In May, Dear Husband and I gave up paper towels. We were already buying inexpensive paper towels, and then we were careful not to grab too many for any particular cleaning task. I did the math, and if we never bought paper towels again, we’d only save 36 dollars per year, or 360 dollars over, for example, the next ten years. (Big whoop-de-doo.) But it’s not about the savings.
How much landfill space is needed for 80 paper towels per roll (for our brand) times the number of rolls we use per year times 10 years? Well, it’s 41,600 paper towels over those 10 years . . . sheesh, that’s a big number. But still, at only 0.3mm thickness per sheet (yep, I measured stuff like this back in engineering school), that’s only about 4 cubic feet of waste. Four cubic feet isn’t a significant volume to put into a landfill over 10 years. But it’s not about the landfill.
There are 7.2 ounces per roll (for our brand), And that equals .000225 tons per roll. If it takes 17 trees to make one ton of paper towels with 20,000 gallons of polluted water as a byproduct, DH and I could save 2 trees and prevent 2,340 gallons of water from being polluted if we gave up paper towels for 10 years. (Stats from The Paperless Project. Other citations below.) But it’s not about the trees . . . it could be, but it’s not.
Maybe it’s the effect of all the little things added together to make one, big, accumulated difference. Little things like paper towels and:
- Picking the ordinary toothpaste instead of the multi-multi-benefit toothpaste with the exotic flavor in the flashy packaging and saving 24 dollars per year, 240 over 10 years.
- Making the smaller TV your main television, especially if it has an LED screen and your larger TV has a plasma screen, 72 dollars per year, 720 dollars over 10 years.
- I know you already make your own coffee in the morning rather than buying it from a coffee shop. But if you start drinking it without sugar, you’ll save 9 dollars per year, 90 dollars over 10 years.
- Running the dishwasher every other day instead of every day, 83 dollars per year, 830 dollars over 10 years.
Let’s see, that’s paper towels, toothpaste, TV, sugar, and the dishwasher . . . a savings of 224 dollars per year or 2240 dollars over the next 10 years. I wouldn’t turn my nose up at 224 dollars per year, and 2240 dollars is a sizable wad o’ cash in your back pocket. But it’s not even about the accumulated effect.
What is it about? It’s about Lt. Doug.
When I was in my twenties, Lt. Doug, with whom I worked, was explaining his military training to me. I scoffed at some of the things cadets had to do, like practice “square meals” (a precise way to lift a fork and get the food into their mouth), or march with a brick in their right hand (so they’re sure to know right from left), or learn how to take a two-minute shower, or eat the fruit served at lunch whether or not they like apples. I’m like, “Why couldn’t you use a fork like normal people, prove you know right from left without the humiliation of a brick, wake up three minutes earlier for a five-minute shower, and skip over the fruit on that day’s menu?” I sighed in exasperation. “I mean, what’s the big deal?” Lt. Doug (and sorry, Doug, I’ve forgotten your last name) replied that if you can’t be trusted to do the little things that don’t matter, then you can’t be trusted to do the big things that do matter, even up to life-and-death situations.
I’m sorry to say I brushed him off at the time, but Lt. Doug was right. Since then I’ve learned that the mindset which believes saving money on paper towels does matter is the same mindset which saves thousands of dollars on the big things. A shout out here to two family members who chose their lender carefully and saved over 2500 dollars in closing costs when buying their biggest purchase yet, a house.
Then there are the well-off (or downright rich) who exhibit paper towel mindsets:
- T. Boone Pickens (my mother’s high school classmate, by the way—haha, they called him “T-bone”) grocery shops with a precise list and only the cash for that shopping trip in his wallet, so he can’t be tempted to spend extra for a little treat.
- The most common car of high income Americans is not a fancy sports car or a luxury sedan but a middle-of-the road Ford or Honda. (I wonder. Does that mean most drivers of the fancy cars can’t really afford them?)
- The late billionaire H.L. Hunt cut his own hair and bought suits off the rack.
- And my own parents, after becoming monetarily comfortable, still bought the less expensive powdered milk and diluted it with extra water.
So, actually, it’s about Lt. Doug and our attitude toward spending. It’s about old adages that still give relevant advice, adages like waste not want not, and a penny saved is a penny earned. It’s about the Biblical parable of the talents. It’s about T-bone and my parents. And, in the end, it really is about the paper towels.
Aim toothpaste vs a commonly advertized, long time brand at a purchase rate of 1 tube per month.
Sample TV electricity costs: https://www.cnet.com/news/what-you-need-to-know-about-tv-power-consumption/.
Sugar: Our generic brand, 3 teaspoons sugar in a daily morning mug of java.
Dishwasher costs: http://homeguides.sfgate.com/daily-cost-running-dishwasher-81008.html.
T. Boone Pickens citation: https://www.inc.com/jayson-demers/the-5-most-frugal-habits-of-the-world-s-richest-people.html.
Car citation: http://time.com/money/4676840/what-the-richest-americans-are-driving-now/.
H.L. Hunt citation: http://time.com/money/collection-post/4028663/richest-cheapskates/.
Make this day even better. Consider:
- ARRRRGH! A few of my dear readers keep getting error messages when they try to submit comments, but the comments DO get through. I tried the recommended Bluehost fix, and it worked for comments, but then nothing new would load on the home page. (Frustrating, enough to drive a blogger batty!) So I didn’t know what else to do but unfix the fix. Rest assured, though, that even you get error messages your comments will still be posted.
- And on a lighter note, here’s a link to a YouTuber’s entertaining video explaining his Paper Towel Mindset: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0_4KlxBOv5Q.