Saturday, July 12, 2008

Trees Shouldn't Be Wasted on These

Despite the big environmental kick the country has been on the past few years, there is one very un-green object whose presence persists, perhaps now more than ever: the bathroom paper towel. Though attempts have been made to reduce individual consumption (pre-perforated sheets of a smaller size than people are otherwise inclined to take), still no limit has been placed on the total amount it is possible to use. Many times I have witnessed men yanking a spool of sheets off the roll, rubbing the paper lightly on their hands, then crunching the barely-used paper into an approximation of a ball and tossing it in the garbage. I have also often seen stacks of unused paper towels on the floor or in the wastebasket after being unintentionally pulled out of their case; these are undoubtedly sent to the landfill without ever being used.

I generally abstain from paper towel usage altogether (instead shaking most of the water off and then matting my hands down on my pants or the back of my shirt), and if I do use them, I take as little as possible. The rate at which paper towels accumulate at my office is absurd; to extrapolate this out means multiplying my office by all the offices in my building, all the buildings in Atlanta, ad nauseum. That’s tons of paper being discarded daily after only a gentle moistening. At least toilet paper and napkins gets dirty; I’m certainly not claiming there is any replacement for them. But the alternatives to paper towels are many and superior.

If conserving resources and saving trees is actually important to us, we need to begin by cutting back on paper towel consumption. To continue to be so blatantly wasteful is inexcusable.

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