Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Hot or not?

The first of a recurring series where I implore you, the reader, to evaluate whether a certain action is a sensible step in the direction of sustainability, or is barking up the wrong, crazy-person-making tree. Several weeks ago, fed up with how many paper towels I was using at work, I brought my own hand towel from home and hung it up in the bathroom.

Let me back up. I ran the idea by my coworkers first as a joke, then as it became a recurring lunch topic, I started thinking seriously about the viability of the idea. My theory was this: You only need a towel if your hands are wet. Your hands are only wet if you have washed them. Maybe I'm naive, but I assume that most people do wash their hands with soap, or would be prompted to if they're using a communal towel. And yet, the idea of sharing a towel freaked some of my coworkers out-namely, the men. (We have a unisex bathroom, and believe me, it's not nearly as cool as it was on Ally McBeal.) All the men were grossed out by the idea, but eventually some agreed to use it with provisions. One said he would use it if got washed every weekend. Fine. Another would if there were 5 towels, for each day of the week. Ridiculous! Some said straight-up that they would never use it. So I ended up bringing a towel in one day, hanging it on a hook that just happened to be in the bathroom, and putting up a sign inviting everyone to use it after washing hands with soap. I noted that it would be washed every weekend, and to please, not be afraid. The results have been...well, mixed. I know for sure that at least one other person uses it regularly. Better than nothing, right? One other colleague admitted to using a dry corner of it, once. Others have welcomed it when we run out of paper towels. However, I can't help but notice how many paper towels there still are in the trash, so I'm not claiming a major victory here. At the same time, I hold strong in my beliefs that in recent years we have become an overly germophobic society, which has fueled our disposable addiction. I think we obsess about germs way more than we need to. I should add that it's a small office, I don't think anyone has questionable hygiene habits, and heck, I have and would take sips out of their drinks at happy hour. So why not share a towel? My question to you is: Would you use the towel and why/why not? Hot or not?

6 comments:

Emipants said...

I'd use it. I'm just not that germophobic and eat stuff I dropped on the floor though, so maybe I'm a bad example.

Aaron Case said...

I would totally use your towel Sara! I too am not much of a germaphobe, my immune system is better for it. And don't you use a hand towel when you go to someone's house party or whatever? The whole society is a little -phobic in general if you ask me.

molly said...

I'm pleased to hear people are on board with the towel idea. We have one here at work too (it's ready for a washin').

I would like to point out that trends in our American culture and habits are often not the cause, but the result, of very strategic marketing. Does anyone doubt this? Think about overblown milk consumption among lactose intolerant populations. Eggs. Beef, it's what for dinner. Pork, the other white meat. I feel like chicken tonight...etc. Anyway, I believe the germaphobia that we can all agree has besieged our nation of late (and I think in strategic moments in the past, too), is directly related to industry advertising/lobbies to get us to buy more products. Think about the proliferation of hand sanitizers. Handi-wipes. Paper towel upon paper towel. Using a FRESH paper towel to open the bathroom door.

Yes there are germs. And yes there are obsessive compulsive people. But isn't it funny that our OCD is benefitting industries that make disposable products? Stick that one in your pipe and smoke it. In short, we are conditioned to think a certain way, and the threat of getting sick from touching a doorknob that has been touched by--god forbid, recently washed hands!--is perhaps overblown in our imaginations. But we are not totally to blame. It's what industry wants us to do.

amanda said...

I think I'm gonna give this action a quasi hot! I hate using the paper towels up at work. I am a handwasher - not to the germaphobic degree but enough.
I have noticed on TWO occasions in my office bathroom, where girls did not so much as turn the sink on after they definitley went to the bathroom. This is too much of a gross out for me. What if these girls were to merely touch the towel without a wash before. The thought of what went on when I was wasn't around might keep my from wiping with it. However, if it was a Monday, I'd be more inclined.
-Any way to dry it in the sun at lunch everyday? That will kill some bacteria.

Trying said...

HOT - I would use it but people in my office would freak out about this idea. Folks have such irrational fears about things like this. Do the folks who will not use the hand towel operate the flush lever with their feet and kick the door open on their way out too? If not, then refusing to use the towel is hardly saving them from whatever germs they think are lurking about.

Anonymous said...

Good idea, but some people do not wash their hands with soap....ew...