Sustainable Hand Drying Part II: The Power of PeopleTowels

PeopleTowels are 100% certified organic, Fair Trade cotton, which are printed with eco-friendly dies to make customizable designs. (Courtesy/PeopleTowls)

PeopleTowels are 100% certified organic, Fair Trade cotton, which are printed with eco-friendly dies to make customizable designs. (Courtesy/PeopleTowls)

The third and potentially most superior way to dry your hands after the use of a public restroom has been brought to my attention after the publication of my previous article discussing the environmental impact of paper towels versus electric hand drier. After some topical research, both conventional drying methods fell flat next to the new wave of high-speed air driers and thus, they were declared the winners. With a scientific eye, this new perspective might change that.

In urban areas of Japan enormous volumes of people operate within their daily lives without using a single disposable paper towel from public restrooms. How is this possible? Well, in order to control the flow of waste these places produced, laws were passed that made them illegal. In place of this needless waste-producing convent, the citizens carry with them small personal towels that they use throughout the day. Which controls waste as well as the spread of disease, hitting two birds with one stone for the Japanese government.

Inspired by this thoughtful practice, PeopleTowels was created in America to help fight these same problems. They operate primarily by helping larger institutions such as businesses and colleges cut down on their solid waste that typically ends up in landfills.

These towels are 100% certified organic, Fair Trade cotton, which are printed with eco-friendly dies to make customizable designs. Designed for portability, the standard size is 9” x 9” and when folded twice, fits nicely into almost any pants pocket. They are very durable for their weight and have a hang tag to help speed up drying by attaching to backpacks, belts, and other ideal drying spots. Their simple designs make it easy to make an environmental statement with this accessory.

In 2015, PeopleTowels, in partnership with Arizona State University’s Greenlight Solutions, conducted a nationwide research study with college and university students to determine the adoption cycle of switching from paper towels to reusable PeopleTowels. The key finding of the study was that overall use of paper towels by individual participants declined by 80 percent in a little over one month.

According to their sources, every person who uses a PeopleTowel for a year in place of paper towel saves a quarter of a tree, reduces landfill waste by 23 lbs., conserves 250 gallons of freshwater and cuts carbon emissions by 34 lbs.

With many promising qualities, I took it upon myself to conduct some small, personal experiments to test the performance of these little cotton towels. After discussing with a handful of students what potential concerns with a product like this would be, the largest by far was the ability to dry, as students liked the idea of reducing waste but were not sure about carrying around a wet towel.

Putting these products to the test, I conducted two experiments: one stationary and one mobile. In both tests I had a PeopleTowel that had just been used to dry wet hands, a PeopleTowel that had just been soaked and wrung out, and a conventional cotton face cloth of the same size that was soaked and wrung out, with the conventional towel serving as the control. Three towels I put on the belt loop of my pants and three I hung on the back of three wooden chairs all in the same climate.

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All six towels were wet at the same time and as stopwatch was started. Here are the results of the experiment:

From this rough experiment we can see the speeds at which these towels compare to conventional ones and the data speaks for itself. Even when left in the back pocket of jeans folded twice after just being used, it took only 25 minutes for the towels to dry and caused no uncomfortable moisture to accumulate in the seat of the pants. It should also be noted that after a single use, PeopleTowels can easily be used many more times immediately and does not have to be ‘dry’ in order to serve the purpose of drying your hands.

This futuristic product has been targeting college campuses since their founding in 2009. Many schools like Boston University, UC Santa Cruz, Arizona State, and Principia College have all made PeopleTowels a part of their sustainability initiatives, from dorms to sporting events. A sustainable campus is in the paws of the huskies now. Will UConn be next?


Dan Wood is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at daniel.wood@uconn.edu.