How to dry your hands using just one paper towel

Joe Smith
Screen capture TED

This could save billions of pounds of paper

They're lurking in public restroom trashcans across America: tons of crumpled up paper towels, tragic little sheets destined for the landfill after a single use. There intended purpose, drying your hands, is both arguably unnecessary and completely wasteful -- but folks don't seem to mind that too much. In fact, U.S. consumers burn through a whopping 13 billion pounds of paper every year, often to accomplish this most elementary hygienic chore.

But lo, wet-handed readers, there's a better way.

In a recent TEDx talk in Portland, Joe Smith outlines a smarter way to solve one of life's most waste-producing problems. And it's incredibly simple. Instead of grabbing for a clump of paper towels, simply shake your hands for a while first, then use a single, folded sheet to dab off the remaining moisture -- viola!

Here, watch:

I know what you're thinking -- you've been doing it the wasteful way and this new technique will be hard to adopt. But next time you pull out a towel from the dispenser and a second sheet pops out, tempting you to grab it, just leave it be. You're better than that.

psyberartist/CC BY 2.0

According to Smith, if everyone decided to dry off their hands with just one sheet, that would use 571 million less pounds of paper every year. That's roughly equivalent to 5 million trees, all saved because you started towelling off your mitts like a smart person.

Now, once you get into the habit of using just one paper towel, we can then begin working towards expert-level hand-drying: just wiping them off on your pants, for goodness sake.

Tags: Bathrooms | Conservation | TED