Finally an Answer

Thursday, August 20, 2009

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Most people dread using those old, ineffective “hot air hand-cookers” found everywhere, but there’s a new wave of energy-efficient high-speed hand dryers on the rise. Keeping in mind, uOttawa stocks 100% post-consumer recycled paper towels, which of the two is really faster, cheaper and more environmentally friendly?

Physical Resources Services hired me for the summer and asked me to figure out the answer to this question. In our analysis, we evaluated a range of electric hand dryers and compared them to using paper towels. The results named the “Jet Towel” as the best alternative hand dryer. Designed by Mitsubishi Electric in Japan, it’s a time-tested effective high-speed hand dryer. Unlike conventional convection hand dryers, the Jet Towel uses a high speed curtain of air to “scrape” excess water off your hands.

Now, considering the resources associated with using the Jet Towel or paper towel, it is in fact more ecological to use the Jet Towel. Although our paper towel is made of 100% recycled paper and a portion of the waste is composted in our new composter, the majority of the waste is chucked in refuse bins and hauled away.

The ecological advantage of using the Jet Towel results from it consuming only electricity (which can come from clean sources), whereas using paper towels entails a constant supply change-over including manufacturing, shipping, disposal, etc. So if you look simply at the resources needed to use one of the two and dry your hands, the immediate chain of impact of using the hand dryer is smaller.

High-speed hand dryers for the win! You’ll soon be seeing more of these around campus.

- michael

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