I've never brought cloth napkins to work with me. Which is surprising, because every morning I head to work with so much gear you'd think I was going camping. I've got my reusable to-go mug in one hand. In my canvas tote, my bento box clinks against my water bottle as I walk. While reaching for my metro card, my hand passes something squishy: It's a silicone sandwich bag full of snack time cashews. Still, despite all these valiant efforts at reusability, I'm still single handedly depleting the office of its paper towel supply.
I realized recently that I use at least one paper napkin at lunch time every day, usually more since I wash and wipe dry my bento box and cutlery. If I'm anywhere near average, I might be using up to 2,200 napkins a year, according to Cornell University. The environment is definitely not benefiting from this wastefulness—and, more selfishly, I'm not either.
You see, desk lunch time is me time. I go great lengths to be as European as I possibly can from 1:02–1:28 every day. I shift about 18 feet from my desk to a little windowed nook to eat. I try to not type as furiously, or better yet, at all. I refuse to stab at my salad with a plastic fork—I've got Laguiole cutlery at my desk for that.
But then my wasteful, messy self uses the scratchy paper napkins that are piling up in waste bins and landfills everywhere, killing both my attempt at laptop-adjacent fine dining and, well, the earth. So, this week, I'm on the hunt for a set of cloth napkins: super absorbent, durable, and very good looking ones. One or two will always live in my desk, besides when they trek home with me and the rest of the gear for laundry.
For anyone who eats at their desk, a cloth napkin is a game changer. Yes, come meal time it's great to have something soft and smooth and actually absorbent, unlike the budget paper towels available in most office kitchens. But it's also handy for a whole other slew of desk messes—coffee on the keyboard, an emergency pre-meeting blotting situation, a desk-side tear (it happens!). So I implore you, green people of the web, shop with me for some proper napkins. Here are all the ones at the top of my list.
Extra-Green Recycled Fabric Napkins
This set of recycled fabric napkins have a softly, wrinkled look already—perfect for someone who would never dream of busting out an iron (me).
The Seasonally Appropriate Set
This super absorbent set of napkins caught my eye for its rich color, which varies slightly from one handmade cloth to the next.
The Very Elegant White Ones
Between black coffee, black tea, and all manner of midday soups, white napkins seem destined for a stain. But this set is 55% off on Sur La Table right now, so be bold!
The Ones That Hide Stains
These are the perfect richly dyed back up set for someone who wants to save the special white linen napkins above for Fridays and light-colored lunch days. These also come in a 12 pack—perfect for leaving a full set at home and having a few in rotation in my pencil holder.
If you've gotten this far and all you can think is "My desk lunch is not important enough to whip out a cloth napkin, or any napkin really"—reconsider! According to a recent Tork study, millennials, who are now the largest generation in the work force, are worried that taking a lunch break would make them look less competent to their coworkers and bosses. That means you've got a lot of desk lunches ahead of you. If you're not going to leave the office, the least you could do is treat yourself to the small luxuries of a home dining experience. So take a pause, maybe even put away the laptop, whip out your real cutlery and cloth napkin, and enjoy a meal. Work will still be there when you finish.
Originally Appeared on Epicurious