In this series, I am highlighting one small thing that you can do in your day to day life to decrease your waste. Just one or two small changes can add up to a massive reduction in single use plastics and the overall burden on our planet’s resources.
Don’t forget to read back through why you should consider cloth napkins, cloth handkerchiefs, anything other than plastic water bottles, bringing your own coffee mug, alternatives to coffee filters, and not using plastic straws.
Today’s topic is pretty crappy*.
*TMI warning: this post is about toilet paper! If you are squeamish about bathroom facts and humor, now is your moment to click the little ‘x’ in the top right corner.
Let me hit you with some facts.
“On average, Americans use about 50 lbs annually or 57 squares of toilet tissue every day. The average consumption of toilet paper across the global [sic] stands at about 20,000 sheets or 100 rolls every year. Toilet paper production per day stands at about 84 million rolls. ” (source)
That’s a CRAP-TON of T.P.†!
†All puns here will be fully intended.
Which is pretty mind-blowing, considering we didn’t even really start using it until the 1990s. Really.
Toilet paper is divided many different ways, but in general there are three categories: low-grade, mid-grade, and premium.
It seems at our own homes, cheaper is fine, but when we are at a house that’s not our own, we prefer “brand names” we trust (source)
Though overall, the “luxury” toilet paper category is making great strides. It is even becoming a bit of a barometer for how confident in the economy we are, since it is still “affordable” but seen as a “splurge”.
Is luxury toilet paper the new lipstick?
However, there’s a dark side to this lotion-covered, honey-scented, cloud-like goodness. One of my favorite no-nonsense teams, Bitches Get Riches, breaks it down for you, on why you should not fall prey to marketing ads for “pillowy softness” and “aloe coated” bull… poo.
So, you realize this is a problem and a massive waste of resources.
But, when you gotta go you gotta go.
How do you answer nature’s call, while still ensuring there will be more nature in the future?
Better Paper = same use, but better source
There are many companies already out there that are trying to create a better paper. The paths are varied but the destination is the same: A more sustainable toilet paper.
There are many products on the market, and I’m sure more on the way, that are proudly creating paper from things other than trees. Trees take a long time to grow big and strong enough for harvest, hence the issue with cutting them down daily by the millions.
But you know what grows really fast?
And you know what we have plenty of, but it is considered (for now) a waste product?
Sugar cane is used to make sugar (duh) but once the edible part is extracted, the fibrous stuff gets tossed. It is not even composted, meaning it also contributes to the greenhouse gas from fermentation in landfills issue.
But by recycling the castoff fibers into toilet paper, we get a win-win! More circular economy by using the whole plant, and no more problematic downstream effects from the organic waste.
TP That Gives Back
Toilet paper companies are also realizing that their customers are starting to ask questions, and to give a crap.
Case in point: “Who Gives a Crap” toilet paper. I’ll let them speak for themselves:
“We’re determined to prove that toilet paper is about more than just wiping bums. We make all of our products with environmentally friendly materials, and we donate 50% of our profits to help build toilets for those in need. To date we’ve donated over $1.8m Aussie dollars (that’s the equivalent of over $1,300,000!) to charity and saved a heck of a lot of trees, water and energy. Not bad for a toilet paper company, eh?.”
Recycled Paper TP
TP made from recycled paper is at least not using new resources, and is creating a market for paper to be recycled. It is rare that a company or person will do something that takes extra effort (recycling) and even moreso if there is no other profit or product to be made.
There’s a bit of an issue here with recycled TP though: it may (actually probably does) contain BPA. BPA = bis-phenol A, this is a known endocrine disruptor found in thermal printed things like receipts and lotto tickets.
When these things are recycled in with other types of paper, the bulk paper pulp becomes contaminated.
This chemical can be easily absorbed through the skin. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to wipe that across my sensitive bits daily.
Bidet = Less Paper (possibly none)
Also recommended by eco-home-inspectors, a bidet is widely used in basically all the rest of the world except for the USA.
Perhaps it is just our in-born spoiled-ness, or our extreme germaphobia, but most Americans find bidets confusing, if not downright disgusting.
Happily, that seems to be changing, as public opinions of bidets warm, and the ease of use, cleanliness, and price point options continue to expand.
Hardcore: Reusable cloth wipes + bidet = 0 paper!
By cutting down on toilet paper usage, you are saving trees from being harvested, preventing the whole chemical process of bleaching toilet paper, and keeping literal tons of waste out of landfills every year.
Especially if you have cloth diapered, this is probably no big deal to you. Or if you are already on the cloth period products bandwagon.
These make the most sense to me for wiping after peeing for ladies, and in combo with a bidet for drying yourself.
There are of course many drawbacks to this practice.
You should probably keep at least a few rolls of TP around for guests, unless everyone who ever comes to your house has the same eco values as yourself.
You should also have a sealable container to store them in between using and washing.
And given the stories of those who have tried it, the only thing I would say is make sure you do laundry, often!