Impact on our planet
THE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT OF PAPER TOWELS
Paper towels might be the perfect metaphor for the wasteful, throw-away society North America became in the 20th century. The harm done to the environment during their manufacture, and the amount of waste they produce, are scandals that are largely unrecognized by those who use them.
In the 21st century papers towels have become a daily fact of life for most Canadians. More than 5 billion pounds of paper towels are used each year amounting to 15 pounds – the equivalent of 50 rolls – per person, per year.
Producing all that paper consumes a lot of resources, including 110 million trees per year, and 130 billion gallons of water. Comparably huge amounts of energy are required to manufacture and deliver it from the factory to the store, causing plenty of carbon dioxide to be emitted into the atmosphere. After a single use, it all goes into the landfill – some 3,000 tons annually – where it generates methane as it decomposes. Like carbon dioxide, methane is a greenhouse gas that’s strongly implicated as a cause of climate change. The convenience of paper towels comes with a heavy price far above what you pay in the store.
The only practical approach to reducing the environmental impact of paper towels is to use less. It’s not hard, and it will save you money. In public restrooms, use the electric hand dryer if you have a choice. If you don’t, take just one towel instead of three or four. After each hand-wipe, shake it out flat to expose more surface area that’s still dry, and use it again.
At home, use reusable cloths in most cleaning tasks. They work better than paper towels, they cost less in the not-so-long run, and they’re better for the environment. It may still make sense to keep a roll of paper towels around for some limited uses like cleaning up blood or animal accidents, but for most everyday cleaning jobs, reusable cloths just make sense.
My UnPaper towels are a great swap out for the traditional throw away ones. They come on a tube, are snapped together and fit on any holder in your home. Unsnap, use, wash, snap, easy.