A Look At Sustainable Hand Drying

When thinking about what makes a commercial restroom sustainable, low-flow toilets and LED lighting might come to mind. But what about hand drying methods?

By William Gagnon
From the December 2021 Issue

In facilities planning and management, sustainable practices have become standard practices. Features and measures once considered a plus have become a must, as technology evolves to help organizations operate optimally in environmentally kind ways. In an age where you need to think green at every turn, the one leading to the restroom is a great place to start, there you’ll find one of the greatest greening opportunities of all.

When thinking about what makes a commercial restroom sustainable, low-flow toilets and LED lighting might come to mind, and they should. But what about hand drying methods? Many people are surprised to learn just how significant this one decision can be, and are just as surprised that paper towels, no matter how “recycled,” aren’t nearly as green as it gets.sustainable commercial restroom

Consider this: A peer-reviewed (ISO 14040 standards) Life Cycle Assessment of the high-speed, energy-efficient XLERATOR® Hand Dryer confirmed it reduces the carbon footprint of hand drying by 50–75% over traditional hand dryers and 100%-recycled paper towels. It is the first hand dryer to be BuildingGreen Approved® and helps facilities qualify for Green Globes and the most LEED® v4 Credits of any hand dryer in the industry. Further, XLERATOR has the power to dry hands within 8 seconds¹—using 80% less energy than conventional hand dryers.

A paper towel itself technically expends zero energy per use, so how does an electric appliance win hands down? The answer lies in that towel’s past—and its future. From production and transportation through maintenance and ultimate disposal, paper towels rely on several energy-devouring processes throughout their life cycle. Keep in mind that “recycled” is different as “recyclable”; a used paper towel ends up in a landfill, like any piece of trash. Consider the labor, maintenance and paper waste hand dryers eliminate.

Sustainability Substantiated

As common concern for sustainability and health continues to rise, manufacturers like Excel Dryer have committed themselves to transparency in their products and processes. In 2017, Excel’s three signature hand dryer products were evaluated, and their environmental claims substantiated, with the publication of the hand dryer industry’s first Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs).

EPD certification is a standardized way of quantifying the environmental impact of a product by studying the raw materials and energy consumption during its production, use and disposal.

To create an EPD, there must first exist Product Category Rules (PCR) which create testing guidelines and reporting methods through industry consensus, permitting buyers and specifiers to compare products, apples-to-apples. The corresponding EPDs provide insight on the environmental impact of products from cradle-to-grave. In 2016, UL Environment (a business division of Underwriters’ Laboratories) published the hand dryer PCR, a first for the industry and the first global standard for any industry. Excel Dryer was asked to chair the committee to create the PCR, collaborating with UL and other leading hand dryer manufacturers, to achieve the industry consensus.

For buyers and specifiers, the EPDs are a disclosure tool that helps purchasers better understand a product’s sustainable qualities and environmental repercussions so they can make more informed product selections. The publication of EPDs established new standards of transparency and sustainability, ushering in a new era for the industry.

But as any facilities professional knows, there’s more to environmental responsibility than being green. Product choices should reflect a commitment to the protection of human health and safety. Developed by the instructions set forth by the Health Product Declaration Collaborative (HPDC), Health Product Declarations (HPDs) are “a standardized format for the transparent disclosure of building product ingredients and associated hazards.”

Sustainability matters more than ever, and its need for prioritization promises only to grow. Partner with trusted manufacturers who are as serious about innovative restroom solutions as you are—especially ones guaranteed never to clog that low-flow toilet.


¹ Dry time and energy use testing performed by SGS International on standard XLERATOR/XLERATOReco Hand Dryers with 0.8” nozzle/standard Thin Air Hand Dryer to 0.25g or less of residual moisture, under the UL Environment Global Product Category Rules (PCR) for Hand Dryers.

sustainable commercial restroomGagnon serves as the vice president of marketing and sales at Excel Dryer, Inc., the manufacturer of the original, patented, high-speed, energy efficient, and EPD certified XLERATOR®, XLERATOReco® and ThinAir® Hand Dryers. Gagnon and the team at Excel Dryer have long expressed a commitment to environmental sustainability through product design, development and manufacture, and most recently, through the creation of the hand dryer industry’s first Product Category Rules (PCR) and publication of the first Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) for the company’s three signature products. 

Do you have a comment? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below, or send an e-mail to the Editor at acosgrove@groupc.com.

Check out all the facility management topics covered in Facility Executive magazine’s Services & Maintenance articles.