Have you ever thought about the environmental impact of toilet paper? I didn’t until I read this report.
But before we get to that, let me tell you a bit about my relationship with toilet paper. I grew up in a communist country where we used to use harsh, one-ply, recycled toilet paper. It felt like sandpaper and gave us hemorrhoids.
I discovered soft, crisp white, flower-scented, four-ply, extra-soft toilet paper in my twenties when I studied abroad. And wet wipes through a friend who worked for P&G. It was such a huge culture shock that till now, I always look at the type of toilet paper our friends have at their homes. Soft, three-ply, scented = well-off. Four-plies and wet wipes = super-rich.
Am I crazy? Probably. That’s what you get after 20 years of using sandpaper.
Thus, as you can imagine, switching from premium toilet paper to recycled one just because it is more sustainable, makes me feel nervous. I mean, the idea of an uncomfortable, scratchy toilet paper did.
I couldn’t help but wonder: is it more important to be sustainable even if I risk getting hemorrhoids?
As you can see from the infographic above, using toilet paper is not an environmentally and animal-friendly solution. The main problem with toilet paper is that non-recycled toilet paper is made of wood pulp. And since forests help slow down global warming, cutting them down to make a single-use product won’t help us save the planet.
According to the report, the USA is the number one consumer of toilet paper (141 rolls per person per year), followed by Germany (134 rolls), the UK (127 rolls), Spain (81 rolls), France (71 rolls), and Italy (70 rolls).
Now, when we know about the environmental impact of toilet paper, what are the eco-friendly alternatives?
SOLUTION 1: SWITCH TO RECYCLED TOILET PAPER
The good news: recycled toilet paper is not what it used to be! I found a soft, three-ply toilet paper in our local supermarket which is FSC certified. The only problem is, that is packaged in plastic.
If you want to go one step further, find a bulk store that sells loose toilet paper rolls. But beware that you may face another challenge – the price.
While a roll of recycled toilet paper costs 1,10 CHF in our favorite bulk store, a pack of 12 rolls of a three-ply, FSC-certified recycled toilet paper in COOP costs 6,95 CHF. That means 0,58 CHF per roll. This price is possible due to the fact that toilet papers available in supermarkets are oftentimes on sale. Otherwise, the price would be comparable to the bulk store.
But can you afford to spend 89% more on a roll of toilet paper because you want to be more sustainable?
Luckily, there is another option:
SOLUTION 2: BIDET TOILET SEAT
A bidet toilet seat looks like a very sustainable option since:
- Bidets consume less water than what is used during the production of toilet paper.
- If you wash your butt instead of using a toilet paper, you prevent skin irritation. It is also a great solution for people suffering from hemorrhoids,
- You won’t risk clogging the sewage system (unlike the toilet paper or wet wipes).
At first, I wanted to get these bidet seat attachments that you can find in the United States. Then I realized that European toilets have a different size. Luckily, there is a market for bidets even in Europe and I found some cool looking ones. And according to the promotional video, the installation should not take longer than thirty minutes.
Since my parents have bidets in their house, I asked them to help me choose the right one. During one of our Skype calls, my dad asked me to show him the water supply in our bathrooms. At that moment we realized that it is hidden in the wall! Thus, we are back to where we started.
First, we have to ask the apartment owner for permission to break the walls. Secondly, we have to contact a professional to connect the bidet attachments to the water supply.
To be honest, after several weeks of bidet searching, I am starting to lose my interest. Who would have thought that pooping more sustainably is so difficult?
SOLUTION 3: TRAVEL BIDET
But just as I was losing all hope, I discovered a travel bidet! There are several brands that make travel bidets and although the price varies, it is more affordable than a toilet seat bidet attachment.
When I mentioned a bidet to my friends who come from different cultures, I found out that many of them would traditionally use bidets or its alternative: Filipinos, Muslims, Italians, Portuguese as well as Japanese. And although the idea of saying goodbye to toilet paper may seem controversial, everyone who has a bidet swears by it.
I promise to let you know how we feel about the travel bidet.
How do you feel about bidets?
Let me know in the comments below.