June 11, 2010
Today's Tortoise Tip is on rethinking paper towels, where they come from, and how necessary they are. (Hint: they're not.)
According to Wikipedia, consumption of paper towels and other tissue products is highest in the US, with consumption 50% higher than in Europe, and nearly 500% higher than in Latin America. Yikes!
Where do paper towels come from? "The store" is not the right answer here. Of course, everyone knows the answer, but we often don't think about it. Paper towels come from trees. Trees like: spruce, pine, fir, larch, hemlock, eucalyptus, aspen and birch. You don't want to dry your hands on these guys, right? Wouldn't they be better creating habitat for animals and birds and sucking up that pesky CO2?
Not only that, but paper towels are industrially manufactured, often in a dirty process utilizing bleach, which is highly toxic to fish (and you).
So, okay, I'm going to advocate for something that may not be so popular, but seriously, it's really easy once you get used to it, and makes a big difference. Here it comes: STOP USING PAPER TOWELS. 100%. Paper towels were invented in 1931, so clearly humanity survived for many a year without them, and I think we can do so again. In your home, in public restrooms...there is really no need to use trees to clean up spills or dry our hands.
At home: Cut up worn-out clothes, or transition those old tea towels to be rags. You'll have lots on hand soon enough --- so when you use one to wipe up spilled milk, no need to cry, just toss it in the laundry basket after it's too dirty to re-use. (You're washing with cold water, right?) Simple. I've been doing it for ages, and now I wouldn't even know what to do with a roll of paper towels. :)
Public restrooms: Somewhat more of a trick......or is it? Guess what you always have with you that you can dry off that wee bit of water with? Your clothes! I have been drying my hands on my pants, skirt, sweater etc for years, and no one has ever called me a disheveled bum. It's so little water, it barely matters. Okay, so say you're wearing a suit or a silk dress. Use that handkerchief you should be carrying with you anyway or keep a little hand towel in your purse or pocket. This is what I saw that all the ladies in Japan do. It's stylish and sensible, and something that every person could easily do.
Your Mini-Activism Assignment: How many times have you been in a public restroom and seen someone horking out paper towels like there's no tomorrow? I haven't come up with a way to say something to these people that will leave them actually understanding your message, rather than being pissed off, but the good people at "These are Made Out Of Trees" have come up with a clever solution: little stickers that remind people where paper towels come from.
Savvy readers may have already noticed a link to this site, where, for a modest fee, you can get some very cool stickers, and get your mini-activist on. I just hit up a fave bar last night, and it felt very satisfying. Apparently each sticker can save up to 100lbs of paper each year.
Okay guys, go do it! Vive la revolution!