Sunday, December 06, 2015

the TED (well, TEDx) talk that changed me

I've seen a lot of TED talks, but only one has thus far actually influenced my everyday behavior: this TEDx talk by Joe Smith (not the founder of the Mormon church) about how to dry one's hands properly when using paper towels in a public restroom.

Smith's method is simple and practical. As he presents it, the method comes down to two simple words: shake and fold. Shake your hands twelve times before even using the paper towel, Smith recommends. Then pick up the towel, fold it in half, and dry your hands with it. Smith's purpose in showing this method is to point out that most of us use too many paper towels in the restroom: normally, the number is about two or three. By reducing the number to a single towel (and Smith demonstrates this drying technique with several different kinds of paper towel), Americans can save almost 600 million pounds of paper per year. It's an impressive figure, but I think I was more attracted to the efficiency of the process than to the environmental benefits (which don't hurt).

So I'm a Smithian now: an acolyte who is only too happy to spread the word to the rest of my readership: try using only a single paper towel when drying your hands in the restroom—or use no towels at all. Shake your hands twelve times. Fold your towel, then use it. My method when I have no towel (as is always the case in the restrooms I use at work) is to shake twelve times, slap my fingers across each other another eight times like overlapping saloon doors, then run my fingers through my hair. That method gets me about 70% dry, and the remaining 30% happens naturally as I walk back to my office, hands swinging at my sides.

Have fun helping the environment. Give the trash guys a little less to do.



Charles said...

This is something I've honestly never understood--why would anyone need more than one paper towel? I can't remember the last time I've used more than one when drying my hands. Most of the time I see people using more than one paper towel, they are tossing the first one while it is still usable (unless the entire thing is wet, it's still usable) and quickly reaching for a second or third. Sometimes they'll just take two or three at once. I think it's more force of habit than actually needing more than one paper towel. Or maybe I just have really small hands?

(This is going to make me sound ridiculous, but I will often go without paper towels at all. I shake and then fan. I probably look silly walking out of the restroom fanning my hands back and forth, but whatever.)

While I may be puzzled by people who use more than one paper towel, my ire is generally reserved for those who don't wash their hands at all. You wouldn't believe how many times I've used the restroom at school and been in there with someone who takes care of business and then just walks out. It happens at least once a day.

SJHoneywell said...

I watched this video a couple of years ago and have tried to do this in every case I can.

I also attempted to share this with a coworker, who then specifically used about 12 paper towels because fuck the planet.