Cloth Napkins — This Season's Hottest Accessory

by Katy on June 13, 2008 · 4 comments

What’s small, square, flexible and happy to be smeared with food? No, it’s not your seventh grade best friend. It’s the lowly cloth napkin.

We have been greening our house to try and rid ourselves of the disposable goods habit.

Paper towels? Adios!

Bottled water? Never!

Paper napkins? Be gone!

Using cloth napkins saves trees and cuts an unnecessary never-ending expense from your grocery bill. 

We have a motley collection of cloth napkins. Some I received as gifts, others were picked up secondhand, and the rest made from old tablecloths. We use them with every meal. Formal feasts, kid’s birthday parties and everything in between. They add something special to our meals, and I’ve noticed that my sons’ friends sit up a little straighter and use their good manners when they are invited to dine at Casa Wolk-Stanley.

Many eschew cloth napkins because of the perceived maintenance. The extra laundry. Would I have to iron them?  They can be added to existing laundry loads, and I have yet to hear a complaint about wrinkles. (Botox for the cloth napkin set?)

Note: If a napkin is particularly greasy, I’ll wait to wash it until I’m laundering towels or sheets. Otherwise they put grease stains on our clothes. I’m perfectly capable of adding grease stains to my wardrobe without any extra help, thank you very much.

Colin Beavan, a.k.a. “No Impact Man,” brings his own cloth napkins when he dines out. Although I do like this idea, I have yet to remember this practice when I take that rare restaurant voyage. I do bring one for my work lunches, though.

So let’s be clear on this. Cloth napkins:

  • Good for Planet Earth. No de-forestation required.
  • One-time expense, maybe even free if you put your creative skills to use, such as scamming from mom or sewing your own.

So next time you make out your grocery list, omit the paper napkins. It’s a small sacrifice towards a greater goal.

-Katy Wolk-Stanley


“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Alexis Ahrens June 14, 2008 at 9:28 am

Love this post! We have used cloth napkins for years, but I think most people find this odd unless it’s a for a fancy dinner. Our 20-month-old son even has one on his lap while he eats in his highchair.

Great reminder for everyone!


Andy Goodell June 19, 2008 at 5:34 pm

One of my first steps to living lighter was not buying anything that was meant to be disposable. It’s just a terrible habit people have to buy that sort of junk.

Frankly, I was surprised when I read from NIM’s blog that he cut down to only going out once a week. Sheesh, that sounds like a lot of wasted money to me, but it’s good if he is pushing those places he goes to towards getting used to more people bringing their own containers and cloth napkins.


thenonconsumeradvocate June 19, 2008 at 7:22 pm

Yes, No Impact Man is eating out once a week. But have you ever lived in NYC? The restaurant options are incredible! And many are super-cheap.

Although I do live in Portland, Oregon now, my downfall is ethnic restaurants. The food I’m able to get there is simply not reproducible in my kitchen.

One word — Sushi.

The Non-Consumer Advocate


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