BEC #013 – Cloth Rags

Finally, another BEC!

Thanks to Chris for this idea! As usual, you can leave a comment here or discuss this idea (or your own idea!) on the forums.

Did you know there are new limited edition Little Horse prints available? As well as other prints, posters and original art. I uh, I notice it’s November and then comes December, and perhaps you would like to give some people some special gifts.

- Rebecca Clements

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19 Comments

I understand the sentiment, but aren’t paper towels biodegradable? Won’t those thousands of tons be reduced back into the earth from whence they came?

I’d be more concerned with the wrappers the paper towels come in, TBH.


As Chris said, there are a lot of problems with this. In most cases, the towels are bleached and may contain other toxins. To quote from this website:

Your typical paper towel is manufactured using chlorine, which releases carcinogenic dioxins and furans.

And yes, on top of that, in most cases they will be thrown out in a plastic bag which prevents them from biodegrading properly anyway. AND of course, the packaging which is most cases is plastic may even be more of a worry.

My biggest problem with them is that they are incredibly disposable. Even if your cloths come in plastic packaging, they are still doing FAR less damage than constantly buying lots of that packaging wrapped around disposable paper towels.

I like this idea so much because as much as I completely understand how normal and easy it is to use paper towels, I’m trying bit by bit to knock the needlessly disposable things out of my daily life. And the great thing about paper towels is that they are easily replaced. I’ve never missed them. :)


Sure, the paper itself biodegrades (after a long time) (provided it’s not in a landfill in a plastic trash bag preventing it from degrading properly) but it also leaches dyes and whatever else is on the paper towel into the environment. Furthermore, it’s not just the paper towel itself you need to worry about – the energy and resources used to produce and transport the paper towel to the store, along with the packaging of the paper towels, is the real savings here.


Oh! Yes, glad to see other people’re doing that, too! We took a bunch of paint rag/terry cloths from the hardware store for the same reason. Great things!


I feel proud that far more often than not, stuff that comes up in these comics I’ve been doing for a long time now, but here I can go one better – just tear up old clothes/ bedclothes/ towels etc, and theres a perfectly good cloth right there – you can still wash it and everything, and often if you donate clothes, they just get thrown out, so here you can be assured theyre put to good use.
oh, and @ Brando the cloths will probably biodegrade , unless there made frim a synthetic material


Elephants and tea…is this some deep political metaphor to this strip?


An elephant throwing a tea party? Really?

Just what kind of nutso political whackjob would do such a thing? :P

np: Art Of Noise – On Being Blue (New Vox) (Influence (Disc 2))


Hum, it’s surprising how normal things that happen in Poland are BECs in Canada.. I almost never use paper towels – not because of ecology and enviroment, but because my mom and my grandma never used it. It’s natural for me use cloths :))

And back to BEC: have you ever thought of clothes swapping? It’s kind of a party when girls gather up, bring clothes that they don’t use anymore and… swap! They exchange their clothes. This way you can have new things without buying them and you can clean up your wardrobe a little bit. And after the party, whatever that’s left is brought to a shelter for homeless or a Red Cross.
We also have a bigger party three-four times a year. A bunch of girls orginizes a place (a club usually) and everyone’s invited. You have to pay usually 5PLN (less than 2$) and bring some clothes. You put them on a huge pile and then choose whatever you like from it. You can hunt some things really unique. It’s like second hand, but much better and funnier :))


In Canada?

These things are “normal” to lots of people, whether Australia, Canada or other countries :) But there are still lots of people who do things in another way, but might be in a good position to change. And that’s where I hope BEC might help remind them that something is in fact an easy change to make in most cases.

(You might have noticed the majority of people commenting on the ‘shoes inside’ BEC were in fact people who never dream of wearing shoes inside. But both kinds of “normal” exist out there).

Clothes swapping is a cool idea. I haven’t done it myself yet because I have a tonne of clothing just from hand-me-downs and op shopping right now, but I may in the future!

If you’d like to actually submit that as a BEC idea, please do! Just start a thread on the forums or email me.


I used a lot of paper towel, too, until I got my own apartment and had to start paying for it. It gets pretty expensive. I got a bunch of terry clothes and old face clothes from an opp shop.

I’ve cut down on a lot of material stuff I buy by opting for buying digital copies of things. Instead of a stack of CDs, DVDs, and comic books I have one external hard drive that will probably outlive me.


NEVER BANK ON THAT. (The hard drive)

Mine just died on me, and I am distraught. All my artwork files, among many other irreplacable things, were stored on that hard drive.

Considering my options.

