Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Paper towel waste

It amazes me how obsessed the U.S. is with paper towels. Even though we have real towels and cloths in our closets that could do the job just as well, if not even better, than a paper towel, we insist on spending money on the disposable version. 

I have started weaning my roommates off paper towels, and I am currently working on a research project that will hopefully decrease the amount of paper towels used on campus. In every bathroom at SCU there are paper towels, and I have heard there are hand dryers in a few, but I have yet to see any (I have been in most buildings on campus, especially the new ones). 

As part of my research project my partner and I created reminders for people that you only need 2 pumps from the dispenser to dry your hands, which is about 8-10 inches of paper towel. We went through the paper towel "trash" from the weight room and bathrooms of the gym on campus and the results we found were shocking. 

Before we put up reminders people used an average of 24 inches. Average! That's insane! It's 3 times as much as you need. After our prompts the average fell to 16 inches. Although there is a lot of room for other factors and error, it's a positive step. But even with our prompts someone used a paper towel that was 63 inches long or 5 feet 3 inches – that's only 2 inches shorter than I am! Who in the world needs that much paper towel? And they didn't even use the whole thing.

Next time you reach for paper towels (and you have no other option) use as little as possible and remember only 8-10 inches (about 2 pumps).

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