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Which Is More Eco-Friendly: Paper Towels or Hand Dryers?

You're at the airport (or any other public bathroom scenario, for that matter), and you're faced with a choice: paper towels or dryer? Studies have shown that both are effective at preventing germs, but from an environmental standpoint, which option is essentially better?

According to Slate, while both options lead to carbon dioxide emissions, when all is said and done, dryers use less energy. Variations in how paper towels are produced, transportation costs, and the maintenance that goes into keeping towels replenished all require more energy. Plus, although recycled paper uses 40 percent less energy to manufacture, most towels make their homes in landfills once used, and some are bleached, which can be harmful to the environment.

With the recent crop of 10-seconds-or-less super-potent dryers — think XLerator and the Dyson Dryblade — dryers have become more efficient, particularly when they run on 1,600 watts or less. Put that together with the fact that hand dryers last an average of 10 years, and they're the most eco-friendly option. You could always just drip-dry, or a swipe on the old jeans would do the trick, too.

Source: Flickr user nickgraywfu

2muchtv 2muchtv 8 years
Erm, ladies handkerchief? Anyone? I wouldn't use it to blow my nose, but if you care about the environment, it's worth the investment. Then again, I've always been partial to treating my clothes like a giant washcloth, even in my kitchen, where there's a handtowel ready and waiting for me.
KatLuvsShoes KatLuvsShoes 8 years
I always wonder about this in public restrooms! I usually just shake and wipe on my jeans.
DeviousMuse DeviousMuse 8 years
While dryers may be more energy efficient, they're not more hygienic. The problem with them is that they keep the closed-off restroom a warm, more hospitable environment for germs to grow. And every time the dryer is used, those germs go FLYING around the room. Then there's the constant puddle of water under the dryer. And the Dyson Dryblade's design makes it FAR too easy to touch the sides, the shape collects water (and germs) at the base, and it is not set up for use by children and those who require handicap access.
thecommoncents thecommoncents 8 years
I've often pondered this very question... especially as I, like many, make an attempt to be more environment-conscious. Thanks for solving the mystery.
dootsie dootsie 8 years
Hand dryers don't work. How does that factor into the equation?
llamawich llamawich 8 years
I hate hand dryers!
Allytta Allytta 8 years
i use towels or toilet paper when they are not available, i hate the feeling of the dryer, as it dries out my skin and never works perfectly and also makes so much noise. what about noise pollution? have you heard the dyson dryer? it's mental.
PrincessLtrain PrincessLtrain 8 years
I hate standing there waiting for my hands to dry. Three paper towels and I'm out of there!
jnel jnel 8 years
i like using hand dryers but if there's already someone using it, I'll just grab a paper towel
shopping42 shopping42 8 years
Talldiva45 Talldiva45 8 years
I like the idea of hand dryers but I like to use towels when possible bc I use them to then open up the door - don't want to touch the handle bc of the nasty ppl that don't bother washing their hands - arghh
Yogaforlife Yogaforlife 8 years
I prefer hand dryers although it's hard not to grab a paper towel when reaching for the door handle to open the door when exiting. Too many people don't wash adequately and I don't trust the handle not to be germ infested.
risqueredhead risqueredhead 8 years
I usually dry for a little bit with the hand dryer, and then swipe them on my jeans :p
bethinabox bethinabox 8 years
I prefer hand dryers anyway, because paper towels dry out my hands and I have to put on lotion, but that doesn't happen with the hand dryers. :)
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