My post about making cloth napkins generated a crazy amount of emails from readers who wanted to know how we managed to live without paper towels and paper napkins, and why. The short answer to why is that I can bear the idea of spending money on something that will be garbage as soon as you use it. Paper towels aren’t cheap, even when you buy them in bulk at Costco, and they take up a lot of storage space.

And, of course, I was never entirely comfortable with waste of paper pulp that goes into making them, not to mention that the bleach used in the process isn’t so great for the environment.

So when we made the move from Martha’s Vineyard to Virginia last year, I decided to try to give up paper towels. I’m not going to lie; it was harder than I thought it would be in the beginning. I reached for paper towels a dozen times a day in the first couple of weeks. But with in a month, everyone at the farm was completely on-board and, honestly, we don’t miss paper towels at all.

If you’re considering going paper towel free, I suggest buying a couple dozen dish towels to keep in rotation. We use dish towels for big spills, drying dishes and drying hands after washing. For small spills and general clean up, I keep a stack of these non-paper towels in a drawer by the sink and use them exactly as I would paper towels. (I’ve ordered about four dozen of them from this seller and I’ve been really pleased with them.) UPDATED AGAIN 4:47 p.m. 7/9/2010: Athena Creates has the non-paper towels back in stock.

We keep a dedicated laundry basket on top of the washing machine and toss the non-paper towels, dish towels and the cloth napkins we use at meals in as they get soiled. Since washing small loads of dish towels would probably negate all the environmental do-gooding we’re attempting by not using paper towels, I only wash kitchen items when I have a full load. That’s why it’s important to have lots of dish towels and non-paper towels ready to go before you attempt to give up the paper version. If it isn’t convenient you will probably break down and go back to paper.

P.S. I loaded up with peaches and tomatoes at the Farmers Market today for canning. Tune in for the rest of this week for jam and sauce making!