Break Out the Good Linens

Break Out the Good Linens

Which napkins are more environmentally friendly-cloth or paper? For the answer, we asked Pablo Päster, environmental consultant and columnist for, 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


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



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



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.

November/December 2009