But yes, agreed. I don’t like getting anything in physical form that I can get in digital form these days. But the lesson I have learned it to backup your backup.


Your best bet (especially if you’re in a disaster-prone area) is to invest in online backup or a hard drive safe.

Online has the con of usually requiring fees.

The hard drive safes that I saw once (cannot remember where, it was somewhere on the Internet) survived Hurricane Katrine with them and their contents intact. They can survive fires, earthquakes, floods…you name it.

Solid-state HDs are expensive now but will probably get cheaper over time. They can still fail, but not as easily or frequently as hard disk drives.


I like this idea too, but I’m also curious about how much water is wasted by regularly cleaning these guys. That, and washing machines eat quite a bit of electricity. Add on the fact that, in order to make these really clean, you’re probably cleaning them with either bleach or some other disinfectant, which is going to pollute the environment as well.

I totally don’t mean to be so negative. I really, really love the comic and your intentions. I’m just curious about the pros and cons of this one in particular.


A very valid concern and one that needs to be thought about.

My view and I think that of many others is that all the concs of paper towels ultimately come to much more, and are much more definite. Whereas the cons with reusing cloths are either small concerns or typically concerns that can be gotten around.

For example, it’s unlikely you’ll be washing your cloths on their own, you just throw them in with washes you’re already doing. Plus, there are earth-friendly laundry detergents that we should as a society be working towards using all the time a anyway (free of toxins), as well as washing laundry with as little water as possible, (and then, preferably, reusing that gray water in other places in the house).


Oh, and of course, preferably we personally as well as councils are ultimately working towards better energy use, both in our choice of washing machines if we buy new ones, and just by having more and more of our electricity coming from clean sources (solar, wind, etc).

These are all things that will happen, bit by bit. And all of this combined really makes reusing cloths a remarkably green option.

Whereas not much can be done to make paper towels better. It is of course better, even if you buy some, to get ones made of recycled paper (and post consumer, if you can), and free of dyes and toxins, but they are still heavily disposable and will still have a much bigger impact in terms of the packaging, their production, etc etc.

Making lots of new things, when you really consider the whole process, is unlikely to ever beat out reusing things.


At least one liter water is used (and poluted) to make ONE papertowel. You should not forget about all the other resources that are used in the process (wood, energy,…)

I think it is pretty normal in Germany to have reusable cloths for that kind of stuff. And bleach or disinfectants are not really used a lot in many many households (including mine) and people stay perfectly healthy.


I found your work through Dresden Codak the other day – that guest strip was marvelous; I confess that I laughed my ass off – and since then I’ve fallen completely in love with your art and your ideas. So many of them fit so perfectly with the place I’m at in my life, and remind me of things I do habitually and had forgotten about, or things that I forget about habitually. Not to mention that you’re like a second coming of Dr Seuss, which is awesome. I’m very grateful that a lot of the work you do raises awareness in a beautiful way – if there’s any time that needs that the most, it is now.

Speaking of environmental sustainability, my roommates and I practice one every day: to have many people living under one roof! We have six girls living harmoniously in one house. We spend a lot of time talking in the kitchen, or playing the piano in the living room, or just doing homework in the presence of other people. We’re respectful rather than being rule-oriented, and it’s so much easier to take care of chores if you do it together. There’s almost always another pair of hands around, or someone you can talk to if you’re stressed, or someone you can share baked goods with. You definitely need the right people together to make it work, and an understanding that all personal messes must be confined to personal space, but other than that it works so beautifully. And it’s good for the planet too!


Even better than buying cloths: use old clothes. Socks make great rags once they’re too holey to wear, and if your shirts are good, natural materials, chances are they’ll work too once they’re too worn out and ragged.


I don’t use paper towel much – my dad insists on using it to clean our frying pans (cast iron, and they tend to leave a mucky black residue on the cloths, even though it’s nothing a good hard washing can’t fix) and for cleaning up the more biological spills made by the dog and cat. I can understand that…but seeing as we have three different colours of cloth I don’t understand why we can’t just use the red cloths for animal waste and food spills, the blue ones for cleaning, and the green ones for dishes.

In reply to above, about greywater: when I was a kid, we never drained the bath. The bath was emptied with a jug, into a bucket, which was then carred outside and used to water the plants. The soap never did them harm (it can actually help keep certain kinds of pests off) and it was much better than the hose.
My father built an ad-hoc pipe system to redirect greywater from the washing machine to the lawn, as it was ‘just grass’ and ‘didn’t need proper water’. Again, no harm done.
Everyone thought we were nuts.


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