Katie Stern was working in fabrics when she discovered Swedish dishcloths – 70% wood cellulose, 30% cotton, and 100% compostable

Creative designer Katie Stern was working in fabrics when she discovered Swedish dishcloths – 70% wood cellulose, 30% cotton, and 100% compostable. Based in Wisconsin, US, her business and home life now put the environment first.

Over the years, living in our small town in Wisconsin’s Northwoods – with nearby Wisconsin’s Green Bay itself a Mecca in the global tissue industry – have encouraged me to become as environmentally- aware as I’d ever been, and be aware of the products I use in my business and also at home.

I have been a cake decorator, a critical care nurse (think heart transplant and emergency room settings), an insurance health care adjuster, and finally a creative and a professor who tackled Photoshop before my small town of 8,000 people had even heard the term. But when I retired from teaching computer graphics, I looked at designs from an environmental standpoint, and a whole new world emerged.

I became a surface pattern designer and watched how many designers print their designs onto plastic this, plastic that … always often plastic. They were fun to see, but not great for the environment to print and sell. It didn’t take long before I was looking for eco-friendly products to use in my own business. One day I came across Swedish dish cloths, which contain 70% wood cellulose, 30% cotton, and are 100% compostable. They are also very absorbent, highly efficient, long-lasting, and strong enough to tackle a wide variety of jobs.

Now, my favourite printing medium is the Swedish dish cloth. My eco-friendly nature loves that it is compostable, and that these approximate 6.5” x 8” rectangles are stiff when dry but turn into spongy cloths when wet. Ironically, before I found Swedish dish cloths, I had spent very little time thinking about which tissue products to buy at home and at work. My interest is now sparked!

I love the perforated paper towels that give me half a towel each. If they could be torn into quarter- sized towels, I’d be even happier. I’m constantly trying to estimate how much paper towel I need for a job and tearing off just enough for that job. I internally shudder when I’ve taken more than what’s needed.

Katie Stern was working in fabrics when she discovered Swedish dishcloths – 70% wood cellulose, 30% cotton, and 100% compostable

And I’ll let you into a secret. My favourite paper towel brand is Bounty, with its select-a-size option. I’ve also seen Seventh Generation on our shelves. Other than that, the words on the packaging are totally confusing. What’s a double plus roll? A double roll? A reliable giant roll? An ultra roll? Triple rolls? It’s tricky to choose one over another. But you know what hear on TV? Bounty. The quicker picker- upper. It’s in my brain and won’t let go. And that’s why I buy Bounty.

I also love a Kleenex-type tissue, and consider it to be an extravagant treat. A square or two of toilet paper works just as well and seems less wasteful (I’ve never calculated that, though). But a Kleenex tissue is soft, absorbent, almost creamy. And those boxes! I’ll definitely go for the best-designed box that fits the décor of my busy home. At home I store those boxes in a safe closet where they’ll be in good shape when company arrives. It is literally saved for special occasions in this house.

Katie Stern was working in fabrics when she discovered Swedish dishcloths – 70% wood cellulose, 30% cotton, and 100% compostable

We had the typical shortage of paper towels and toilet paper during Covid. My husband and I are both over 65 with health issues, so we quarantined ourselves in our home and didn’t leave. I ordered my groceries and home supplies online. I was stunned when I saw the long list of “unavailable” tissue products online. Suddenly our old cotton dish cloth was used for many more jobs that had previously been delegated to paper towels.

When the shortage subsided somewhat, I saw a shift from small (one or two) packages of rolls to megarolls. The more, the better. They take up an enormous amount of shelf space, sticking out into the aisles as if ready to jump into my cart. So I bought a big six-roll paper towel package. I think we’re set for at least six months. Same for toilet paper.

Now that the Covid crisis is settling down, I’m seeing more paper towels with post-consumer recycled materials, which I really like. The 100% recycled products intrigue me, but scarcity comes into my mind. If I get them once in a small quantity to try them out, what happens when I run low? In today’s world, small quantities in the house are the exact definition of scarcity. And do I have any reason to buy a small 100% recycled package and our mega- rolls available here and now? That feels like gluttony. Trying something new doesn’t fit my new parameters, despite my attention to the environment.

Because of Covid, I have stocked up on all our tissue needs in case we or guests need them. And I still have those beautiful boxes!


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