Every Time You Use a Paper Towel, Think of This

Many of us carry out similar routines at restaurants, stores or an establishment with a public restroom. After using the facilities, we thoroughly wash our hands with soap and water, grab a bunch of paper towels, crumple them into balls, quickly dry our hands and toss the resulting garbage in the trash can on our way out.

We complete the process quickly and without thought, never to think of our paper towel encounter again or what happens to it after it gets picked up and taken to the landfill.

Itís difficult to imagine something as simple as paper towel waste could have such a serious and devastating environmental impact, but the facts canít be ignored. As many as 51,000 trees per day are required to replace the number of paper towels used in the same amount of time. Globally, this amounts to 254 million tons of trash each year. Thatís a lot of waste that ends up directly in our landfill.

While itís been easy for my family of four to cut down on our paper towel usage in our home, we struggle when weíre outside the home to minimize our impact. I usually have my hands filled with either shopping bags or one of my children and the thought of limiting my paper towel usage is not on the forefront of my mind.

Then I learned through an engaging TEDx talk held in Portland, Oregon that there is a smarter and easier technique for drying my hands that doesnít require handfuls of paper towel or any more time and trouble.

Through his quick and fun video, Joe Smith demonstrates the technique he created: the shake and fold. It sounds like a silly dance routine but is actually a remarkably simple and efficient way to reduce the effect paper towel waste has on our environment.

Instead of grabbing a handful of paper towels, simply shake your hands twelve times, and then use a single, folded sheet to dab off the remaining moisture.

According to Smith, if everyone decided to dry off their hands with just one sheet, that would use 571 million less pounds of paper every year. That’s equivalent to nearly 5 million trees, which is something we can all breathe easy about.

I was unsure at first, so I decided to put Smithís method to the ultimate test. Could I successfully complete the shake and fold while managing the kids and my things?

His method not only passed with flying colors, but beat out my multiple paper towel ball clumping method! See for yourself and save a tree while you are at it!


Richard A
Richard A2 years ago

I agree with Dorre R; The one paper towel that I use in a public restroom comes in very handy for opening the door. I have no idea what is on that door knob/handle and I have seen many people use the facilities and then leave without washing hands at all. Nasty, much? Conserving paper towels, I guess...

william Miller
william Miller2 years ago


Melania Padilla
Melania P2 years ago

I don't use paper towel, I mean you can get your hands dried in your clothes, so what? It will dry eventually! Paper towels everywhere are just another demonstration of human's comfort and waste of resources....

Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill2 years ago

I always use the paper towels instead of those air dryers which make so much noise and use so much electricity and then don't dry very well.

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Cat L.
Cat H2 years ago

Thanks for sharing!

Jim Ven
Jim Ven2 years ago

thanks for the article.

Lori E.
Lori E2 years ago


Linda C.
Linda C2 years ago

All you have to do is shake your hands dry--period! That way you save that last sheet. That is essentially what those electric hot-air hand dryers do--but they use a huge amount of electricity. The air does it for free.

Elizabeth Brawn
Elizabeth Brawn2 years ago

paper towels have been proven to be more hygienic ....they are faster too