Which is better – drying your hands with paper towels, or using the electric dryer – assuming that is, that I’m wearing nice pants that I don’t want to use …The short answer: Don't sweat the small stuff. And if you do, don't worry too much about exactly how you dry that sweat off.
Grist's Ask Umbra says it's pretty much a wash (no pun intended):
[I]t doesn't matter very much whether you use the blow dryer or the paper towel. The impact of how you dry your hands is so small that you'd be far better off spending your time and energy on more important issues, and those where the environmental payoff is clearer -- such as converting the lighting in all those public restrooms to energy-efficient light fixtures (or convincing the powers that be to do the converting).Pablo Paster tries to take a crack at the issue from a greenhouse gas perspective, and finds paper towels may be slightly better, but not significantly.
Personally, I prefer the paper towel from a hygiene perspective. I dry my hands with the paper towel, then use it to open the door. MrsGreenThumb has some interesting tidbits about germ conventional wisdom - what's true and what's myth.
So on this one, you have The Green Miles' blessing to do whatever you'd like, guilt-free. If you like the hand dryer, use that. If you prefer paper towels, go for it. Just remember that they come from trees, so only take what you need.
The other choices that surround you will have a much greater environmental impact. Is the building you're in a green building? Do you drive or take public transportation? Do your members of Congress know you want them to sponsor legislation to cut carbon emissions 80% by 2050 to avoid the worst impacts of global warming?
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