Paper Towels vs Electric Dryer

Posted on July 7, 2009  Comments (4)

Sustainability Showdown: Paper Towels vs Electric Dryer

First off, let’s address one common misconception: for the most part, nobody’s cutting down trees just for paper towels. Most paper towels you find in public bathrooms are made from recycled paper, and even those that aren’t are made from industrial waste created in the manufacturing of regular paper.

The reason hand dryers came out ahead ended up having surprisingly little to do with the actual act of drying your hands. Most of the emissions and contributions to greenhouse gases come from decomposition of the towels in a landfill.

Like all life-cycle analyses, this one’s a bit messy, but no studies appear to support the use of paper towels over a hand dryer. Even in the best paper cases, hand dryers come out ahead. To top it off, if a business uses 100% clean energy, the impact and emissions from a hand dryer become a orders of magnitude better than those for paper towels.

So the next time you’re standing with drippy hands and a dilemma on the wall, you can choose the hand dryer, and let the green part of your brain breathe freely.

Related: Engineering Students Design Innovative Hand DryerWashing Hands Works Better than Flu Shots (study results)Evidence-based Management

4 Responses to “Paper Towels vs Electric Dryer”

  1. Gaurav Mahashabde
    July 8th, 2009 @ 3:17 am

    ya gr8 stuff, definitely the hand dryer is more useful..

  2. Anonymous
    July 10th, 2009 @ 6:17 am

    I always use the hand dryer. Mainly because its quick but also because it makes my hands lovely and warm while im using it, great in the winter!

  3. Joe
    July 12th, 2009 @ 9:22 am

    What about the dilemma of Paper Towels vs Cloth towels at home for messes? Most eco people say cloth, but what about the chemicals and waters used in laundry machines to then wash the towels themselves. My kids are messy!

  4. Dave Brown
    July 13th, 2009 @ 2:16 pm

    I agree with joe I was wondering the same thing. I was recently in Santa Fe, and it seems like all they had there was the blowdryer kind. I started to wonder where the heck the paper towels went. I was also thinking about the kind that are cloth, but you pull them through, and I think it squeeges(sp?) the water off the paper towel. I would think those would have to be the best out of all of them, but I’m sure the bacteria, and other bugs make them a lot worse for you.

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