Thursday, November 13, 2008

Which is better?

In the restrooms at school, we have a choice of drying our hands with plain old paper towels or using the scary loud super duper air drying machines. As you might be able to guess, I use the paper towels.

I think--but I'm not sure--that this is the sounder environmental choice. Whichever way you look at it, trees are a more renewable resource than the electricity needed to move air at high speed through a small vent. The electricity is likely produced by coal, or maybe oil or natural gas, or maaaaybe wind power (we are in California, after all). But once you use up a lump of coal, it's gone. You can't regrow coal. You can, however, regrow trees. And, you can make paper towels from already-made paper via recycling. Though, there is electricity expended in the making of the paper towels (and in the recycling process).

So, what should I do? I think it's a toss-up in the end, and I prefer paper towels, so I've been using them. But I still wonder which is the better conservation choice. Any thoughts?

5 comments:

(In)Sanity Gal said...

I've wondered this same thing. I'm also a paper towel person. Partially I think they're better because you generally get to decide how much paper towel you're going to use, whereas a lot of the blow dryer things just blow and blow forever even if you're not standing there anymore.

On the other hand, I think that paper towels are more over-used. A person is more likely to grab more paper towels than they need, resulting in waste. Usually when I'm confronted with the dryer thing as my only choice, I just wipe my hands on my clothes. Which I guess is the most environmentally-conscious choice.

tao said...

Paper towels also need to be transported from factory to restroom, thus increasing its carbon footprint.

I am saved from this decision at the moment as public restrooms in Wuhan have neither paper towels nor electric hand dryers.

Adam said...

Including the energy involved with transporting the paper towels, you've also got to consider the energy required to make the paper towels, either from recycled waste or from chopping down new trees. Considering all the steps required to make a paper towel, you'll probably use less energy with the 15 second burst of electricity in the hand dryer. But I don't know.

(In)Sanity Gal said...

Okay - i found this: http://www.slate.com/id/2193740/

Unfortunately, it suggests that the blowers are the more environmentally friendly option. boo.

N said...

Boo on hand blowers. I've heard before that they are the more environmentally friendly for all of the reasons stated here. I think I'll stick with wiping my hand on my pants and occasionally using paper towels when I'm wearing something nice.