Reducing Paper Use: Toilet Paper

When we first talked about the paper mini-challenge at the Longfellow Sustainability Group, Peter joked that he was going to give up toilet paper, to which there was a resounding chorus of laughter and oh no’s. He hasn’t done anything about this challenge yet but I thought I’d look into the options for living TP-free and the environmental effects of our use of toilet paper.

First I got a few facts about toilet paper use around the world from The Toilet Paper Encyclopedia (online).  From here I learned about the use of dangerous chemicals to bleach toilet paper white. The Natural Resources Defense Council has rated tissues for paper source and use of dangerous bleaching.

Next stop, the American Biffy Company where I found out that Americans use 36.5 billion rolls of toilet paper every year. Making that much toilet paper, they say, takes 15 million trees, 473 billion gallons of water,  253,000 tons of chlorine and approximately 17.3 terawatts of electricity. Add in the cost of packaging — what do we do with the plastic bags? — and the cost of transport and trash and toilet paper turns out to be a pretty big pain in the tush.

So what options do we have?

Cloth wipes: Check out what these two blogger moms had to say about how they live without paper in the bathroom.

I’m living in the oft-frozen north so I note that at least one of these moms talks about using a wipes warmer. That would use electricity and would be plugged in all the time. Not a great option but it sure would make moist wipes more comfortable.

Bidet: The American Biffy Company produces the Biffy Bidet. You can put this item on your existing toilet and use jets of water rather than toilet paper. You can add a water warmer; they offer two different types, one with and one without electricity.

We haven’t tried any of these options yet.  Any world travelers out there who can share their experiences living without toilet paper?

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About thinkofitasanadventure

We are a 50-something couple living in the Longfellow neighborhood of Minneapolis. We attended a sustainability conference at our local high school in November 2010, with keynote speaker Richard Heinberg from the Post Carbon Institute. What we heard shocked us deeply. We finally understood the need to transition away from fossil fuels as quickly as possible. We immediately began to change the way we live. We joined together with other folks in our neighborhood to learn more, to do more and to have fun doing it! We're part of Transition Longfellow. We're choosing to change now and to "think of it as an adventure." If you are on this journey too, we'd love to hear from you.
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5 Responses to Reducing Paper Use: Toilet Paper

  1. My husband comes from Kuwait – a bidet country – and we have sprayers now installed in our bathrooms. Several companies offer different models – we’ve tried 3 or them and found them easy to install and pleasant to use. Problem: the temptation to dry with paper after, which puts us back where we started with paper use. Well, less paper.

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    • We decided to try the biffy bidet and have been really happy with it. We bought a couple of colorful small, soft towels at the coop – the kind made from bamboo. I do sometime forget and reach for the paper to dry 🙂

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  2. Lynne says:

    I first learned how to not use paper from my friend from East India, who thought US throw-away habits quite hard to understand. Have been using cloth for years and years…not dead yet.

    Lynne Mayo

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  3. Mathew says:

    I read some of the article but the thought “ew ew ew ew ew ew ew ew ew ew ew ew” kind of makes it hard to read. Of all the things to change I hope toilet paper is last one, well the change needs to be better than toilet paper you need to wash… ew.

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