Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Picking a Nit

As my faithful reader knows, I'm a fan of the "Tightwad Gazette" volumes 1-3.
One of the things the author, Amy Dacyczyn (spelling?), did now and then when
she was still publishing her newsletter (later bundled and sold as the
volumes) was to figure savings of real and hypothetical tightwad moves.

The calculation that is bothering me is the savings of using cloth vs paper
napkins. She came up with a savings of a penny or two per napkin use event if
one uses cloth napkins, especially if said napkins were obtained for free
(which mine were) or made from other items like old t-shirts or sheets.
She figured the per napkin cost of purchasing paper napkins and the per napkin
cost of laundering cloth ones. There were assumptions like one would not put
cloth napkins in the dryer (thus saving the cost of electricity or gas for
that) and that one paper napkin per person per meal is used.
I think one of her assumptions was flawed and resulted in calculating a
savings that is lower than it should be.

She assumed that cloth napkins would be laundered after each use.
When I was in France each person had a particular napkin ring and the cloth
napkins were returned to a drawer after each meal and taken out again for the
next. They were used for a week before laundered. I use mine now several
times before laundering, but I probably don't go a whole week. Anyway, I
probably get 8-10 meals per napkin before laundering.

SO: the savings for me would be comparable to not using 8-10 paper napkins vs
using 1 paper napkin.
I'm not positive, but I think there is also a net benefit to the environment
by washing cloth napkins rather than using paper which must be manufactured
each time.

Thanks to Pam for the first dozen napkins, Aunt Chris for the formal napkins
and tea towel with horses on them, and to Aunt Billie for the hand embroidered
napkins. So, I have 20 cloth napkins. The fancy ones get less use than the
industrial dozen, but with 20 I've never run out. They wash well with the 3
or 4 dozen thin cotton dishtowels (mostly embroidered with days of the week)
and various dish clothes (no disposable sponges...not just because they cost
money but also because I'm too hard on them and they disintegrate in a few
days of use).

If I knew how much paper napkins costs I could calculate the savings but Amy
already did that anyway and I know I'm saving several times more than she
calculated so that's good enough.

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