Certainly convenience is a major factor, and expectation plays a role as well. In public restrooms, there are always either paper towels or hand dryers. But dorms aren't exactly public, and it isn't as though you can't simply walk back to your room and dry your hand off on a towel there... or better yet, bring your own hand towel into the bathroom.
Green Gal's College Dorm Tip #1 is to just say no to paper towels. Bring your own cloth towel, air dry your hands, dry your hands on your jeans, enjoy the coolness of the water--just don't pull one of those paper towels from the dispenser. It simply isn't worth it. At UCSC, 33-40% of the waste that goes into the landfills comes from paper towels (Source: UCSC Sustainability Office Zero Waste Team). You can be part of the solution to waste production on your campus and everywhere you go--why not air dry your hands after washing them in every restroom, or bring a hand towel in your backpack or purse and use it to dry your hands. Do you really need paper towels in your life?
At UC Santa Cruz, we have paper towels in all of the dorm bathrooms. Students in Path to a Greener Stevenson (PTAGS) environmental club at UCSC's Stevenson College are working to eliminate paper towels from the dorm bathrooms in an effort to reduce waste and encourage more sustainable living practices by students. I'm a member of this environmental group, and I think this is a great idea that, if it can be accomplished, should be spread nationwide. Progress is being made to speak to those who have the power to make this idea a reality. In any case, we're working on creating signage to put up in the dorm bathrooms to draw attention to the waste created by paper towels. We're working on getting funds to purchase hand towels to give to students when they move in so they can use those to dry their hands instead of paper towels.
I'm curious--has anyone heard of this sort of an effort on other college campuses? Have any other green tips related to paper towel use that you want to share? Want details on PTAGS's efforts? Leave a comment, or send me an email!
Thanks for reading!