Learn how Research Into Action has nearly eliminated paper towel waste.
Research Into Action’s Green Team wanted to get rid of paper towels. They looked into electric hand dryers and found their building doesn’t have the right wiring for them, and they were worried about the noise in their small office. Since they already used cloth napkins in the kitchen, they wanted to see if they could try cloth towels in the bathroom as well.
The firm of about 25 staff has always been sustainability minded and their President and Owner, Jane Peters, is very supportive of their Green Team. Almost one year into the program, reusable towels are habit and paper towel use has almost been eliminated.
How they started:
Maria Everhart, green team member and champion of sustainability, got inspired by personal hand towels after her husband heard about how in Japan people have been expected to carry around reusable, personal hand towels for decades.
She and another colleague found PeopleTowels, an American company that makes personal quick-dry hand towels out of 100% organic Fair Trade Cotton and with eco-safe dyes. PeopleTowels seemed like a great solution, but the green team still had to overcome another challenge: how to hang the towels to dry in the bathroom without drilling holes in the wall.
Maria then discovered Jelly Bean Hooks (available for purchase on amazon), suction cup utility hooks that are BPA, PVC and Phthalate-Free. You can even recycle them at special facilities in Portland, (look online or call 503-234-3000 to find your nearest location).
What they bought:
- 51 PeopleTowels, enough towels for two weeks.
- 30 Jelly Bean Hooks.
How it works:
- Each employee grabs a clean towel on Monday to use for the week.
- Members of the green team take turns washing the towels (and the cloth napkins used in the lunchroom) at home on the weekend.
- There are two towels for each staff member just in case someone forgets to wash them one weekend or if guests would like to use one when visiting.
Staff do different things with the towels, allowing each person to find their comfort zone.
- Some write their name on one towel and use the same towel every week.
- Some keep the week’s towel at their desk.
- Others leave their towel in the bathroom on hooks. The hooks are labeled to help staff keep track of their towel.
- Paper towel use has gone from one large trash bag of paper towels a week to close to zero paper towels.
- After two years, they will have recouped the money invested in the reusable towels through reduced paper towel costs – and then the money that would have gone to paper towels can be used for other things.
Members of Research into Action Green Team pose with PeopleTowels. From left to right, Maria Everhart, Benjamin Messer, Meghan Bean, Doré Mangan and Jordan Folks. Check out Maria’s family website about their passive house!
The environmental savings of reusable towels add up.
In the first year, Research Into Action will:
- Save over 6 trees
- Reduce landfill waste by 575 lbs.
- Conserve 6,250 gallons of water
- Cut carbon emission by 850 lbs.
If 1 in 4 adults in the US switched to PeopleTowels for a year, it would:
Want a PeopleTowel for yourself? Find them for sale in Portland at Seven Planet, Powell’s Books, and certified silver Mirador Community Store. Or buy from the PeopleTowel’s website and save on bulk purchases.