Paper towels are single use products often made from virgin materials. Once used they are not recyclable. They can be composted but they are rarely collected and sorted for composting. Indeed Americans send over 6 million tons of paper towels to landfills every year.
What if there was a way to reduce paper towel use by half. Or more? Welcome to Shake & Fold!
Shake & Fold is a paper towel waste reduction campaign. After washing, shake your hands 12 times to reduce the amount of water on them. (You don't really have to do it exactly 12 times; it's kind of a joke because 12 is the highest digit with a single syllable. Ha ha). Then take a single paper towel. It doesn't matter how bad the paper quality is or even if the dispenser spits out only five inches. Because the magic happens when you fold the single piece of paper in half. Folding traps air in the middle. It's called "interstitial suspension." This trapped air makes the paper towel stronger and much more absorbent. It will completely dry your hands. Guaranteed. Every. Single. Time.
The idea was devised by Joe Smith who did a Tedx talk on it at Concordia University in 2012. I came across the YouTube video in 2015 and it changed my life. I knew I had to locate Joe Smith and pick his brain. I combed the internet until I found him - and he lives only 30 miles away in Portland, Oregon.
At our meeting I asked Joe if he was going to do anything with the campaign. He said he wasn't and he told me I could be the face of Shake & Fold. I've been working on it ever since.
I wrote a "Mini Grant" to my town's Sustainability Commission and got money to print enough stickers to place on every elementary school paper towel dispenser in the local school district. I also have been asking businesses who use paper towels to place stickers on their dispensers. Now these businesses are featured here on the "Wall of Waste Nots."
But this campaign has grown beyond small town Oregon: I've been contacted by people in Sweden, Germany, Brazil and England. In the U.S. I've heard from folks from California to Wisconsin to Vermont.
Now there is a Shake & Fold song that is great for spreading the word in schools. A "music video" will be produced soon.
You can spread Shake & Fold love by posting stickers in places where you work, eat and play. You can get up to 10 stickers for free. If you place them somewhere you don't work, please ask permission first. Also talk to people and teach by example in every washroom.
Please contact me if you have any questions.
Remember to Shake & Fold!
Cecelia Warner, Forest Grove Oregon, 2018
Click this link to view Joe Smith's Tedx talk CLICK HERE