Kitchen roll is that other so-called kitchen staple. It’s undeniably very useful. However, as a single-use and disposable product packaged in plastic, it isn’t the greenest. Dirty kitchen roll is also not recyclable. However, don’t worry, I’ve got four eco-friendly alternatives that are kind to the planet, and still pull their weight in the kitchen.
The Eco-Friendly Alternatives to Kitchen Roll
If you’re ready and looking to make the switch, then I’ve got some great zero-waste and eco-friendly alternatives to kitchen roll up my sleeve for you!
If you’re not ready, pop back later when you’re ready, no pressure! When it comes to green living my all-time number one tip is to make one small green switch at a time. It’s much less overwhelming. And it’s so much easier to find a starting point, rather than trying to green all the things all at the same time.
Go Kitchen Roll-Less
One of my easiest eco-friendly alternatives to kitchen roll is to keep a drawer or basket filled with cloths.
My working mum’s budget doesn’t stretch to having a basket full of organic cloths. As such, I buy cheap as chips cotton cloths from the supermarket or from Wilko when I find them minimally packaged. Anything that’s not single-use paper towel is a big positive in my eyes, so I don’t feel guilty about it. If it’s what you can afford then don’t feel guilty either.
For an even more frugal and green approach, you can also cut up old clothes or towels that are way past their best, and use them as kitchen roll alternatives too. If you’ve got a sewing machine you might want to stitch the edges with a simple and quick running stitch to prevent fraying.
To use, I just grab a cloth when I need to wipe a spill, or for any other kitchen roll related task. I then pop the dirty cloth in the washing machine when I’m done. Job done.
Make Your Own Kitchen Roll
A random pile of cloths stacked up in your kitchen perhaps doesn’t appeal to your aesthetics. Or perhaps you want an eco-friendly alternative to kitchen roll that still looks like kitchen roll. I understand this, as sometimes it easier to make the leap to reusables if things look the same.
The good news is that there are heaps of reusable kitchen roll tutorials out there. This one, from A Beautiful Mess, is pretty comprehensive.
If you aren’t particularly crafty or are too time poor (me, on both counts!), then thankfully you can buy a roll of reusable kitchen roll on Etsy. This one*, from Earth Kind Creations on Etsy, is pretty and practical.
Use A Plate
I have a feeling you will either be with me or not on this one. When I was growing up in the 1980’s my mum often served us food on a piece of kitchen roll. A sandwich, or toasted cheese, or a bit of cake, it was always served up on a piece of kitchen roll. I’m not dissing my mum. She worked full time and didn’t have time to be doing a constant stream of dishes that 3 kids create. Kitchen roll plates it was. Was that just us or did you do that too?
This one was so ingrained on me. I honestly thought it was the MAIN use of kitchen roll! Therefore, it took me a long time to break this one, but now I always serve food up on a plate. It helps that we have a dishwasher!
Reusable Napkins As A Kitchen Roll Alternative
This one is another throwback from my childhood. For my packed lunches my mum wrapped my sandwiches in kitchen roll. Alternatively, she popped a bit of folded up kitchen roll in my lunchbox to either mop up any leakages or to act as a napkin. I do this for my own kids now, whenever I make them a packed lunch, but with washable napkins.
Pro tip: dark coloured napkins are king at hiding an all manner of food stains!
We’ve carried out a bedroom renovation to make our space super energy efficient. Want to have a peak?
First, here’s the back story. In May, we started work on our bedroom renovatio project. The room hadn’t been touched in years and years. When we moved in there was a huge hole in the wall from a (now fixed) leak at some point in the past. The cupboard was off its hinges. And the carpet was threadbare (and laid without underlay), so needless to say some refreshing of the decor was long overdue.
Our Bedroom Renovation Before
This is how it looked before renovation, it was pretty awful:
It’s worth noting that our old bed had already been listed on Gumtree at this point! I’d also started emptying the cupboard when I took these photos. We didn’t store random rubbish in the corner (promise!).
And this was how it looked the day before the builder started on our bedroom renovation. You can see our fantastic cupboard!
We lived in this state of disrepair for three years and a half years. Which I feel deserves some explanation because I’m sure you’re thinking most reasonable people would have decorated this mess not long after moving in.
