Which Napkins Are The Greenest?

Break Out the Good Linens

November/December 2009

By EatingWell Editors

Which napkins are more environmentally friendly—cloth or paper? For the answer, we asked Pablo Päster, environmental consultant and columnist for treehugger.com, to calculate the impact of setting the table with a year’s worth of napkins. He added up the water resources used and gas emissions produced to grow the raw materials, manufacture the napkins and (for cloth) launder them weekly.

Not so Good

Paper 7.5 pounds of greenhouse-gas emissions** and uses 24.5 gallons of water

Good

Cotton* 3.9 pounds of greenhouse-gas emissions and 43.3 gallons of water

Best

Linen* 1.9 pounds of greenhouse-gas emissions and 8.9 gallons of water

*Cotton is a highly irrigated crop and uses a lot of pesticides while linen napkins are made from the more eco-friendly flax plant. **This excludes the greenhouse-gas emissions associated with the degradation of paper napkins once they go to the landfill.