Green Column: Why Sewanee uses so many paper towels


Bathroom in Sewanee. Photo courtesy of Matt Hembree (C’20).

By Helena Kilburn
Staff Writer

Sewanee has taken many steps over the years to become a more sustainable campus. The idea of being environmentally friendly is a part of the University’s integral image. Many of these steps have involved little changes, such as recycling bins in all the dorms or a reduction in the use of electricity, but there are still minor yet impactful changes that could be made in order to harbor a more eco-friendly campus.

One such change currently being discussed is the transition from paper towels in campus bathrooms to hand dryers. The possibilities of these retrofits have been a topic of conversation at recent Facilities Management staff meetings.

The University has not cemented what the costs of this change would involve, and there are many other factors to consider. These factors include types of restrooms, such as common, shared, public, and private. Other factors include foot traffic of the proposed location, limited electrical power, and how long the building has been on campus.

According to Rachel Petropoulos, an energy specialist for the University, “The cost and ease of adding the electrical infrastructure to existing locations is an obstacle, as is the timing of when restrooms are slated for future renovations.”

New construction and remodeling has led to a variety of towel dispensers, hand dryers, or both. These new locations include Smith Hall, the Georgia and Mississippi Avenue townhouses, the Social Lodge, Ayres Hall, and the Sewanee Inn. This inconsistency of drying method shows that the school is considering the shift but has not fully committed to it as of yet.

In addition to this switch being environmentally friendly, the University’s plumbers have passed along the information that this switch could help avoid plumbing issues by reducing the number of paper towels flushed into the pipes.

Petropoulos stated that this “is a topic that needs to be more fully explored of the best locations for retrofits, if/when funding would become available or renovation takes place. And for us to have consistency in our application.”

These are small examples of the school becoming more sustainable. The students, faculty, and staff will have to stay tuned to see if and how these and similar changes progress.