EcoMyths – Drying Your Hands & Boiling Water

Photo by eatmorechips |

Continuing on the eco-myth trend, I have elected to look into two water related eco-forks in the road that people face in the bathroom and in the kitchen. These aren’t myths per se, but are more eco-related decisions that people face on a daily basis.  

Myth #1 – Is it more energy efficient to dry your hands with paper towels or an air based hand drier at a public washroom?

Many people believe that paper towels in washrooms are extremely wasteful due to the resources expended in their production and the waste they produce in their consumption. However, many people also believe that hand driers consume an extraordinary amount of energy in comparison to using paper towels because of the high temperatures and noise levels that they reach. In a study performed by Environmental Resources Management, an environmental consulting firm originally based out of the United States and United Kingdom, it was found that hand driers actually produce a smaller environmental footprint than does the use of paper towels. While both options do cause an environmental burden, in the same time period a typical hand drier produces 1.6 tonnes of CO2 waste, a paper towel alternative produces 4.6 tonnes of CO2 waste. It is important to note that this data was based off a relatively efficient hand drier in the early 2000s. Additionally, the parameters of the study assumed that a person would either use two paper towels or a hand drier for 30 seconds for each hand dry. In the end, it appears that if you are in a washroom and you have the option between paper towels or a relatively new looking hand drier, you should opt for the hand drier as the eco-alternative.

Myth #2 – Is it more energy efficient to boil water on the stove or in an electric kettle?

Many people already know the answer to this debate, but I believe that it is an important one to remind ourselves. It is in fact more energy efficient to boil water in an electric kettle than it is on a stove top. This is due to the fact that the water is in direct contact with the heating element in an electric kettle and is therefore more efficient than the stove top method (where there is an extra piece of metal in the pathway of heat transfer). In a quick study done by a writer for the environmental website Tree Hugger, it was found that most stove tops have less than half the energy efficiency of an electric kettle when it comes to heating water. So although it may be a pain to haul out your electric kettle when you are making tea, pasta or boiled veggies, it is more energy efficient to boil water in an electric kettle before using the old stove top!

Graydon Simmons