Blow-Dry vs. Paper Towels
I've long wondered whether electric hand dryers in public restrooms were really more environmentally friendly than paper towels. The dryers often have some text on them about how they're better for the environment because they save trees, which seems like a throwback to 1970s thinking, disregarding the facts that trees are a renewable resource and that the wattage to run a dryer is pretty high. Slate took a look at the issue and it turns out that if you look at the broader life cycle of both methods of drying your hands, the electric hand-dryers actually do come out on top. The problem with the paper towels turns out to be less of a matter of killing trees and more of a matter of all the energy it takes to cut the trees down, process, and transport them. Electricity may emit a lot of pollution when it's created, but it's pretty easy to transport. Furthermore, the paper towels aren't as clean and require more maintenance. And in California, where less of our energy comes from burning coal, the advantage to the dryers is even greater.
The downside, of course, is that the electric hand dryers never work as well as they should, almost always resulting in a slovenly wipe of the hands on one's pants. I can tell you from personal experience (at LAX) that the new-fangled Dyson Airblade hand-dryers work a lot better, and can be 80% more efficient than a regular one, too. Go Dyson!