These Come From Trees
November 7, 2007 8:18 AM   Subscribe

These Come From Trees "Testing shows a 'These Come From Trees' sticker on a paper towel dispenser reduces paper towel consumption by ~15%"
posted by nthdegx (44 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
This type of campaign does not bode well for beef consumption.
posted by GuyZero at 8:20 AM on November 7, 2007 [3 favorites]


I wonder what happens if you put the sticker on the maple syrup jug?
posted by hattifattener at 8:22 AM on November 7, 2007


If you put a “these come from trees” sticker on your pile of “these come from trees stickers” will it reduce the amount of “these come from trees” stickers people use?

I’m gonna stick these things on gas pumps, fire hydrants, and puppies, just to see what happens.
posted by bondcliff at 8:23 AM on November 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


*eyeroll* It's not like they're cutting down old-growth redwood to make PAPER, you know.

Trees are the ultimate in renewable, green resources.
posted by Malor at 8:26 AM on November 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


Similarly, I'm sure I've read somewhere (this, maybe?) about people putting stickers on their light switches to remind them that the elecricity comes from burning coal and the like.
posted by pracowity at 8:31 AM on November 7, 2007


These come from the Electric Hand Blowdryer Industry.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 8:32 AM on November 7, 2007


Metafilter comes from...?
posted by arcticwoman at 8:35 AM on November 7, 2007


Why do they have to cram two fists full of napkins into the bag at Dunkin Donuts? I mean, how messy can that jelly donut really be?
posted by goatdog at 8:37 AM on November 7, 2007


Is there a pulpwood shortage we're not hearing about? I imagine the energy wasted on a full color print job of these stickers offsets any real "environment savings." Where's the "google should change their page to black with white text" nutjob when you need him?
posted by damn dirty ape at 8:40 AM on November 7, 2007


Testing shows a 'These Come From Trees' sticker on a paper towel dispenser reduces paper towel consumption by ~15% and increases the number of people with urine on their hands with 17%.
posted by JeNeSaisQuoi at 8:50 AM on November 7, 2007


As much as the use of paper stickers offsets their intention SLIGHTLY, it only takes one small sticker on one dispenser to save a bundle of paper towels. So ultimately the small offset creates huge savings.

And if you don't think the pulpwood itself needs to be preserved, how about the energy it takes to harvest, process, and deliver it?

Sheesh, folks.
posted by hermitosis at 8:56 AM on November 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


the energy it takes to harvest, process, and deliver it?

How about "these come from somewhere" stickers on everything?
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:01 AM on November 7, 2007


I think we watched "Everyone comes from somewhere" in health class in junior high.
posted by Wolfdog at 9:05 AM on November 7, 2007


THIS WON'T SOLVE EVERY PROBLEM SO DON'T DO IT!!!
posted by dirtdirt at 9:05 AM on November 7, 2007 [11 favorites]


I always put stickers saying "Trees come from these" on my turds when I take a dump on my neighbor's lawn, but they don't seem to help at all! Sticker or not, every morning Mrs. Flynn is out there with her snow shovel scooping up all my hard work!
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:06 AM on November 7, 2007 [3 favorites]


Yeah, watching the effort it takes to pull a few trees out of a coastal forest slope via helicopter makes you think long and hard about how much waste and energy goes into wiping up spills or reading the editorial pages. I think this is plenty sensible. Paper towels are an unusually pointless item, imo, given how many other renewable, reusable things can do just as well.
posted by docpops at 9:09 AM on November 7, 2007


I dry each finger with a new paper towel. The problem is that handling all those paper towels tends to dry off the fingers that have not yet been explicitly dried, so I have to re-wet them. It sometimes takes two or three rolls before my hands are sufficiently dry.
posted by uncleozzy at 9:12 AM on November 7, 2007 [2 favorites]


"Metafilter comes from...?"

Metafilter burst fully-grown from mathowie's loins.

What?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:15 AM on November 7, 2007


Paper towels are an unusually pointless item, imo, given how many other renewable, reusable things can do just as well
Cue future media-panic stories...

"Just where has your towel been? News at nine will tell you the shocking truth!"

"Are you drying your hands with deadly germs? What to do about it, after sports & weather!"
posted by aramaic at 9:19 AM on November 7, 2007


Surely a reduction in consumption of anything is a good thing. Reducing paper towel use probably won't save the rain forests or stop the ice caps melting, but sheesh, anything that cuts down on excessive consumption has to be an improvement.

