Reusing Cloth Napkins?

Cynthia Dermody

reusing cloth napkinsThe following is a guest post by Ideal Bite's Mama Bite Editor Alison Neumer Lara

When I was 14, I spent the summer studying French in Strasbourg, Alsace. An amazing six weeks to be sure, but what sticks with me today -- far more than my ability to conjugate verbs -- is that my French "family" lived a green lifestyle I'd never seen in the U.S. in 1991. 

No air conditioning necessary. Instead, they opened windows at night to cool down the house and shaded them during the heat of the day. Children and parents vigilantly turned off lights when they left a room. They also drove a compact car, showered briefly (if a bit rarely for my taste, sorry ...), and, most memorably, reused cloth napkins for a full week.

Yep, a week. Each member of the family had his or her own initialed napkin ring and, barring a messy disaster at the table, each napkin returned to its placeholder ring at the end of the meal until laundry day (in an efficient washer, natch).

They avoided paper napkins and paper towels, a waste of trees (and money), as well as needless frequent washing and drying of cloth ones, which sucks up water and energy. It also struck me as pretty chic (as did everything French at that point, but still).

I don't have a nifty napkin ring with my name on it or anything, but it's something I still practice, convinced my husband to do, and plan to teach my daughter. Now if I could only give up my facial tissue habit ...

Would you consider switching to cloth napkins, and assigning one to each member of the family to use for a week before washing?

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