April 09, 2019

A Surprising Addition Makes Cloth Napkins More Sustainable

A Surprising Addition Makes Cloth Napkins More Sustainable

We love cloth napkins because they are soft, absorbent and beautiful. Whether you are eating alone or setting a table for a party, that little touch of color makes every meal luxurious. But we also feel good because we know that we are keeping paper napkins out of the landfills. “Wait,” you say, “It’s true that paper means cutting down trees and creating waste. But what about the water you use washing the napkins? Isn’t that also polluting?”

We admit, we’ve looked long and hard to find definitive statistics that satisfy the eternal paper vs. cloth debate, comparing the energy and water used to produce single use paper with the energy and water used by washing our reusable cloth napkins. Sadly, the answer seems to be, it depends. However, we’ve noticed that the statistics seem to assume that the loads of laundry are additional – only filled with napkins. In our experience, the napkins are being washed in loads that would be run through the machine anyway. We know that running a partially filled load is an enormous waste of water and energy, but particularly if you don’t have a big household, you find yourself running a load with a little extra room — just right for a couple napkins! This is particularly true of our sturdy solid and striped napkins, which require no special care. And we even save energy by not ironing our everyday napkins. (Just kidding. We don’t iron them because we hate ironing.)

But maybe you are already scrupulous about waiting until you have a full load, or you have a new machine that adjusts water and laundering time to the size of the load. There is still a way you can make using cloth napkins even more sustainable – our handwoven and embroidered napkin ties.

Back in the day, before paper napkins were invented, or widely available, the only option was cloth napkins, and sometimes the only laundry was hand laundry. Napkins weren’t washed after every meal — instead, they were tucked into a napkin ring and left at the user’s place, ready for the next meal. To ensure that your napkin wasn't mixed up with someone else’s, you might have a personalized napkin ring, with a unique design or monogram. You might find that you could use your napkin for a number of meals before it needed to be laundered. 

“Great,” you say, “but who has heirloom silver napkin rings, let alone the time to polish them for everyday use?” That’s where our beautiful Celebration napkin ties come in! Each set of 4 or six comes in a matching background color, with unique embroidery in traditional designs and colors based on the Maya cosmology. Woven on the traditional backstrap loom, the napkin ties showcase the weavers’ artistry and creativity.

Mayamam Weavers Backstrap Weavers Guatemala

Everyone can choose their favorite design for their napkin. If your dinner table is your desktop during the day – tiny homes, anyone? — the napkins can be set aside, even made part of your open shelf decorations.  And our napkin ties require minimal upkeep and can be thrown in the laundry should they become soiled.

Best of all, the napkin ties come in range of colors for every decorating theme. Have fun mixing and matching! You can feel good about indulging yourself in beautiful, handwoven, 100% cotton napkins, knowing you are supporting women paid Fair Trade wages that support their families, and contributing to preserving their cultural [artistic] traditions — AND contributing to a sustainable future for all of us.