny apartments. I saw how they used compost bins with proper lids (so as to avoid the fruit flies). I watched my friend Leah use cloths to wipe her kids’ noses. I watched Katie’s son spill his milk and saw her quick response to clean it with a rag.
Like every other kid in the eighties, I grew up with paper towels everywhere. We wiped our mouths with paper napkins, cleaned our spills with paper towels, ate our lunches on paper plates. And I continued that way of life all the way through my twenties. But, as is usually the case when you leave the culture you know and begin to live in an entirely different sort, I began to recognize that my paper consumption might not be the best thing for the earth.