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March 20, 2018

Hand dryers vs. paper towels

At some point in your life, you'll ponder which outfit to show off to your friends that day, what you would like to eat for dinner, or (maybe) whether to study art history or linear algebra. Yes, it is true - life is full of choices, although some not as big as others. Like Hamlet, you may be facing a life-changing dilemma - to be or not to be - or like me, you may be carefully scrutinizing your nail color collection, trying to decide which one to wear. But there's one choice for sure that all Blazers face, and that is whether to use hand dryers or paper towels in Blair bathrooms.

The three most vital factors to take into account when using paper towels or hand dryers are eco-friendliness, functionality and hygiene.

Common sense, along with popular signs stuck on bathroom walls, tells us that hand dryers are much more eco-friendly than towels. Freshman Raissa Wacker is sure that the hand dryer is the greener option. "The hand dryers, to be honest, are more eco friendly, because you use paper which is from trees for paper towels, but for the hand dryers, you're recycling the air," Wacker says.

But let's compare the logistics for ourselves. In the United States, more than 13 billion pounds of paper towel are used each year, which amounts to each individual using about 80 rolls of towel per year, which means that we're saying "bye, bye" to 110 million trees annually. What's more, all that wood needs to be processed and delivered to make the brown, flat thing we call a paper towel, which means more carbon dioxide emissions.

Hand dryers, on the other hand, aren't tree-killers, but instead, they necessitate the burning of fossil fuels to bring our hands that nice burst of air, especially around here where 54.7 percent of our electricity comes from oil, gas and coal. And thanks to what we've learned in our chemistry classes, we know that burning fossil fossil fuels, a combustion reaction, produces energy, water and carbon dioxide. Now, while we may be gawking our eyes at this fact, but let's take a closer look into what's really going on.
Hand dryers are more eco-friendly but less effective and hygienic than paper towels. Leslie Morales Alvarenga
Hand dryers are more eco-friendly but less effective and hygienic than paper towels.

It's a well-known fact that plants photosynthesize, which means they convert carbon dioxide and water into sugar, their food, and oxygen, a byproduct. Therefore, a closer analysis of the situation reveals that the electricity used for hand dryers, in a way, actually provides food for our environment, rather than harming it.

Moreover, the cost of using a hand dryer is $14.58 per month, which means more than $60 of monthly savings over using paper towels. When added up, using 100 hand dryers saves about $72,000 annually.

So all in all, the hand dryers are the winners in the category of eco-friendliness.

Junior Avery Todd effectively sums up the dilemma of using hand dryers every single time he goes to the bathroom in the 160s hallway. "I use it every time, but honestly, I get my hands drier just shaking them off as I walk out of the bathroom," Todd says.

Junior Victoria Browning agrees that paper towels do the job more efficiently. "I'd prefer towels, because for me, it's easier. It gets my hands dry faster. Usually with the hand dryers, it takes awhile, and the air doesn't come out right," Browning says. It is clear that paper towels are more effective at mechanically removing moisture than traditional hand dryers.

Recently, scientists have begun studying the microbes that live inside bathrooms. It is no surprise that the air inside bathrooms is not particularly clean, but hand dryers exacerbate the issue by making sure to gather all that air and concentrate it on your hand. This is not particularly hygienic, as you'll soon find yourself sitting at lunch grabbing your sandwich with those same hands. However, thanks to our powerful immune system, we don't get sick every time we use the hand dryer.

In this respect, Browning believes towels provide the better alternative."With paper towels, it's a new sheet every time, but with the hand dryers, it could be dirty, if someone was coughing [around] it," Browning says.

In all but one category, eco-friendliness, paper towels are the better alternative. However, it is up to us and our values to decide whether to replace all hand dryers with towels. We must ask ourselves whether we as a school and society value saving our environment over functionality.

The economy of the past century has been about mass production; only in the most recent years have we begun to find ourselves wrapped up in the Green movement: green cars, green air, green electricity and the list goes on.

But consider: are we really going green, and at what cost? These are the questions we must be asking ourselves to ensure that Planet Earth and its inhabitants have a beautiful, clean future over the horizon.

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