Danger, danger! We've already come clean about our paper towel addiction. From the name of this new gizmo, which seems designed to increase the consumption of paper towels using the specter of disease, we're guessing that someone in the Costco marketing department might have read about inverted quarantine...
As a culture, we're ambivalent about throwing things away. There's a big loophole, though, when it comes to health, and that's exactly what this product exploits: "reduce the spread of colds and flu by throwing those germs away." In fact, if it were food or drink, this product would likely have to be regulated by the FDA, since it claims to reduce the spread of cold and flu. At least it uses multi-fold paper towels -- the kind that come out one at a time -- rather than a roll, which might help reduce use somewhat.
There's another subtle claim about conservation: "reduce your laundry" -- ostensibly because you are using fewer reusable towels and rags. That got us thinking about why we haven't seen a green alternative to this product, which would likely be some kind of well-designed rag dispenser and collection bin. While it certainly would be easy to hack one together from existing products, or even stuff you've got lying around the house, the genius of a product like the $23 Healthy Shelf towel dispenser is that it tells people (and given its placement at Costco.com, lots of people!) how to behave: no longer are paper towels just for cleaning up spills, they're also for staying healthy.
Have you seen (or invented) a green alternative to this product?