Gallery: If 1 in 4 of Us Switched to Reusable PeopleTowels We Could Sav...


We’ve all seen it: the public restroom trash can overflowing with crumpled paper towels, guaranteed to give any eco-minded person a headache. But PeopleTowels has created a solution to our wasteful ways. The company designed a reusable personal hand towel made from 100 percent organic, fair trade cotton. If one in four American adults switched from paper towels to PeopleTowels for one year, they would eliminate CO2 emissions equivalent to 815,000 cars and save enough trees to cover the state of Alaska.

Designed by Mary Wallace, PeopleTowels are created from a special cotton blend that is durable, lightweight, absorbent and fast-drying. Wallace found her inspiration for PeopleTowels in Japan, where most public restrooms don’t have paper towels, so on-the-go personal hand towels are the norm. She decided to improve upon the eco-friendly practice by creating an eco-friendly towel. The cotton is purchased from the Chetna Project, a collective of fair trade organic farms in India, and the towels are produced according to the Global Organic Textile Standards, which ensure that the process meets the highest social, environmental, and quality standards.

The towels are only 9 x 9 inches, making them ideal for carrying in your purse or pocket, and they are printed with earth friendly dyes in an abundance of designs that appeal to all tastes and styles. Each towel has a hang tag on the back, so you can clip it to your backpack or belt loop for easy access. Because they are machine washable, just one PeopleTowel can replace your paper towels for years.

PeopleTowels are available for purchase in stores across the United States, as well as on the company’s website, where you can mix and match designs to create your perfect set. Have a design in mind for your own towel? Enter Inhabitat’s contest and your design could soon be for sale!

+ PeopleTowels

Photo credits: PeopleTowels


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  1. signalfire July 27, 2011 at 2:11 am

    I’ve always hated the idea of paper towels (at home also, where I use regular towels that are washed as needed, with rags saved for really messy cleanups), and I also refuse to use those blowdryers; they are noisy and use energy unnecessarily.

    I find that if you simply shake off the excess water into the sink, your hands are naturally dry within a minute or so. I fail to see the problem with this.

  2. tia March 25, 2011 at 8:16 pm

    The big question is….Why are we buying these towels from India? When are we going to BUY our American Made Products? Keep our money here! Super idea though.

  3. caeman February 28, 2011 at 9:25 am

    I can understand the possible good a re-usable towel like this can do, but I am having a hard time getting past the thought of a re-usable towel being sanitary after a day’s use. Given how lazy people are about using soap and typically wash with just water…

  4. thipwell February 27, 2011 at 8:58 pm

    I’m of the mindset that there is a huge upside to this product.

    1. It latches on to your purse, backpack, computer bag, so you don’t have think about remembering it. 2. They’re colorful and cute, so you have an instant conversation starter to tell people about how you use something that doesn’t use up PAPER TOWELS or ELECTRICITY…and it takes up NO SPACE in the wash. 3. Organic Cotton is way better than most fabric, and who knows, maybe the new designer of this product will take your note and create a hemp version, but for now, maybe the point was not to put off parents and other people uncomfortable with purchasing hemp. And if you’re going to compare cotton to trees, then you need to compare 200-300 paper towels worth of tree to 1 PeopleTowel worth of cotton.

    I think it’s great to see someone taking an idea from a different country, that has been proven to be successful, and making it fashionable and fun for the whole family!!!

  5. alexandraah February 27, 2011 at 7:41 pm

    The resources used to grow, manufacture, transport and dispose of disposable paper towels definitely outweighs that used to grow, manufacture, transport and care for a reusable, organic cotton towel, especially when you consider how many paper towels the average person plows through in a year. The costs, fiscal and environmental, of disposables at large is a big problem, one that needs to be addressed by a shift in our mindset, away from using disposable goods, and toward reusables.

    Yes, I agree that hemp is a superior textile than cotton, even organic cotton, but sourcing a hemp fabric that will perform as needed at a price the market will bear, from a reliable resource, is likely a challenge. Hopefully this will change as demand grows and hemp becomes more widely available, but until then, organic cotton towels that can be reused for years, is clearly the better option.

    It looks like they are designed to be easy to use too, which is key to helping anyone develop a new habit that is somewhat less convenient than the disposable option. And really, ew is what I have to say about the heaps of wet, used paper towels that little most public restrooms. Sure, electric hand dryers are an option, but most use a lot of energy, they are loud, take forever (at least it feels like it while your standing there) and personally, my hands either don’t feel dry afterward or are totally chapped from the heat if I hit the button enough times to get them dry. I bet these would dry pretty fast if you hang it from the outside of a bag.
    I’m pretty certain the cotton required to create these little towels won’t displace the tree farms used to produce wood pulp, but in any event, there is plenty of demand for wood products for non-disposable products to keep them in place. Really, it’s the older growth forests that act as the most valuable CO2 sinks and animal habitats as well, not tree farms.

    Regarding remembering to bring it along? I know – that plagues me with reusable shopping bags and I have total bag guilt in the check out line when I forget mine, but it looks like these could live attached to your purse or backpack, so as long as you remember to bring that, the towel comes too!

    Yes, I like this idea.

  6. caeman February 24, 2011 at 9:33 am

    Additionally, what will this do to the tree farm market if it catches on? Paper products from wood pulp come from tree farms. While those trees are growing, they are scrubbing CO2 from the air and giving life to birds. Do cotton plants produce as much O2 as a tree, while lacking a nesting place for birds and squirrels?

    Trees are a better renewable resource than cotton. Again, why aren’t they using HEMP?! It is far more environmentally conscious.

  7. jaysonr February 23, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    What is the final environmental savings for these towels when the energy and water (and energy to move the water) to clean them is factored in?

    Unless every owner is hand washing them with captured rain water and air drying them I think the CO2 and tree savings won’t be nearly as impressive.

  8. thrifties newspaper February 23, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    this is a great idea the only down side and I speak for my self, “will I always remember to grab it when i leave the house?” apart from that its a great idea.

  9. caeman February 23, 2011 at 11:08 am

    Um….ew? Hot air machines are far more sanitary. If everyone would use them, we wouldn’t need paper or fabric towels. I wonder how many towels are produced only with renewable energy? And cotton is destructive to soil, why are they not using hemp?

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