What’s the issue (or tissue?) with toilet paper?
First off, it is paper, which seems like an odd thing to clean yourself off with.
Secondly, and more importantly, it is full of toxic endocrine disruptors. I’m assuming that anyone reading an article like this about Zero Waste already fully understands that bisophenol-A is everywhere- cell phones, packaging, laptops, fabric, paper, and more. It has been proven to cause reproductive problems, which means not just childbearing is impacted but also women’s monthly menstrual cycles. Plain white toilet paper doesn’t necessarily included BPA (depending on the brand), but recycled toilet paper usually does include it because the paper is made from recycled magazines and receipts. (High-gloss/shiny paper=coated with BPA or something similar).
Thirdly, besides slowly poisoning those who use it, toilet paper’s production and waste is a terrible poison to our earth. Toilet paper wastes approximately 15 million trees annually, and uses over 200,000 tons of bleach. A single roll of toilet paper uses 37 gallons of water.
There is no doubt that this is a problem. 780 million people around the world don’t have access to clean water, yet my country pays for the manufacturing of single-use paper products which waste that much needed water.
Zero Waste Solutions:
-composting toilet: No one does this better than Rob Greenfield,who I personally think is the best Zero Waste guru. Lauren Singer and Bea Johnson glamorize the movement, but Rob talks about the nitty-gritty stuff you have to do to reduce your negative impact on the environment. Also, he is a good representation of how men can fit into this movement- which isn’t something that I find very common due to the glamorization. Anyway, with a composting toilet, one would normally use toilet paper or family cloth…Rob dumpster dives for his toilet paper. Toilet paper does contain a lot of chemicals that I, myself, wouldn’t want to touch again, but I think it’s a very good strategy to combat waste.
-recycled paper toilet paper: Again, there is the problem with BPA or similar substances from whatever recycled materials that the company used to make the paper. I included it because, at the very least, it prevents cutting down virgin trees.
-unbleached toilet paper: When I joined the Zero Waste game, I started out using Seventh Generation Unbleached Toilet Paper. It’s actually some of the softest recycled toilet paper that I’ve used, and it’s all from brown paper waste (no BPA, no dioxins, etc.). It is still my top choice today if I had to go back to using toilet paper.
-family cloth: Flannel, terrycloth, or another absorbent material sewn in the shape of toilet paper squares and then washed after use. People seem to use this quite commonly without bidet use beforehand. I think it sounds gross, but if you’re one of the Zero Waste people who feel fine about it, cool! Though, if you are considering trying this one, make sure to wash the clothes in hot water to kill the pathogens that castille soap and soap nuts don’t kill. (because spoiler: they don’t kill germs, they just remove residue from clothing).
-bidet (with or without family cloth): Don’t listen to the argument that bidets waste water too. Each person using a bidet (without toilet paper) uses much less water than the water that would go into the production of the toilet paper they could use alternatively. This is the way I have found is the least expensive for me, as well as hygienic. I purchased a Luxe Neo 120 Bidet on Amazon almost 5 months ago and it simply attaches underneath my toilet seat. Click on the picture below if you want to get the same one I got on Amazon. Here’s the video we used to install it
Notes on Family Cloth:
I actually just call mine “drying cloth”, since I’m the only one at my house who uses it, and I feel like that term is a bit more descriptive. Online, I’ve seen quite a few people recommend using flannel for family cloth, but mine are made out of old clothes in a variety of materials: pima cotton, rayon, and cotton/polyester blends (eww) haha.
How much family cloth do you need? I’d say 4 per day per person. I wash mine weekly, and this works out well for me.
How big should each family cloth square be? I made mine 5 in. by 4 in.
Any special laundry instructions? Not if you’re using your bidet. The clothes don’t end up dirty, so I wash them with soap nuts like normal
Where to put the family cloth after use? In a large repurposed protein powder canister.
Unexpected thing: All but the lowest setting are too harsh so I’m not even sure why there are multiple water pressure settings.
Four months in, I’m still loving this system! I wish every place that I went to had one in their washroom. It’s gentler, and I always feel clean and fresh after using it.. Most of all, I’m happy to be saving trees every month (and some money), as well as preventing water waste and bleach being discharged into the environment. I plan to continue to use a bidet and homemade family cloth for the rest of my life.
Do you use a bidet or another strategy to reduce washroom waste? 🙂