by S Martha Montevallo
March 2001

Water is a finite resource that is not to be used in a profligate way. A Japanese towel is about 30" long and about 14" wide. It is soft and pliable and it is adequate. (Yes, I know, the Tokyo Sheraton and its ilk have probably been prostituted into furnishing huge, thick towels, while the typical Japanese person does very well with a typical Japanese towel.) Even though the Japanese are getting bigger, it is still adequate. Only so much water will cling to the human body and it can all be absorbed by a towel that is a LOT smaller, lighter, thinner, more flexible, and softer.

Think about all the resources that are used in the production of those large towels that the towel manufacturers have foisted upon us. The water used for laundry, the detergent that befouls our waterways, the storage space for so much volume, the cost to purchase, the transportation (rolling stock, fuel, packaging, etc.), the land it takes to grow all that cotton, the ginning, cleaning, spinning, weaving. Consider all that it takes to get that "thick, thirsty" towel to you.

On a Cochise College tour several years ago we stayed at a hotel in Los Mochis. The towels there were lush and soft with delicate terry loops. When I held up the towel it was almost like looking through a screen. Truly an elegant solution.

A buddy of mine pointed out while we were camping that I could remove the water after a shower with my washcloth and buff with my towel. Then I would have only a washcloth damp and my towel would be just barely moist. Does this require a huge towel? I think not. And there's no way I can tie up my hair in a towel the size and density of an area rug. A hand towel is wide enough but short for the hair job, however I can use a hand towel as a bath towel and have absorbency left over. If you want to wrap up in your towel, go to a discount store and see if you can find a LARGE, thin, flexible, soft, CHEAP beach towel. You can get about three of them in the washer in the place of the one industrial strength towel we have been induced to admire.

Think about all the hotel and motel rooms in the US. Most provide huge, thick, solid towels that are stiff and unyielding. How much of your room rate is involved in the purchase, handling, storage, washing and drying, and just the ups and downs on the elevator? If they went back to using smaller towels they could cut their towel laundry; water, detergent, fuel for drying, handling, and delivery by half or better, no matter who does the laundry. (Do you think people are really hanging up their towels to use another time in hotels?)

Someone with the aptitude, math skills, and equipment could determine just how much water can be absorbed by just how small a towel and how much unused absorbency would be in the typical huge towel. I've already made my decision, and luxuriate with my soft, flexible, thin, pliable, small, supple towels.

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