Help Save 571,230,000 Pounds of Paper Towels

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13 billion pounds of paper towels are used in the U.S. every year. If all Americans used one less paper towel a day, 571,230,000 pounds of paper would be spared over the course of the year. One man has a simple strategy to make it happen.

Joe Smith, former District Attorney for Oregon’s Umatilla County and former chair of the Oregon Democratic Party, unleashed these statistics during March’s TEDxConcordiaUPortland event in one of the most straight-forward TEDx talks we’ve ever stumbled upon.

The problems with paper towels are many-fold: they don’t contain significant amounts of fiber for recycling and when they’re dirty or wet, they degrade even further and become non-recyclable. And paper towels soaked in oils, pet or baby waste or other harmful substances should be steered clear of the compost pile.

We’ve come across quite a few paper towel alternatives before – simple terrycloth rags, fancy snapping towel sets and, not to be forgotten, the old wipe-your-hands-on-your-pants trick – but Smith’s strategy is devilishly simple and comes in handy in workplace and other public restrooms.

Fair warning: You’ll most likely never dry your hands again without thinking of this video:

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