If I can just squish this towel into the cell phone compartment (Day 47)…

hand towelNow that I’m permanently carrying around a hankette so I don’t need Kleenex, portable chopsticks so I don’t need plastic cutlery and a compact nylon tote so I don’t need plastic bags, my purse is getting a little crowded. A friend’s dad said that I should just go all the way and invest in a full-fledged eco-toolbelt.

But because this blog is about baby steps, and because I’m a bit of a closet environmentalist, I’m not about to invest in a hemp backpack and cart around an entire set of Tupperware.

What I am doing as of today, however, is not using paper towels when I go to the bathroom. Although cramming a hand towel into my purse is a great idea in theory, it’s not so great in practice as my purse is small and cute. So the plan for now is to have a towel in my desk drawer at work and just use my hankette if I’m out at a restaurant, bar or shopping mall — as I don’t blow my nose often, I don’t think it’s too gross to do this… but is it? Well, if so, I’ll just wipe my hands on my pants. Wait, is that gross too?

Oh, and I’m not going to be using any hand dryers, either, because not only are they a waste of electricity but they take for-freaking-ever to get the job done.

I have to give my friend Melissa credit for suggesting this; she works in Ottawa (for the government — shh!) and says that by 10 a.m. the garbage in her office bathroom is already overflowing with paper towels. So Mel, I’m going for it, are you going to join me?

Photo of a 70% bamboo hand towel from Babaloo, a cool eco-company that even sells bamboo nappies!

13 Responses to If I can just squish this towel into the cell phone compartment (Day 47)…

  1. Lori V. says:

    Hey, Vanessa! You are two days ahead of me in posts… I’ve been crazy busy with a small kitchen sink crisis yesterday & an all-day concert with my daughter & her boyfriend (I was the oldest person in the mosh pit! I am officially a super-cool mom! LOL!)

    Anyway, I saw this over at Crunchy Chicken’s blog, too, I think… she uses one of those blue surgical towels (of which I have plenty, as Mark is conveniently an anesthesiologist). I thought it was a great idea. So, I’m in! Today, at Edgefest, I used one paper towel for lunch, recycled all my cups & bottles, and dried my hands on my pants! 🙂

  2. Alina says:

    Hey! I just started doing that myself… I just shake the water off a little and then let it air dry. I dont think I’ll ever reach the point of carrying around my own towels. I’ll consider getting hankies after I get through the collection of tissues that I got last time I had a cold. The really nice wheather just kicked off over here, so I also started air-drying my hair…. air drying is where its at 😉

  3. laura says:

    Hi– why not just carry a dry washcloth? It’s big enough to dry your hands, but not as bulky as anything else… It would dry quickly, too.

  4. Bill F says:

    Here’s a round about story… If you visit Tokyo, in front of large department stores, on busy commerical sidewalks and in short where there are large gatherings of people (which seems like everywhere in Tokyo) you will see perky college age girls hand out advertising laden promotional items. What is one of the most popular and iconic promotional items to give away? … Tissues … Why tissues? … Japanese public bathrooms (SURPRISE) don’t have paper products. You have to BYOT.

    This makes the promotional tissue packets popular since everyone carries around them around. One side note is that I always have a tough time getting them to give me the free tissues since they assume I can’t read the ads 😀

    This is fine for “delicate cleaning” but what about wet hands. In a pinch you can use a wad of tissue, but what most people do is carry around a hand wiping towel (tenugui). It is essentially a interestingly printed handkerchief. They’re made of flat cotton not terry so they fold up small. (The Japanese don’t use handkerchiefs for nose blowing they use those tissues 😀 Carrying a used handkerchief would be way to gross for the very clean conscious Japanese.)

    So short answer, carry two handkerchiefs. They’re small.

