These Come From Trees Sticker

These Come From Trees Sticker
This is the sticker we're hoping can save a couple hundred thousand trees a year. Amazing how the right message at the right time can make the difference.

Quick Facts about "These Come From Trees"

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

These ALSO come from trees!

In the previous post, I touched a bit on how this whole project was set in motion. But once I had been awakened to pervasiveness of what I saw as unintentional, and costlessly avoidable, waste, I was really curious: where else is this happening? Where else are we accidentally, unintentionally wasting paper, but for the want of a helpful hint?

The answer was that far away from really. Just around the bend really.

Have you ever been washing your hands in a public bathroom, and when you're all done, it's time to dry them? Well, you sidle on over to the paper towel dispenser, and proceed to dispense paper towels to get your hands as dry as possible as quickly as possible. No one likes that icky cold water feeling, so usually this means pulling three, four, five paper towels. I've even seen someone pull out a good dozen or so, I guess each one picking up a eye-dropper of water. If we're talking about one of those roll dispensers with the spring-powered lever, you whale on that thing a good four or five times to get a nice paper towel shawl.

And I'm not saying this is what OTHER, unconscientious people were doing. No, this is EXACTLY what I was doing. I found myself doing it too, using three, four or more paper towels to dry my hands. I had never really considered it. But then when I thought about it, how much paper towel was I really "using" of those three? Because In N Out had helpfully awakened me to the These Come From Trees concept, I took a closer look.

What I realized was, of those two, or three, or four paper towels, I probably ended up using only about 30% of each. That is, rather than using up all the "dry"--to use a really bad coinage--in just one towel, I was using up just a little bit of the "dry" usually the "dry" right in the middle of the towel, in like three or four towels. Of course,along with this, meant that I was throwing away three 70% dry towels. Yikes. How many people use this bathroom a day? How many in a year? Oh goodness. That's a big number...

"But come on, Pete!" I thought to myself. "Surely you get something out of those extra paper towels!" I decided to do an experiment. Rather than doing the typical "pull three towels and rub" move, I would pull one, and see how it worked.

I was really conscious of seeing if this actually affected my experience, because everyone knows that hand-dryers are more environmentally friendly and all that, but at the end of the day, they suck because they take like a minute to use. I don't want to sit around in the bathroom for an extra sixty seconds! Come on! So I was very aware of whether or not using only one towel had a meaningful effect on my hand drying experience.

The amazing thing was, it didn't. Really. One towel, which then got like totally wet, did more or less the same job at three or four. It didn't take longer. My hands weren't colder. Nothing. So then I thought "I'll splurge" and tested using two. At this point, my hands were REALLY dry, really fast. So then I tried three. At that point, i couldn't even tell the difference between two and three towels. Not to mention four.

Based on all this testing, I concluded that I had found another instance where a lot of users, completely unknowingly, and for god knows what reason, where totally overusing a resource, and for no additional benefit. And the flip of that was that they could reduce that use, WITHOUT any cost. No performance hit. No nothing. Just pure, tree-saving goodness.

I had found something else that came from trees! But there I was again: what to do about it?


Anonymous said...

Just thought I'd share a similar experience to your Feb. 21st posting with our washroom here at work. We used to have paper towels on a pull-out-as-much-as-you-like roll, but a few months back we switched to a new-fangled, motion sensor unit. I think you can adjust the length of the sheet that it spits out, but ours is set to ~12", which I'd roughly calculate at 2/3 of what people were normally taking when given the freedom to choose.

After thinking that people would opt to take 2 sheets (thereby using more paper), we have in fact seen the opposite – intended – effect. People are only taking 1 sheet, soaking it thoroughly, and being content enough to leave with their hands 95% dry rather than taking another sheet.

Human conditioning is a wonderful thing…


Issue View said...

Before seeing this blog, I never realized how much paper I use for everyday things. I'm going to try and use the dryer when ever I use public restrooms, and at home I'm going to dry my hands with towels made from cloth.

Anonymous said...

omigosh i never realized how much paper towels I'm wasting until i read this... thank you so much for 'waking' me up from this harsh reality...

Anonymous said...



Sam said...

This is exactly why PeopleTowels was created, to get people to BYOT(towel) everywhere so you'll never have to use paper towels in public restrooms again! It's a simple act with a huge impact.