Image: Courtesy of Kazanjy on Flickr Creative Commons
Last week, in a coffee shop bathroom, a sticker on the paper towel dispenser scowled at me accusingly. The white decal with perky green letters read, “Remember, these come from trees”. I quickly trashed the wad of papers towels crumpled in my hand and left the bathroom feeling guilty—and strangely curious at a sticker’s power. I did a little research.
Turns out, Pete Kazanjy, a Silicon Valley product manager/designer, conceived the sticker idea after dining at fast food joint In-N-Out Burger. Kazanjy noticed that said restaurant’s centrally located napkin dispensers (i.e., not near any of the tables) prompted people to grab a clump of paper napkins before sitting, use one, maybe two, then throw away the rest.
He was curious in what other situations people “accidentally, unintentionally” wasted paper. His next brainstorm came in a public restroom: How many sheets does it actually take to get hands dry after a post-bathroom wash? Kazanjy tried his typical process, pulling four sheets and drying his hands. Then, he inspected; he’d used only 30% of each towel. He washed again, this time carefully extracting just a single paper.
“One towel, which then got like totally wet, did more or less the same job as three or four,” he wrote in the second post of his blog, These Come From Trees Blog. “It didn’t take longer. My hands weren’t colder. Nothing. So then I thought ‘I’ll splurge’ and tested using two. At this point, my hands were REALLY dry, really fast. So then I tried three. At that point, I couldn’t even tell the difference between two and three towels. Not to mention four.” The “These come from trees” stickers were born.
Since March 2007, roughly 50,000 or so have been distributed—and they’re proving useful. According to Kazanjy’s blog, a single sticker on a paper towel dispenser reduces consumption from that machine by about 15%. Also, a single sticker can save approximately one tree’s worth of paper (~100 pounds) every year.
He’s selling the stickers too, but not for a profit. Ten bucks buys 50, money Kazanjy says is to cover the cost of the durable, laminated stickers themselves, postage and fulfillment. Any overage he donates to the Sierra Club. Though I personally don't have any scientific proof of how much difference these stickers make, I can say that since seeing one a week ago, I’ve been much more conscious of my paper consumption.