  5. Air drying your hands works out well. Just shake and go. They’ll be dry in no time.

  6. Hi there! Just got introduced to your site about two weeks ago, I’ve been briefly following it. =)
    We started with baby steps to an eco-life a few years ago and haven’t turned back!
    The idea of carrying hankies in your purse is great. I’ve gathered up a small collection and they’ve all proven useful.
    For the issue of wiping hands/nose/privies (LOL) I have begun carrying around at least two hankies. Since they are small, it’s efficient enough. The second hankie is an infant washcloth…very small, terrycloth that I’ve taken over since having my own wee ones. They are a few inches smaller than a usual washcloth and a little less bulky, but still absorbent enough to clean (and oh, so soft!). I also have a very small container that I place them in when I’m done, errr, cleaning myself. 😉
    Because a packet of infant washcloths can come in 2 or 3’s you will have a refill whilst the other is in the laundry. Also, if not too gross/embarrassing for you, clean the washcloth while in the bathroom yet and just wring out as dry as possible if you know you’ll be needing it before you go home again.
    If you want to go even more eco on the idea, just cut up an old shirt, pants or whatever cloth that you won’t be using anymore. If you have any sewing skills, you can sew the ends to prevent fraying. Even if you can’t sew, just cut the fabric and use it. This way you will sustainably cleaning yourself!
    Keep up the fantastic inspiration for all the new eco-friends coming out.

  7. gettinggreen says:

    Wow, Lorelei, I am SO not as green as you! I’m also a bit clutzy and already have visions of myself going into my purse to pull out my wallet at the cash register and having my used bathroom wipes made from a faded hypercolour T-shirt from the 80s falling out onto the counter.

    I think Alina’s right — air drying works just fine, as does the old pant/shirt wipe. Although when it comes to my hair, there’s not going to be air-drying any time soon. Way too many frizzies and kinks and wispies!

  8. Noelle says:

    I’ve also been reading your blog just a short while (I think I was introduced to it from No Impact Man) and I love it. I like that you’re aware of and comfortable with baby steps – because I think that’s the only way I’m going to go green and stay green myself.

    I love having dry hands, and don’t mind drying on my jeans or casual clothes, but it bugs me when I’m wearing my “work clothes.”

    I’m thinking that I will try having a hanky (or bandana, or something) in my purse or at my desk too!

  9. This is a great idea. I don’t mind the air drying or even using a bandana or something else but the big thing with paper towels that I actually use is to open the door so I don’t have to touch the handle.

    I suppose I could use said bandana for opening the door without touching the handle, but then all those ickies are on the bandana that I’ll be using to dry my hands off on later.

    Any suggestions on getting around that? I’m not that OCD, but there are too many people out there that skip the hand washing part altogether. Which, I suppose, is the most environmental way to go if you think about it – no water, no towels. But, no clean, either.

  10. Melissa_H says:

    Hey Vanessa,

    Yes, I will definitely be joining you on this one. I *think* the paper towels they use here are recycled, but that totally doesn’t excuse the fact that bags upon bags of them make their way to a landfill every day.

    Way to go so far Vanessa! You’ve even inspired me to work on green-a-fying my life too (I’m going to start trying to kick the styrofoam habit… so I may need some advice…).

  11. Alexandra says:


    Thanks Bill F. for the tip with the Japanese hankies. I live in SF, and will make the trip to Japantown to get a few, to be less wasteful and stylish.

    It’s sometimes really surprising to me that many things that I grew up with (and I am in my mid-thirties …), like using cloth hankies or remembering my mom carrying a damp cloth to wipe our faces when we were kids, or using a shopping basket, seem so revolutionary today in our throwaway society. I don’t remember that I ever bought a box of kleenex – what for? You cannot evern blow your nose properly with them. I have to admit, however, that since having a kid, now 2 years old and in a very messy phase eating-wise, I do use some paper towels, because otherwise, the smell of milk and milk products gone bad on napkins, rags and dishtowels would be overwhelming if I don’t do laundry every day. Well, I guess one has to pick her battles.

    As I was not successful lobbying in my office to not supply throwaway plastic cups anymore, I use now demonstratively a porcellain plate, cup, silverware, cloth napkin and dish towel in my office. When I use my own stuff in the lunch room people still look weird at me, but one just has to get over this and get used to being a little weird, be it because of shopping with cloth bags, bringing your own tableware to your workplace or your own towels to the bathroom.

    Vanessa, I think I said it before, but I love your blog, because it is less serious than some of the other environmental/self improvement blogs. With a bit of humor, things go a lot easier, and that applies especially when you do things a little bit different than most people.

    Keep it up, you have many wonderful examples how to “green” life that are very useful, easy to do, fun and, if everyone woudl just contribute a little, our world would probably look somewhat different.


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  13. Carol Beebe says:

    If I don’t have a kerchief with me, I have been known to run my wet hands through my hair to both dry them and sort of control my (air dried and somewhat frizzy) hair.

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