Eco-conscious consumers have long known that the greenest napkin option out there is a good old-fashioned linen one that would make grandma proud. When a guest list is long (hello, birthday parties and backyard barbecues), however, common sense dictates a paper option is the most stress-free choice for post-party cleanup. With the proliferation of recycled paper napkins on the market now, environmental consciousness and a 21st-century love for convenience needn’t be at odds. The trick is to inspect the fine print on the packaging to make sure your choice meets your earth-friendly goals.


Buying any sort of recycled paper minimizes the use of virgin resources (a.k.a, forests) for creating them, which in turn decreases the energy, oil and water use associated with producing napkins from virgin sources. But eco-opportunity is lost if the product doesn’t have a great deal of post-consumer recycled content.


Essentially, by buying products that are high in post-consumer recycled content, you’re reusing more of those office papers you dutifully discarded in blue recycling bins rather than the trash. As the EPA puts it, buying post-consumer recycled paper closes the recycling loop.


Here are a few options for recycled paper napkins:


Seventh Generation: One of the best-recognized and longstanding brands in the recycled paper products space remains a go-to for both home and office use. The company offers two 100 percent recycled content varieties: Brown napkins are made with 90 percent post-consumer and 10 percent pre-consumer recycled content; white napkins have been whitened without chlorine, and have 80 percent post-consumer and 20 percent pre-consumer recycled content.


Marcal Small Steps: Marcal began using recycled paper in its lines of paper products in 1960, making it a veritable granddaddy in the realm of environmentally responsible paper products. It introduced its Marcal Small Steps line of 100 percent recycled paper products in 2009, and its napkins are more than 60 percent post-consumer content. They also boast being hypoallergenic, nearly lint-free and are manufactured without chlorine bleach. They are readily available at Staples in addition to other major retailers.


Cascades Enviro: This 48-year-old Canadian company’s line of 100 percent recycled paper napkins contains 51 percent post-consumer paper. They’re readily available throughout Canada, and for those in the U.S., they can be found in the Atlantic region at Costco and Walmart.


Whole Foods 365 Everyday Value: There should be no surprise on this one. These napkins, like all the 365 line of paper products, are made from 100 percent recycled paper, 80 percent post-consumer and whitened without chlorine.


CVS Earth Essentials: The drug store’s in-house brand of earth-friendly products are made from 100 percent recycled content, with a minimum of 60 percent post-consumer, and chlorine is not used in the paper recycling and whitening processes.


Publix Greenwise: This employee-owned supermarket based in Central Florida entered the grocery chain private-label recycled paper products space fairly early, launching its Greenwise line in the early millennium. Its napkins are 100 percent recycled paper, however only 10 percent is post-consumer content.


Scott Naturals: Readily available at grocery stores, drug stores, big-box retailers … you get the picture, the iconic Scott brand launched the Scott Naturals line of consumer paper products in 2009. The napkins use 80 percent recycled fibers. The catch on this brand, however, is that the remaining 20 percent comes from virgin resources. The perfect option? Maybe not. But it’s still a solid decision if you’re shopping in an area with fewer options in the recycled paper napkins department.


Easynap Jr. Dispenser Napkins: This Georgia-Pacific 100 percent recycled paper product is the wild card because it’s designed for bulk use and therefore a better bet for offices. A bonus of the single-serve dispenser they’re designed for is that it has been shown to significantly reduce napkin consumption, in part because of its handy design, which makes it easier to pull just one napkin at a time.


Know other brands of recycled paper napkins? Let us know in the comments below.


Editor’s note: Georgia-Pacific is a Mother Nature Network sponsor.