What's interesting is the psychology of the experiment, that people need to be reminded of the obvious to take positive action. How long before people develop blindness to the stickers and consumption goes back up?
posted by Reto at 9:24 AM on November 7, 2007


I think these stickers are pretty neat.
posted by agregoli at 9:35 AM on November 7, 2007


I don't get the snark. Simple sign reduces usage. How can that possibly be bad?
posted by phooky at 9:36 AM on November 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


I think that I shall never see
A towel lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is stuck
Down in the dirt and sucking muck

A tree that sheds its leaves in fall,
Forcing me to rake them all;

A tree that when the wind blows hard
Leaves her branches in my yard;

From whose branches sap has rained;
On to my car. It's such a pain.

Towels are made by fools like me,
At least a Dog pees on a tree.
posted by Floydd at 9:37 AM on November 7, 2007 [2 favorites]


It's infringing on our hard-won freedoms, phooky. USA! USA!
posted by hydrophonic at 9:40 AM on November 7, 2007


In my field research, I have found that a product I am promoting does what I say it does.
posted by found missing at 9:42 AM on November 7, 2007


How many stickers equals one papermill worker getting laid off? HUH? HUH??
posted by notmydesk at 11:06 AM on November 7, 2007


Put me in the "This Is A Good Idea" camp.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 11:15 AM on November 7, 2007


I think we should bring back those cloth towel roll thingies that kids hang themselves on.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 11:22 AM on November 7, 2007


I don't get the snark. Simple sign reduces usage. How can that possibly be bad?

You didn't get the memo? Consumption for consumption's sake is super-patriotic!

Seriously, try this. The next time you're in a restroom and use a paper towel to dry your hands, grab about half as much paper towel as you usually do. If you don't smush it all up, I bet your hands will be almost as dry as usual. If you would like to go the extra mile, don't dry your hands until the skin cracks because it's so dry. Leave your hands a little damp and let your walk back to your desk (or wherever) finish the job for you.

The people who these stickers are directed at are the people pull who the lever on the paper towel dispenser 12 times, then fold and smush the paper into about 3% of it's original size and use that to dry their hands.

If you can't tell, this is one of my pet peeves.
posted by hambone at 11:47 AM on November 7, 2007


Cloth towel roll + hidden bactericidal lamp in the fixture FTW
posted by seanmpuckett at 11:49 AM on November 7, 2007


How about "these come from somewhere" stickers on everything?
posted by StickyCarpet
I believe they would go against product fetishisation and impair consumerism!
<>

I wholeheartedly support these stickers.
Seem to go in league with "intelligent design" (nothing to do with creationism), where say the light switch is designed to be easier to switch off than on... re also, Kalle Lasn, "Design Anarchy".
posted by yoHighness at 1:26 PM on November 7, 2007


I am the Faux Real, I speak for the wood pulp farmers.
Something that cheeses me to no end is hearing my friends say things like “Look at all the paper you are wasting! You are killing the rainforest!”
I don’t know too much about my farm. Been in the family a long time. All I know is that I fill out an F form when I do my taxes and most years I lose money. But every 20 years I cut down half of my trees (White Pine) and it pays the mortgage for five years. Then I walk the land and start planting new trees. The land is fertile, and it isn’t being used for a shopping mall. As a kid I would walk the farm and name the trees, and see how big they would grow in the 20 years they had. No one weeps for the pine. Most brown paper towels are 40 to 80% post consumer recycled anyway. Should you not waste resources? Of course not. But you would be surprised how fast pulp trees grow. They are a very renewable resource. Clear cutting isn’t just stupid, it is ugly and unprofitable, and I don’t know any pulp farmers that do it (unless they have sold their land to developers).
And some folks pay for college with pulping.
KEEP USING PAPER TOWELS.
(Screw the Lorax.)
posted by Faux Real at 1:37 PM on November 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'll be putting "These come from carrots" stickers on the carrots at the supermarket.
posted by 0xFCAF at 1:44 PM on November 7, 2007


A sign that says "these come from trees" does not translate into "these come from trees." A potential tree-consumer sees that as "we are watching you and will judge you by your actions and whether those actions fit with our politics, and if they don't, we may send someone round to stare at you until you slink away in shame and regret."
posted by darksasami at 2:53 PM on November 7, 2007


That would make a great sticker.
posted by found missing at 3:12 PM on November 7, 2007


In the college computer lab where I used to work they hung a sign meant to help reduce excess printing. It was a sheet of paper with a speech bubble saying "I don't just grow on trees!" Despite numerous complaints it is still there today.

Eventually when we started charging money for printouts (5¢ per page) we cut our paper usage by about 90%. Clearly a better answer here is to mount a dime slot on the paper roll dispenser and have a chuckle at all the cheapskates walking out of the restroom with wet hand prints on their clothes.
posted by mcrandello at 3:14 PM on November 7, 2007


Two questions come to mind...

1. On Feb. 23, 4 days after launching this blog, his sticker claims the sticker will save on average 100lb of paper per year. Really? Where's the research that backs up this figure? The blog entry before points to his own experience, but I couldn't find where he describes the actual conditions of the "field testing" done. I'm sure it has been done, but I have to better understand how he reached this figure before simply believing just because it appears on a sticker.

