Paper Towels Suck. Literally.
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. They don’t add good feedstock to compost anyway. Instead, paper towels are hauled to landfills where they release methane as they break down. It’s said that 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? How? Shake & Fold!
Shake & Fold is a hand-drying method you can use to reduce paper towel waste. Here’s how it works: after washing them, shake your hands (or flick your fingers- whatever works) to get some of the water off. Then take a single paper towel. The paper quality doesn’t matter. It also doesn’t matter if the dispenser delivers only five inches of paper. Because the magic happens when you fold the paper towel in half. Your folding traps air in between the two sides causing, “interstitial suspension.” That’s science talk for making the paper towel stronger and more absorbent. The result? One paper towel will completely dry your hands. Guaranteed.
Joe Smith Rules!
The Shake & Fold was created by Joe Smith who described it in a Tedx Talk at Concordia University in 2012:
My name is Cecelia Warner. I watched Joe Smith’s YouTube video in 2015 and it changed my life. I knew I had to find Joe Smith to learn more. Finding a person with that name was daunting. I combed the internet until I found him. Unbelievably, he lives only 30 miles away in Portland, Oregon!
The Campaign is Born
The first campaign effort was placing stickers in both English and Spanish on every paper towel dispenser in all of the elementary schools in my local district. Also, many restaurants in my town put S&F stickers in their restrooms.
The Nonprofit is Born
As of April 2018, Shake & Fold is registered as a 501(c)(3) in the United States. All donations are tax-deductible.
The Shake & Fold campaign has now grown beyond small-town Oregon: I’ve been contacted by people in Australia, Israel, Lebanon, Indonesia, New Zealand, Canada, Sweden, Holland, Italy, Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Russia, Brazil, France, Ireland, Scotland, and England. In the U.S. I’ve heard from folks from California to Maine and from Florida to Washington State.
How to Spread the Word
Talk About It
Start a conversation with your friends, family, and colleagues. The New York Times offers tips for starting small talk at work and even includes how to bring up Shake & Fold at the bathroom sink!
Set an Example
Share Shake & Fold by example in public washrooms. Resist the urge to chastise someone who uses multiple paper towels. You can instead politely demonstrate how they can dry their hands using Shake & Fold.
Put Stickers in Public Spaces
Go here to get all of the information you need to request stickers and how to cover the postage.