Try this experiment: how many paper towels did you use today? I’m not just talking about what you used at home. What did you use at work? In the bathroom at work? At a restaurant at lunch? In that restroom? And anywhere else along the way?
I gave up paper towels at home (except for the very worst case scenarios…let’s just say I have a cat that pukes not infrequently) a while back. Still, I did this experiment recently and realized I was still using them on the go — often without thinking — and even though I always carry a cloth napkin in my bag! I always using my cloth napkin for lunches and food on the go but forgot to consider for when drying my hands in public rest rooms. Amazing how ingrained some of this behavior is.
“Let’s say the average American works 240 days a year and washes their hands at least three times a day while at the office. If only one paper towel is used (some people use more), that adds up to 720 a year. This doesn’t even include the number of paper towels and napkins being used in restaurants, retail stores, stadiums, and libraries. Mind boggling.
A little perspective: the NRDC estimates that if every household in the United States used one less roll of paper towels, we could save 544,000 trees.
According to the EPA, paper accounts for 28 percent of municipal waste contributing 26 million tons to landfills. Though paper towels are great for compost, sorting waste in public bathrooms is a challenge to say the least. These sorting issues plus fiber quality means paper towels used in public spaces are rarely recycled and often end up in landfills.”
So: If you haven’t already switched from paper towels to dishrags and cloth napkins, give it a whirl. And tuck a cloth napkin in your purse or computer bag, too, to use when you’re at your office or on the go. I tuck mine inside a cloth produce bag to protect it from all of the other stuff clogging what I now refer to as my mom bag: pretzel dust, odd arts and craft projects, reusable coffee mug and water bottle, receipts, marbles, hand cream, a reusable fork and spoon, and so on. You know the drill.
FYI, while you’re washing your hands don’t forget that regular old soap and water are all you need. Avoid soaps with synthetic fragrance and antibacterial pesticides like triclosan. It’s just not necessary. The American Medical Association has come out against it, saying it may encourage bacterial resistance to antibiotics. And an FDA advisory committee found it–and other antibacterial hand soap agents–has no benefits over plain soap and water. There are environmental issues with it, too, but I’ll spare you the details–for now.