Junior proposes sustainability alternatives


At some point during an average day of school, I wash my hands in the bathroom. When I’m done washing, I can use a paper towel if there are any, otherwise I’ll have to stand for a while with my hands under the blow dryer or wipe them off on my pants. The bell signaling the start of my next class is about to ring and I don’t want to walk into class with dripping wet hands, so how should I dry them?

Using paper towels to dry your hands contributes to global warming while wasting our school’s money.

Although paper towels are effective, they do not make sense from an environmental or economical standpoint. Not to mention, the dispensers are often empty. According to People Towels, an organization that advocates for paper towel alternatives, the U.S. produces 3000 tons of paper towel waste every day. As those 3000 tons decompose, they produce methane, a contributor to global warming.

According to Tony Seidita, facilities manager, SHS spends approximately $9000 on paper towels every year. We essentially throw away this money every time we toss a paper towel in the trash. It should be put to use elsewhere in the school.

While hand dryers provide a less wasteful alternative to paper towels, they spread bacteria and are inefficient.

(Courtsey Nick Nesler)

According to a study published in the Journal of Hospital Infection, jet air dryers and warm air dryers leave significantly more bacteria in the air than paper towels. The study concluded that hand dryers should not be used in certain places, such as healthcare facilities, because they will likely contaminate your hands. Mark Wilcox, professor of medicine at University of Leeds, stated in a 2014 article in the Washington Post that when you dry your hands under an air dryer, you spread bacteria in the air in addition to getting other people’s bacteria on your hands.

Furthermore, hand dryers simply take longer to use than paper towels. When I am rushing to get out of the bathroom and be on time to my next class, I do not want to stand around waiting for my hands to dry while I listen to the obnoxiously loud blowing of the dryer.

Despite hand dryers lack of paper waste, their use of electricity also harms the environment, contradicting the belief that hand dryers have solved the problems of paper towels.

Clearly, both paper towels and hand dryers have major downfalls. Therefore, I began searching for a third option that did not involve wiping your hands on your pants. It turns out the Japanese have one.

In Japan, many people carry small hand towels with them. Drug stores sell them inexpensively and people garner a small collection, which they wash after using. People even pick out the designs they like and give them as gifts.

People Towels encourages more people in the U.S. to adopt the practice of carrying around your own hand towel.

I decided to try this method and started bringing a small hand towel to school. It fits easily in my backpack while providing a quick, waste free way to dry my hands. The hand towel method’s only downfall is that I have to put a slightly damp towel back in my backpack. However, I take it out to wash and dry at home, using a different towel in the meantime.

Taking the responsibility of hand drying into our own hands by bringing reusable towels to public bathrooms will benefit the environment, save money and promote public health.

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