Citing Environment, UCSB Removes Paper Towels From Dorm Bathrooms

Jan 13, 2014 by

Austin Yack –

SANTA BARBARA – Paper towels have been removed from several dormitory bathrooms at UC Santa Barbara as a first step in a larger effort that aims to banish all disposable squares of absorbent paper from campus dorm restrooms.

Members of the “UCSB Paper Towel Free Project” have doled out small, blue hand towels embroidered with the words “UCSB Zero Waste” in yellow to the affected students, who are expected to carry the hand towels to the lavatory every time they need to take a leak.

The paper towel dispensers that used to hang in the targeted areas now sit empty and unused.

The pilot project – launched in the fall and something students hope to soon implement in all campus dorm bathrooms – is designed to help save the environment and meet the lofty and unrealistic goal of the University of California system to become zero waste by 2020.

However, it remains to be seen whether the undertaking factors in the cleansing habits of the average college student – most of whom didn’t even wash their bed sheets all semester long, let alone remember to carry around a towel to dry their hands.

Why don’t these intrepid student environmentalists install hand dryers? Too noisy, according to the first initial phase of the pilot project.

Apparently they didn’t have the budget for super-quiet or low-energy dryers common these days, but they do have the funds to blow on a bunch of Gaucho-blue towels that likely ended up curled and molding in the corner of most bedrooms.

In an email to The College Fix, Residence Hall Association President Andrew Soriano claims the amount of money spent on the project is comparable to the amount of money spent on filling and refilling paper towels in an academic year. But in this liberal Southern California city of Santa Barbara – in which the City Council recently voted unanimously to ban plastic grocery bags – the consequences of this project far outweigh anything else.

Students are “expected to take it with them to the bathroom when they need to go and wash their hands, and they’re expected to take care of it,” junior Arriana Rabago, an environmental studies major and one of the co-chairs of the project, told The Bottom Line campus newspaper about the hand towels.

Nevermind that nowadays most paper towels are generally made from recycled paper. Nevermind that unbleached recycled paper towels can be thrown away in separate containers then transported to commercial composters.

As for this pilot project, it hardly seems fair that the initial participants were residents of the so-called “environmental floors,” on which students can elect to reside in to be amongst like-minded peers (there’s also a creative arts floor, for example).

One would think that if those presenting this endeavor wanted a real handle on how it would work out they should have used a random sample of average, dorm-dwelling college students.

Here’s the bottom line: taking away the paper towels that some 5,000 freshmen and sophomores living in campus dorms use to dry their hands after they wash them – after they’ve relieved themselves, and touched toilets and bathroom stall doors – and asking them to carry around and use towels instead is unrealistic and – what’s more – unsanitary.

Soriano said “students are given full autonomy when given their towel.”

So what happens when – not if – students either don’t wash their hands because they didn’t bring their hand towel, or wash their hands then wipe them dry on someone else’s hand towel or shower towel hanging around? Bacteria spreads, germs spread. At a campus still reeling from a serious meningitis outbreak, is this really a smart idea?

As a student that lives on campus at UCSB and uses dorm restrooms, I cannot see this project working successfully. This project will cause more harm than good. If UCSB works on better recycling rather than create a project that will have more consequences than benefits, residential housing will be better off.

Thankfully, the committees involved – UCSB’s Residence Hall Association, Associated Students Zero Waste Committee, and Housing and Residential Services – still consider this a test project.

Good. Throw this idea in the recycle bin.

via Citing Environment, UCSB Removes Paper Towels From Dorm Bathrooms.

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