ROSEVILLE, Minnesota — Americans use 13 billion pounds of paper towels each year, according to the nonprofit Ocean Conservancy.
A Minnesota entrepreneur is focused on cutting that number down.
Carla Scholz is the owner of Soak It Up Cloths, a business she launched about three years ago.
The Swedish sponge cloth starts out firm; when it gets wet, it transforms into a reusable cloth for cleaning. The cloth is made up of 70% cellulose and 30% cotton and can absorb up to 20 times its weight in liquid. According to Scholz, one cloth is comparable to more than 1,500 paper towels.
"They're just a dream product," Scholz said.
Soak It Up Cloths are printed in Sweden but designed by Scholz. Many of them are Minnesota-themed.
"I had spent years creating t-shirts and mugs and even snow globes for different clients and really enjoyed creating kind of silly, clever, sometimes stupid ideas for them," Scholz said.
The cloths are all natural, vegan and compostable. They can be washed more than 200 times in the dishwasher or washing machine.
When Scholz is done with a cloth, she finds other ways to use them.
"When I'm finished with them, for the most part, I cut them up and I use them for dryer sheets. So I put a little vinegar and a little essential oils and use them in the dryer for dryer sheets," Scholz said. "You can throw them in your compost pile or chop them up and put them in a plant which is what I like to do because it holds some of the water, keeps them wet longer."
Scholz said it's one of her goals to make it easier for people to consume less. She's now expanding that mission with her latest venture, CLARDS.
Scholz describes CLARDS as a greeting card that cleans up. Using the same material as Soak It Up Cloths, a CLARD includes a greeting such as Happy Birthday, Thank You, etc.
According to Scholz, one CLARD does the work of 3,000 paper towels.
"The best way to write on them is with a fabric marker or a Sharpie and then it stays. So if you write something wonderful on a special occasion, then every day that person when they're cleaning up can see your little sweet note," Scholz said.