Bathroom breakthrough

Is it better to use the hand dryer or a paper towel to dry your hands in a public restroom?

Good question. Some folks might scoff that treehuggers act like our shit don’t stink. And they’re right, it doesn’t. From the moment we enter a public restroom, we’re cloaked in an olfactory halo of lavender, patchouli and thistle as we skip the toilet liner in favor of a back-to-nature squat, turn the faucet off while soaping our hands, rinse quickly and finish with an eco-chic offering of our palms to the hand dryer. No paper towels for the righteous.

It’s not so much what happens in the moment—both methods will dry your hands and paper towels might scrub off extra bacteria—but what happens after you’ve left the restroom. Your used paper towel will sit in a waste bin, soggy, soiled and landfill-bound. A janitor is responsible for moving it to a dumpster, where a gas-guzzling trash truck will drive it to the dump, wasting fuel on a wasted resource. And how much landfill space is occupied by hot air from the hand dryer?

Of course, other natural resources are depleted through the use of a dryer. A study by Environmental Resource Management for Airdri concluded that using a hand dryer for 30 seconds wastes three times as much coal, oil, gas and minerals as using two paper towels instead. But that’s about all the report gives to team towel. Those two towels give off about three times the carbon dioxide emissions as a 30-second run of the dryer.

Even before green was my favorite color, the hand dryer has been regulating its own carbon footprint, shutting itself off after each 30-second blow.