Bounty Towels: The Crystal Meth of Paper Products


In general, I am not one to brag; but I can be a little smug when it comes to trumpeting my eco credentials. Because the fact is, I consider myself pretty darn green. I buy products made of sustainable materials whenever I can (unless they’re really expensive or hard to find). I recycle everything that that can possibly be recycled (except for the very occasional can of tuna on a really hot day because let’s face it, the smell never comes out of those cans and sometimes you just can’t deal). I never – okay hardly ever – eat Chilean sea bass or other endangered sea creatures. In short, I am as eco friendly as the next somewhat lazy and imperfect modern woman. But underneath all my good intentions, there is a guilty environmental secret known only to a select and trusted few: I have a shameful and crippling addiction to Bounty paper towels.

It was a long time before I could admit that my attachment to Bounty towels was really a problem – for awhile, I just thought of myself as excessively brand loyal. But then I started to recognize the troubling symptoms of dependency: I get jittery and anxious when deprived of these highly absorbent paper goods. I begin to worry about running out when I’m down to my last three rolls. And there have been times when I have surreptitiously used up every last paper towel in the house, only to sneak out and replace them before my husband and kids could see what I had done.

Clearly, I have a problem. Knowing how bad power towels are for the environment, I have tried to kick the habit. But as an unrepentant germaphobe, I find paper towels necessary for cleaning. When I look at a sponge, I can almost see it crawling with all the disgusting bacteria and germs from previous uses. As far as I’m concerned, sponges don’t clean – they just redistribute salmonella and e-coli.  Over time they also develop that repulsive sour sponge smell, unlike paper towels, which are pristine and sterile and smell of nothing but their indispensable sidekick: antibacterial spray.

On occasion I have forced myself to buy those self-righteously eco brown paper towels, but it’s just not the same. They are rough and crackly. They smell oddly like hemp. Plus, they shred easily and don’t have the buttery hand-feel of my beloved Bountys – holding them feels like having a palm full of Rice Krispies.

I have not been able to give up my habit but I have cut back. I switched to Bounty’s select-a-size product – they are the same lovely paper towels but with sneaky perforations that force you to rip off a smaller piece than you might otherwise select. It’s not a cure but it is a step-down solution that limits my consumption and improves my carbon footprint – at least a little.

It doesn’t help matters that my problem is stoked by my husband and live-in enabler. In some families, if a spouse brings home a 24-pack of paper towels it is simply a favor or a nice gesture; in my house this qualifies as foreplay.

All of my closest friends know about my problem. And when they heard I was writing for an eco blog they all had extremely similar reactions. One after another they looked concerned, then leaned in close and whispered “Do they know about the paper towels?”

Well, they do now.

Image: Andy on Flickr