Green Paper Towels

Cleaning Up With Eco-Friendly, Recycled Paper Towels

You’ve got a sticky mess and so you reach for a paper towel - it’s quick, convenient, and requires no washing when you’re done. But the waste (environmentally and financially) of disposable paper products can be tremendous, making green paper towels a much better choice if you’re looking for ways to cultivate an eco-friendly home.


Concerns with conventional paper towel products

Let’s start, though, by running down why regular paper towels are a problem for the planet and your pocketbook:

  • Wasted trees: Of the entire paper tissue products market which includes napkins, facial tissues, toilet paper, and sanitary products, paper towels make up 34% and the market for such products continues to grow.(1) Trashed paper towels add up to 3,000 tons of waste in the US every single day!(2) That’s a lot of wasted trees which we need for making oxygen, filtering the air, regulating climate, protecting soil, providing habitat for more than 90% of all land-dwelling species, and more.
  • Costly habit: Consider that if you spend $2 every week on things like paper towels, napkins, disposable mops and sponges, and other one-use cleaning supplies, you are literally throwing away more than $100 every year.
  • Toxic chemicals: Chemicals such as methanol, chlorine dioxide, formaldehyde, and toluene are used to process wood pulp into paper products.(3)
  • Bleach and dioxins: Hydrochloric acid (bleach) is used to whiten paper products like paper towel, which means bleach is flushed into our waterways where it can combine with organic compounds in the environment to form dioxins which are carcinogenic and can cause hormone disruption and immune system toxicity, as well as contribute to a whole host of other health problems including birth defects, increased risk of diabetes, and endometriosis.(4) Dioxins also harm animals and aquatic life, poison air, and contaminate water supplies that we drink. Whitening alternatives using ozone or hydrogen peroxide exist and are much safer (see this guide to Avoiding Chlorine in the Paper Bleaching Process).


Green alternatives to disposable paper towel habit

When it comes right down to it, reusable cleaning products are always more eco-friendly - they reduce the need for new resources being taken from the planet, but landfill waste, and minimize energy and water consumption - and will save you money.


Choosing green paper towels

If you can’t live without disposable paper towels, definitely look into purchasing eco-friendly options that have the following characteristics:

  • FSC-Certified, if possible
  • Processed chlorine-free (PCF)
  • At least 80% post-consumer recycled content

Though you can get up to the minute ratings on the most eco-friendly paper towels from the Natural Resources Defense Council Shopper’s Guide to Home Tissue Products, here are a few brands you can trust for their level of green responsibility:

Many of these products are for sale from Treecycle but can also be found at your local grocery or health food stores.



1 Tissue market continues to grow. (2008, October 31). Retrieved June 17, 2010, from RISI:

2 Greyhawk, S. (n.d.). Paper Towels: 3,000 Tons of Landfill Waste Each Day. Retrieved June 17, 2010, from

3 Natural Resources & Sustainability - Paper Chase. (n.d.). Retrieved June 17, 2010, from Ecology Global Network:

4 Maine's Dioxin Problem: The Paper Mill Connection. (n.d.). Retrieved June 17, 2010, from Natural Resources Council of Maine:

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