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A conscious choice: duck, wipe or wash?

It all started when Anthony Lopez went to use the washroom at the Bengaluru airport. Anthony recalls, “I was washing my hands when the chap next to me was yanking out paper towels by the score. I cringed watching him pulling out half a dozen to dry his hands!” This got Lopez thinking about how many people would be doing exactly the same thing; huge quantities of towels must be going waste .

The paper industry is found to be the third or fourth largest contributor to global warming. The USA , a huge consumer of paper based products for cleaning, uses 13 billion pounds of paper towels each year. In India, the concept of paper towels has been borrowed from the West. We earlier used water to wash our hands. Our grandparents would recall a time even without running water, when they poured water from a canister to wash their hands. Every action in those times was measured to be frugal. Now, whether it is paper or water, we use without discretion.

Concerned, Anthony discussed this problem further with a core group of people and arrived at the conclusion that the problem needed attention. Back in Delhi, Lopez Design took up the challenge of solving this problem within the studio space before going elsewhere. When we researched the subject further and interviewed the group at the studio, we found that most people believe that ‘cleanliness is being dry’. They don’t necessarily feel the need to use soap because within the studio space, nobody requires to thoroughly wash their hands as they never get them that dirty. As it was easier to grab a tissue, the tissues got exhausted three times more quickly than the soap. 18 of us, were using up 3 rolls of paper towels in a month but just one bag of soap for three months. Another observation: people only used the paper towels because of the availability. They all seemed to adjust just fine if it was taken away. We looked at the issues we needed to address.

1. Wastage of paper towels and how to control it
2. How to ensure equal use of both paper towels and soap
3. Steps to follow to ensure your hygienic exit from the toilet.

As graphic designers, we like making our environments speak. We gravitated towards creating attractive stickers to be placed on different areas of the washroom. The stickers had instructions and were sequentially numbered. The idea behind the numbers really was to make people conscious of their actions within the space of the toilet. Otherwise, we automatically slipped back into our regular behaviour patterns. Our thought behind the design was to get people to break these ‘bad habits’. The numbers also served as checkpoints. By dividing the steps and pointing them out, we made people pay attention to what they were doing. The system we developed is clearly aimed at small offices, to influence behaviour in a known circle. Did we think that things would change? Of course. Did they change? Find out by downloading our free-to-use stickers.

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