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March 20, 2013

Joe Smith: Simply Reaching Millions
Category: 2013 Event, News

Joe Smith

In four and a half minutes, two words magically transformed our bathroom habits forever. C’mon, you know ‘em: Shake and fold!

At TEDxConcordiaUPortland (now known as TEDxMtHood) Becoming Extraordinary 2012, speaker Joe Smith delivered his idea worth spreading about how to properly use a single paper towel. When asked why, out of all of the subjects he could have talked about, he chose to talk about paper towels, he had two more words:

“Why not?”

But then he went on:

“I realize that last answer is too flip. First, over the years I really have, as I’ve observed people using multiple towels to dry their hands—and out of my environmentalist leanings—developed something of a fixation on it; I see it as one way to make a difference. Second, while that difference in the overall scheme of things is pretty small, it provides a very good example for what’s needed if we are to avoid the environmental cliff: lots of people doing lots of little things can, when taken together, make a big difference. Third, I thought it would be fun for the viewers. And finally, given four minutes, I knew it was a message that could be effectively shared.”

Joe Smith on TED.comA couple of weeks later, Joe’s talk was posted on TED.com where it currently has 1,200,000 hits and counting. People are now watching it everywhere TED talks can be seen, from Munich to Pakistan to Vancouver, BC. The idea is spreading so much in fact that the next time you talk about TED, your conversation may turn to Joe: “Oh yeah,” someone might say, “I saw that one about the paper towels.”

A small percentage of TEDx talks (less than 1%) actually make it to the parent TED.com collection, so this in itself is remarkable; however, Joe’s shaking and folding didn’t stop there.

An ad agency representing a paper towel company contacted him about posting something on their blog; Southwest Airlines requested information about him for their magazine; another company sent him some small cloth samples meant to be carried in lieu of paper towels; and one man was so inspired that he contacted Joe about making stickers to put on paper towel dispensers worldwide.

Joe’s TEDxConcordiaUPortland (now known as TEDxMtHood) talk is also being shown at other TEDx events around the world, and we’ll be showing it at our very own TEDxConcordiaUPortland (now known as TEDxMtHood) 2013 event.

You might remember the end of Joe’s talk, when he hinted that he might return to the stage again for a lesson on conserving toilet paper. You’ll have to be there on March 23rd, 2013, to see if he makes good on that promise.

Sean Wheaton

Sean Wheaton is a teacher and writer who lives in Portland, OR. He’s a lover of ideas both big and small, and he is thrilled to be a part of this year’s TEDxConcordiaUPortland planning team. He’s one of several storytellers who will be sharing write-ups, interviews, and perspectives on the many extraordinary people from our surrounding community.