The Whole Sorry Tale
Although we had lots of plans for decor when we first moved in, we were hindered by undertaking any of them by the fact that the loft conversion, where our bedroom is, was carried out without planning permission.
We knew that there was no planning permission when we bought the house. And we knew that we could work with the Council to gain retrospective planning permission. At the time of purchase, we naively thought this would be a fairly straightforward process and it didn’t intimidate us. How wrong we were.
We lived in our house for 10 months before moving forward on the retrospective planning permission. In true Grand Designs style, I became pregnant within a month of moving into our house and was so ill that we just couldn’t contemplate doing anything until our littlest one came along. Consequently, we put everything on hold, save for some renovations downstairs.
One of the good things about living somewhere for a little while before doing anything is that we realised an upstairs bathroom would be a very good thing. So in early 2016 we employed the services of an architect to a) draw up the plans for the new bathroom and submit the planning permission request, and b) work on the retrospective planning application on our behalf.
This turned out to a very good idea. Our architect kindly offered to cap his fee on the retrospective planning application, saying it wouldn’t be a lot of work on his behalf. This also turned out to be a very good idea.
Through aerial photographs, the Council determined our extension was carried out in the early 1980s. This meant the Council required us to carry out the remedial works the property required to 1981 building standards. The Council remained vague on what this meant in practice, so what followed was 1.5 YEARS of thrashing out between the Council and our architect exactly what remedial works were required. Thank goodness for that capped fee, otherwise, fees would have spiraled and we would have to have called the whole renovation works off.
Finally, at the end of 2017, after much wrangling, we had our planning permission secured for the extension and a building warrant granted for the extension and our remedial works. Hooray!
Here’s What The Builder Did In Our Bedroom Renovation
The work required was beyond our skillset, so we hired a builder for our bedroom renovation. We certainly kept him busy – here’s what he did:
removed all the existing plasterboard walls and ceilings.
installed new flat roofs on the dormer windows (both turned out to be rotten, so this was an unexpected expense).
installed vents in our roof (part of the retrospective planning permission requirements).
fitted insulation to the walls and ceilings (there was no insulation previously, which is why all the plasterboard and ceilings had to come down. The Council said we could have gone for 1981 standards, but we went for 2018 standards on the insulation. This cost us more but after a few years of living here we found the rooms upstairs are freezing in winter and boiling in summer, so this was money worth spending).
fitted rockwool insulation under the floorboards
rewired upstairs and switched to LED lighting (the rewiring was again part of the retrospective planning permission requirements)
fitted foil backed plasterboard for further heat retention in winter
plastered, painted, fitted skirting boards and new radiators
build a new cupboard for us
In short, everything in the bedroom is new save for the window and the floorboards! It’s also incredibly energy efficient so should keep us a lot warmer in winter, and save on our heating bills big time.
Decor-wise, it’s a tiny bedroom. We opted for the smallest bedroom so our daughters can have a big room to play in. Therefore, there isn’t much we can do with the space, so we concentrated on the basics for our bedroom renovation.
Our biggest consideration when decorating the bedroom was our bed, as a double bed takes up two-thirds of the room. Our old bed was a standard double bed. Although you can’t see from the before photo, we stored our clothes under it, in storage tubs. This meant, due to walls on either side of the bed, we could only utilise the bottom half of the bed. Losing all of this storage space meant we needed a separate set of drawers. The storage boxes also looked a bit messy.
So, with the works complete, we gave the old bed away on Gumtree to a lovely lady. Instead, we opted for a beautiful ottoman bed and fabric headboard, kindly gifted to us from Silentnight:
Why An Ottoman?
Our ottoman bed is the bee’s knees. We opted for a full ottoman, so this means we can utilise the whole of the underbed area for our clothes storage. This frees up the need for us to have a chest of drawers. The mattress flips up and underneath we both have separate storage areas for all of our clothes. As well as being incredibly practical for our small space, it’s a truly beautiful bed and headboard, both of which are handmade in the UK.
