Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Paper Fetish

Like many a lady, The Frugal Hostess admits to a certain fetish for paper. Stationery and art supplies knock her socks off, and she knows the difference between an A2 and an A4 envelope. Please don’t show her any embellished file folders or odd-shaped paper clips, or she’ll be forced to purchase them. In fact, TFH is one of the few people on earth who enjoys wrapping Christmas presents. All of this paper is expensive, though, and not just financially. The production of paper causes air pollution, solid waste, water and energy consumption, and all manner of unnecessary trouble. Check here and here and here and here for details. So what is a frugal fetishist to do? Well, in the case of The Frugal Hostess, she has decided to try to make some compromises that allow her to indulge her paper fantasies while positively impacting the environmental realities. First, here are the easy ones.
1. Change from regular to recycled toilet paper. If every household in the United States replaced just one roll of virgin fiber toilet paper (500 sheets) with 100% recycled ones, we could save 423,900 trees. Keep in mind that all brands are most decidedly not created equal, and TFH does not want you to suffer. She recommends Seventh Generation, which is softer than most and 100% recycled (80% post-consumer).
2. Limit yourself to one or two rolls of recycled paper towels per month
(yes, you heard correctly). Take all of your stained bath towels and cut them into rags. Do the same with old tee-shirts. And buy a stack of matching dish towels that are attractive enough to hang in plain site but cheap enough that staining them will not break your heart. Get out the cloth napkins you have, and/or buy some that meet the above attractive but cheap qualifications. Then, when you spill something, wipe it up with a washable rag. When you eat dinner (or lunch, or breakfast), wipe your mouth with a cloth napkin. Clean your furniture with tee-shirt rags. You get it. You might need paper towels for a few things, like soaking up bacon grease or killing a roach, but most things that you use paper towels for are better accomplished using their washable siblings.

3. Switch sides.
Of your printer paper, that is. Use a box or tray to collect paper that’s blank on one side. Cut some into quarters that you staple together to make notepads, and use the rest for scratch sheets and coloring canvasses.

Now, slightly harder:
One of the more difficult projects The Frugal Hostess undertook last Christmas was to use only recycled wrapping supplies for her gifts (that may be why she talks about that so much on this blog, now that she thinks about it). In addition to reusing gift bags and tissue, TFH collected brown paper grocery bags on days when she forgot her cloth ones (they still have them, many with convenient handles). When the time came to wrap gifts, she carefully unglued the seams of the paper bags to make the biggest pieces possible, then cut them to size for her gifts. Using a snowflake stamp and some silver ink, TFH dotted each gift with a random dusting of snowflakes, and she tied them each with a piece of shiny, real ribbon. These were pretty cute, and they accomplished the no new wrapping paper goal.

However, this year, TFH has started collecting the bags early, and she’s planning to try out some more complicated techniques. She’s thought about sponge painting – not the faux finish kind popular in the 1990s. TFH plans to dilute paint with water, dip a sponge in it, and make wide stripes of color on the bags. If she does this far enough in advance, the paper will have plenty of time to dry. She’s also thought about using punches to cut out shapes, which she will back with recycled tissue paper. This should give the gift some texture and visual interest.

What other things could The Frugal Hostess do to brown paper bags to make them more exciting as gift wrap? Leave your ideas in the comments, and look for a post about this project in the next few weeks.

photo by Lara604

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