2. There are obvious paper costs associated with all these stickers, postage, and mailing thereof. He says they're offset by the savings, and I assume they would be, but again, I guess that would be dependent upon the field testing -- how it was conducted, what the data show, was it reproduced in another geographic location, etc. etc.

I love being green, but that doesn't mean I drop the skeptic in me either... Honestly, I already use just a paper towel or two and see most others in the restroom do the same, so I never thought that most people intentionally waste paper towels.
posted by docjohn at 3:58 PM on November 7, 2007


Not Redwoods, but mature native hardwoods being felled for paper:
http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2004/01/01/1072908848340.html
I've got nothing against well managed plantation timber, especially if there is some rotation or other mechanism to replace soil nutrients, but to cut down beautiful old hardwoods for wood chip is a disgrace. It is even more astonishing when I see the retail price of hardwood like this - one of these trees would be worth thousands of dollars ripped to boards, but that is too much work for Gunns who can make a few dollars per tonne just chipping it on the way to Japan.
posted by bystander at 8:13 PM on November 7, 2007


I've done some imperial research that suggests that docjohn is the kind of person who likes to question blog postings to appear as the voice of reason, but would actually not be satisfied if all of his questions were answered. The doc would always find something to question. Its what doc does. Although my sample set is small, my degree of confidence is high. This is what pkingDesign does on blog posts.

I think the stickers are excellent. Over time, its pretty simple science that the energy input on a pile of stickers is less than a much bigger pile of paper towels. Despite the necessity of ink production, printing, shipping, etc, a behavior change on a larger scale is a powerful thing.
posted by pkingdesign at 12:16 AM on November 8, 2007


You're assuming stickers can change behavior.

That's a pretty big assumption (ad hominem notwithstanding).
posted by docjohn at 3:56 AM on November 8, 2007


You know what else works? Airborne. If you don't believe it, you will when I tell you that it was developed by a school teacher.
posted by found missing at 9:06 AM on November 8, 2007


Hi All,

Thanks for the great commentary (and not a little amount of fun joking on the project).

The initial testing was not as robust as we would have liked. It was not a big deal, double blind, university-grade study on the stickers.

However, we did benchmark paper towel consumption at a local coffee shop for a week, pre-sticker, then applied stickers, and measured again. We tried to make sure there weren't any holidays or anything like that.

The upshot was, there was around a 15% reduction. And this was at a bathroom that has one of those pull lever dispensers. The biggest offenders are the "c fold" dispensers, where you can really quickly pull like five paper towels out in quick succession without even thinking about it.

The upshot here isn't to keep people from INTENTIONALLY wasting paper towels. If they're intentionally doing it, we're not going to be able to stop them.

The goal here is to help people stop unintentionally wasting them, in a costless fashion.

Run a quick model of how many paper towels would be saved, and the associated expense, for your workplace, if one fewer paper towel (assuming c fold dispensers) was used per trip to the bathroom.

We ran that model where I work, at VMware, and it was some pretty interesting results.

Say you make three trips to the restroom a day, with a hand washing for each. Instead of using two or three towels per, you use one less. So call is 3 fewer a day. 5 days in a work week, fifteen fewer towels a week. 50 work weeks in a year, 750 fewer towels a year. Now scale that over you workforce. We have 4k employees, i think, but only about 2k at our HQ, in Palo Alto. So that's 3m fewer towels a year.

Even if only every third person reduces by one towel, that's still 1m fewer towels. Whoa.

That's why we're going to be deploying them at VMware. You can read some more about it here: http://thesecomefromtrees.blogspot.com/2007/03/these-come-from-trees-in-enterprise.html
posted by petekazanjy at 7:54 PM on November 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


Oh, and if anyone wants to backcheck my data, stickers will be complimentary for their testing! thesecomefromtrees at gmail dot com
posted by petekazanjy at 7:57 PM on November 10, 2007


Reto writes "What's interesting is the psychology of the experiment, that people need to be reminded of the obvious to take positive action. How long before people develop blindness to the stickers and consumption goes back up?"

I think it is sometimes just awareness that they are consuming. I once implemented a quota system on a group printer for a university lab. We set the quota at the 80%tile +- of previously observed usage per semester (we'd been tracking usage on the sly for several years). We intially implemented the quota mid semester but gave everyone a full semester's quota. Paper consumption dropped 65-70% within the week even though practically no one was likely to exceed their quota because of the mid semester start date. It was mind blowingly successful. I tracked the implementation for two years and consumption didn't increase, most people continued to use less than 35% of the former average when they didn't know we were tracking their usage.
posted by Mitheral at 8:40 PM on November 10, 2007


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