As well as the made in the UK aspect of the bed, what also impressed me is that Silentnight holds a wide array of eco-credentials. From receiving the Furniture Makers’ Company Sustainability Award for 2017. To being an independently certified carbon neutral organisation. To having been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®). And to be the first bed company to be accredited under the Furniture Industry Sustainability Programme, which aims to improve the furniture industry’s sustainability credentials. There’s more right this way, but in short: It’s a lot. This is on top of the fact that Silentnight diverts 90% of their waste from landfill.
The mattress was also gifted to us from Silentnight. We opted for the Eco Comfort Breathe Pocket 2000 in ‘softer’ from their newly launched Eco Comfort Breathe Range. Gosh, it’s good. 150 recycled plastic bottles go into each mattress’s polyester filling, diverting these bottles from landfill or the oceans, which is pretty impressive.
Whilst sleeping on plastic doesn’t sound the most comfortable, I can assure you, we are getting some of the best night’s sleep ever around here. The Eco Comfort Breathe mattress is incredibly comfortable and supportive. Although we have the softer mattress it’s not too soft and not too hard. It just hits the perfect sweet spot. As a light sleeper, I used to get woken up when my partner moves because the mattress would move too. Now, the mattress doesn’t move when he moves and I don’t wake up.
Meanwhile, unlike some memory foam mattresses that leave you feeling hot and sticky, the Silentnight Eco Comfort Breathe mattress employs their special Microclimate sleep system. This is a three-layer system for enhanced breathability. This helps prevents you from overheating and helps wick moisture away from you. Talk about feeling refreshed when you wake up!
Moving away from the bed, we used to have curtains in here. However, they weren’t ideal – trapping damp against the walls at either side. Instead, after our bedroom renovation we opted for a made-to-measure blackout roller blind. We sourced ours online and make no sustainability claims from the company we bought it from. I found it too tricky to source ethically and sustainably produced made-to-measure blinds, so if you come across any companies do let me know!
As part of our bedroom renovation works, our builder created our lovely built-in mini wardrobe for us. Prior to the works starting the door was off its hinges and the cupboard wasn’t lined, so was a huge damp trap. The cupboard was previously much shorter too, losing a whole lot of storage space. Therefore the builder opened up the space heightwise a bit more for us to be able to create a mini wardrobe. He also created some useful shelves in there too. At some point, we’ll add a hanging rail, but we all know the greatest projects take time!
The only other storage unit we have in the bedroom is an old cabinet. I picked up over 10 years ago from Oxfam, for £15. It’s a bit knackered, and cost us more to get it delivered than it was to buy it! It was initially darkly varnished and didn’t have any lace on it. About eight years ago I painted it (badly!) in Farrow and Ball eggshell paint and fixed some lace to cover the glass panels. I know some people are completely against the idea of painting old furniture, but it never really fit in with our existing furniture. After painting it fits perfectly, so I always say do it if it feels right!
Other Items In Our Bedroom Renovation
Although we replaced so much of the room during the bedroom renovation works, we wanted to make the most of the items we already owned for the decoration. The wicker laundry basket is an old one from John Lewis, and likewise, the mirror is an old one from Ikea, both of which we brought with us from the old house when we moved. Our bed linen is also old, from Habitat.
What we did buy new was a wicker lampshade from B&Q. I tried to buy a vintage wicker lampshade on eBay but I couldn’t find one that was small enough to fit the space. It needed to be short, so we don’t bang our head on it too much. When I saw this 20cm one in B&Q I knew it was the one – although I would have preferred a secondhand one.
I’m trying to source an antique mirror for the bedroom wall, and I have some old lights to go beside the bed. At some point, I’ll add a picture to the wall. However, at the moment we’re not in a rush. We’re just content to live in the lovely space and work out what will be right for the walls.
We’re not too sure what to do with the floors. After the bedroom renovation our builder sanded them in case we want to paint the floorboards. However, I’m quite taken with the rustic look of them. My partner wants to carpet the room, but I’m not convinced. Again, we’ll live with it for a little while before deciding what to do!
And there we have it – our bedroom and probably what are the most words ever written on the tiniest bedroom in the world!
I'm Wendy and welcome to Moral Fibres, a UK based eco blog. I'm a sustainability expert, and my aim is to make sustainability simple, by researching and writing on all things environmental - from product guides to breaking down big ideas - so you don't have to.
As well as the blog I've also written a book on natural cleaning - Fresh Clean Home is out now!
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