It’s rare that we run into a simple but transforming “life hack” on the internet that actually works and is a win for the planet. But my friends, in this article, we have one (and it won’t take an entire afternoon of work to master).

Let’s talk hand towels. Not the fancy fluffy ones, but the paper ones that you find most often in public bathrooms. Do a quick mental assessment: How many do you go through when you go to dry your hands? 2? 3? 7? How often do you just mindlessly push down that little lever or keep pulling out paper towels?

They’re easy to overuse. The US alone goes through 13 billion pounds of paper towels a year. So, now we’re going to show you how you can make a dent in reducing this pile, and leave you with a tip that I still can’t get out of my head.

Image: Paper towel dispenser overflowing

Source: Wikimedia

Enter, the Shake and Fold one towel method.

So this method isn’t new news at all. In fact, this TED talk has been around since 2012 and has amassed almost 7 million views. But here’s the thing, it works! And if something can stick around for this long and be just as relevant, there has to be something to it.

The one towel hand drying method was perfected and popularized by “proper paper towel use” advocate and former District Attorney in Umatilla County, Oregon, Joe Smith. It’s a simple concept that will leave you the most empowered and eco-friendly occupant of any public bathroom.

Okay so let’s get into this great TEDx talk and get our shake, fold, and dry on!

I’m pretty sure the first time I watched this was in 2013, and now every time I reach for a paper towel I think about this TED Talk. It’s a tough tip to forget!

The Shake and Fold Method at Work

1. Shake your hands 12 times
2. Fold your towel in half
3. Dry your hands

It’s simple, clean, and effective!

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But what about hand dryers!

Okay, so those hardcore questioners in the back who still aren’t convinced, how am I going to get you onboard? Why don’t we take a moment to break down why hand drying is so important in the first place (and no your pant legs don’t count). We’ll also take a look at the hand dryer versus hand towel debate! Thankfully we have the amazing, fact-filled, and always entertaining YouTube Channel AsapSCIENCE to guide us through these scientific lines of questioning.

Alright people, so no matter your dryer style, use soap, and get those fingers dry!

Now, I couldn’t ask you all to change your habits without doing it first myself. So, for the past month, I have been focusing hard on the one towel method (I’ve even been using a similar method when I go to the gym and have to wipe down my machines). Let me tell you, IT WORKS. I’m a stickler for hand dryness out of the bathroom, and I can officially say, you can dry your hands with one towel.

Not to mention when you are in a crowded Chicago airport bathroom and you are using your one towel as the other people take 8 or 9, you really get a feel for the impact you’re having.

So yes, give this a go, try it for yourself. Yeah, you’ll mess up—old habits die hard—but just keep reminding yourself “only one” as you reach for your paper towels and you’ll have made a start at it!

Get out there my friends and start changing the world. If only one hand towel at a time!

Stay beautiful & keep laughing!


Want to learn about more things we’re up to? 

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  1. Smith, Joe. “How to Use One Paper Towel | Joe Smith | TEDxConcordiaUPortland.” YouTube, TEDx Talks, 17 Apr. 2012, Accessed 9 Jan. 2019.
  2. “Paper Towel vs Hand Dryers.” YouTube, AsapSCIENCE, 18 Sept. 2014, Accessed 9 Jan. 2019.

Liesl Ulrich-Verderber

CEO of Ever Widening Circles, Founder of EWCed

Since 2015, Liesl has been a writer, editor, and is now the CEO at Ever Widening Circles. She is a life-long camera-toting traveler, a global story seeker, and an aspiring—but more often root-tripping—outdoor enthusiast. She can be found on Instagram @Liesl.UV