What about paper towels? Do they compost? Can they be recycled? If so, how clean must they be? ~Recycler

Dear Recycler,

Like tissue paper, most paper towels are made from recycled paper. Thus, they have fibers that are too short to be recycled again. However, these short fibers make paper towels a great candidate for the compost pile. Just be sure there is no grease or chemicals on them. As a single-use product, paper towels most often end up in the trash and eventually in the landfill. Microfiber cloths or cloth rags from your ragbag are excellent alternatives to paper towels. These cloths can be used for multiple household tasks and tossed into the washing machine. They can be reused many times. If you do purchase paper towels, be sure they are made out of recycled paper. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), “If every household in the United States replaced just one roll of virgin fiber paper towels (70 sheets) with 100% recycled ones, we could save 544,000 trees.” When purchasing any paper products, it is recommended that you purchase ones that are whitened without chlorine bleach or are unbleached. The chlorine used to bleach paper products is harmful to the environment and can be detrimental to human health. According to the San Mateo County RecycleWorks, “The bleaching of paper, whether virgin or recycled, is the leading cause of toxic water pollution in the U.S.”

I receive so many catalogs for products in which I have no interest. I was told that a web site existed that could stop these catalogs from coming. Do you know the name of the website? ~Too Many Catalogs

Dear Too Many Catalogs,

Yes, there is such a website. It is Catalogchoice.org. They will help you “reduce unwanted mail, opt-out of catalogs, and remove your name from mailing lists.” It’s simple and free and will help you stop waste, reduce clutter and save natural resources. I have eliminated many catalogs using this website and highly recommend it.

I found some Wool Dryer Balls at Walmart the other day that are supposed to reduce drying time and are reusable. Do you know anything about them? ~Sounds Good

Dear Sounds Good,

I haven’t used the wool balls yet, but after I read your question I went to Walmart and purchased some. These balls are made of 100% sheep’s wool with no chemicals added. They are clearly sustainable and environmentally friendly. The balls work by bouncing around in your dryer and separating the clothes. This bouncing increases the hot air flow which shortens drying time and saves on energy. My research says they soften clothes naturally and reduce winkles, lint and pet hair. All this, plus they save you money as they can be used several hundred times and dryer sheets are not needed. Sounds like a win-win to me. Readers, if you have used these balls, please let us know if they are as good as they sound. recyclelady@greenbrier-swa.com