Introduction: For almost a decade, paper towels have been a fundamental aspect of everyday life in wealthy, consumer cultures. Their purpose is to dry or sanitize a large variety of surfaces from kitchens, to bathrooms, and even hands. Their convenience and effectiveness led to their popularity and overabundance. Paper towels are one of the most used paper products in the world, behind toilet paper. The demand for paper towels (especially during Covid-19) fuels the absurd rate of industrial production and consumption of these single-use products. Due to frequent use by massive amounts of Northern American residences each day, paper towels make their way to landfills faster than one could ever imagine. In a little over six years, the commercial consumption of paper towels increased over 40% in the United States and Canada. Although they are not the only countries using paper towels, North Americans seem to rely on them the most, consuming 13 billion pounds of paper towels each year. The United States consumes more paper towels than nearly all of the other contributing countries combined. The unnecessary, excessive use of paper towels in the United States is responsible for the large amounts of paper towels flooding the nation’s landfills, because no, paper towels are not reusable. They account for 2% of landfill waste in America alone, which may not seem significant at first, but it’s important to keep in mind landfills’ impacts on climate change and air pollution. The consumption of paper towels in the U.S, regardless of their negative health and environmental implications, reflects Americans' relationship with the world and how they treat (or better yet, use) their environment. Short History of Object: Paper towels emerged in American culture and on the shelves of its supermarkets during the early 1930s. The leading paper producing company of the time was none other than The Scott Paper Company, founded by brothers Clarence and Irvin Scott in 1879. The original creation of paper towels was purely accidental. The company had an entire railcar worth of toilet tissue that was deemed “too thick” for bathroom use. To prevent such a massive economic loss, Irvin drew inspiration from an old school teacher and decided to cut the material into single sheets, branded them as sanitation towels, and put them on the market. (Just another example of capitalist economic motives causing damage to the environment). This product became known as “sani-towels” and would soon lead to the development of the modern paper towel intended for kitchen use. It took a reasonable period of time before the product became popular but once it did, it became a relative ‘necessity’ for everyday life. People in the U.S began using paper towels everywhere, for just about everything. The usefulness of paper towels is arguably undermined by the vast amounts of environmental and health related implications tied to their production, transportation, consumption and disposal (although largely unknown/ignored at the time and today). Life Cycle Assessment: Nearly every phase of a paper towel’s life is harmful to the environment. The only time paper towels aren’t contributing to CO2 emissions would be during the momentary period of physical use. Other than that, paper towels pollute the Earth during every moment of their life cycle, from start to finish. The entire cycle consists of over half a dozen hazardous phases: forestry, pulp production, pulp transportation, paper towel production/packaging, product distribution, and lastly, consumption and disposal, each of which require large amounts of energy and natural resources. Paper towels are the second most used paper product in the world. The [paper] industry consumes more water than any other industry on the planet, while simultaneously establishing itself as the fifth largest energy consumer on a global scale and third largest industrial polluter in the U.S. To make 1 ton of paper towels, 17 trees are cut down and 20,00 gallons of water are polluted. Not to mention the use of petroleum, crude oil, fuel and polyethylene for production, distribution and packaging purposes. The environmental damage doesn’t stop at distribution, it follows the product all the way to its disposal in landfills, which have significantly high rates of C02 emissions. The environmental implications of paper towel consumption are no secret, the information is easily accessible with one simple Google search. However, paper towels are still flying off the shelves, now more than ever, due to the Covid pandemic, capitalist economic motives and consumer culture. Lens/Framework 1: Political Economy The current political economy of consumer societies facilitates anthropocentric ideologies and capitalism. Populations of people living in these societies believe that humans are the most important species on the planet and value commodities over ecosystems. This mentality fuels the increasing disconnect between people and nature which perpetuates consumer culture and industrialization. The paper towel industry inherits characteristics of global capitalism and uneven development. The American/western/capitalist general desire for economic prosperity allows corporations and industries in one nation to hoard and abuse a large portion of the Earth’s resources. Producing modern commodities, like paper towels, puts other countries, populations, and ecosystems at risk for cash and convenience. These values and activities are rooted in political policies that thrive in the American economy and culture. The commodification of trees (for paper towel production) is just one of the many examples of society valuing tree-based goods more than the trees themselves. People are willing to contribute to deforestation and pollution for accessibility to paper towels at their local grocery store. The means of production correlated to the life cycle of paper towels are driven by capitalist ecology and anthronpectric ideologies that exhibit the cruel reality of consumer cultures’ relationship with nature. In this perspective, the world’s resources (land, plants, water, air, etc.) are all meant to be used and profited off of, rather than respected and preserved. The Scott brothers and paper company had a choice between taking a large economic loss or contributing to the destruction of the Earth to make a profit and save their wallets. They, like many other companies and capitalist corporations, chose the latter. Lens/Framework 2: Risks and Hazards Hazards are anything that threaten individuals or societies in terms of production and paper towels have many. There are a few different categories of hazards associated with paper towel usage and the paper industry as a whole. The first being the impacts on human health, which include: ozone depletion, smog formation, global climate effects, and ionizing radiation. Immediately following is the extensive list of impacts on natural resources such as fossil fuel depletion, water depletion, land occupation/transformation, metal depletion, and continued reliance on nonrenewable energy. Last, and certainly not least, are the effects on environmental quality that cause marine and freshwater eutrophication and acidification. It’s hard to say what’s more depressing, the hazardous nature of paper towel usage or societies risk perception. Individuals and corporations are responsible for choosing whether or not to participate in hazardous/risky behavior. The common perception of capitalist societies and individual consumers are usually influenced/reinforced by social dynamics, as stated in the cultural theory. Americans are aware of the risks of using non-reusable/recyclable products (like paper towels) and use them religiously anyways. This is due to consumer tendencies of valuing convenience over environments. The capitalist fueled disconnect between people and nature is causing and perpetuating this sort of behavior. Middle class people living in wealthy nations tend not to face the environmental effects of their actions, they're so separated from nature that they mistakenly believe they are living outside of it. 544,000 trees would be preserved if every family used one less roll of paper towels and apparently, that is still too much to ask. Their choice to use paper towels says a lot about their perception and relationship with nature, especially considering the presence of ‘greener’ alternatives like reusable cloths, compostable paper towels, and air dryers. They know these options exist, yet they choose the harmful, paper based product anyways because it's the “quicker picker upper.” Not acknowledging or changing their culturally normalized, detrimental behavior says more than enough about their thoughts on preserving nature. Conclusion: Consumers can find paper towel rolls on the shelves of dollar stores across the nation. The monetary cost of paper towels is incompatible to the environmental cost of producing and disposing of this single product. Humans pay the price of deforestation, pollution and waste production in exchange for sheets of paper, smothered in bleach and chemicals, that ‘guarantee’ to clean up messes. It’s rather ironic that a product created to clean up messes, is causing environmental messes on such a large, global scale. Companies are inputting fuel sources, chemicals, water and electricity to output a single use piece of paper material. More than 51,000 trees are chopped to meet the demands of U.S paper towel consumption. 254 million tons of these paper towels make their way to landfills across the global, in any given year. The risks and hazard of paper towel consumption is high, but the general ignorance of consumer societies seems to be higher. The people using paper towels the most (U.S citizens) are the most detached from nature, which is reflected in their daily choices. The recent Covid-19 pandemic increased the demand for paper towels, putting more money in the pockets of harmful corporations and putting the environment at even more risk than ever before. One way to reduce waste production and paper towel usage would be to switch to washable alternatives. It may require energy and water to wash a dirty rag but not nearly as much as it costs the Earth to produce a pack of paper towels.