Limit Your Paper Towel Use

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According to Ocean Conservancy, 13 billion pounds of paper towels are used each year. With most of us using them for bathroom hand drying, quick kitchen clean up, and even cooking, it's not hard to see how wasteful the combined daily use can add up to be. The impact of that might seem less overwhelming if we were able to recycle most of it... however, that is not the case:

"Paper towels aren’t recyclable in the traditional sense. Paper towels are often made from recycled paper pulp – a non-recyclable product. Then, they are often dirty or wet when we are done with them, which degrades them further and makes them non-recyclable" (“Paper Towels – What's the Big Deal Anyway?” Ocean Conservancy).

This leads us to the question, what CAN we do to make a difference? Rob Gogan, who is the recycling and waste manager at Harvard University, says that while paper towels aren't recyclable, they are compostable. In a recent New York Times article, he stated that paper towels are very compostable "and will take care of some of the extra moisture in, say, supermarket produce" (Galbraith, “The Use and Abuse of Paper Towels”).

This is good news for those of us that compost, and if you don't already, please start! For those that don't its even more prudent to be conservative in your paper towel usage. 

As mentioned in a Slate article by Brendan Koerner, "When the Climate Conservancy analyzed this issue at the behest of Salon, it came up with a figure of about 0.123 pounds of greenhouse-gas emissions per paper-towel "session"—that is, the researchers assumed that a hand-washer uses two towels to dry off" (Koerner, “Are Electric Hand Dryers Better for the Environment than Paper Towels?”).

That is equivalent to .14 miles driven in a car for every 2 paper towels that are used.

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Here are some alternatives to your standard, run of the mill, paper towel:

  • Cloth Towels

  • Hand Blow Dryer

  • Recycled fiber paper-towels

  • Natural Air Dry (The shake-it-off method)

#MakeAChange & start cutting back on paper towel use!

References & Further Reading:

NEW YORK TIMES:

Galbraith, Kate. “The Use and Abuse of Paper Towels.” The New York Times, 29 Dec. 2008, green.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/12/29/the-use-and-abuse-of-paper-towels/.

https://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/12/29/the-use-and-abuse-of-paper-towels/

OCEAN CONSERVANCY:

“Paper Towels – What's the Big Deal Anyway?” Ocean Conservancy, 10 May 2017, oceanconservancy.org/blog/2012/10/12/paper-towels-whats-the-big-deal-anyway/.

https://oceanconservancy.org/blog/2012/10/12/paper-towels-whats-the-big-deal-anyway/

THE GUARDIAN:

Smithers, Rebecca. “Paper Towels Least Green Way of Drying Hands, Study Finds.” The Guardian, 11 Nov. 2011, www.theguardian.com/environment/2011/nov/11/paper-towels-drying-hands-energy.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2011/nov/11/paper-towels-drying-hands-energy

SLATE:

Koerner, Brendan. “Are Electric Hand Dryers Better for the Environment than Paper Towels?”Slate Magazine, 17 June 2008, www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/the_green_lantern/2008/06/electric_hand_dryers_vs_paper_towels.html?from=rss.

http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/the_green_lantern/2008/06/electric_hand_dryers_vs_paper_towels.html?from=rss

EPA EQUIVALENCIES CALCULATOR:

https://www.epa.gov/energy/greenhouse-gas-equivalencies-calculator