How to Dry Your Hands Using Just One Paper Towel

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. Their 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.

paper towel photo.

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.