Sustainability: Tush Tales

As we scrutinize our lives to minimize our environmental footprint by reducing and reusing, there is an area where our North American culture can benefit from an upgrade. Yes, I am writing about the miles of toilet paper we use without even thinking about their environmental impact.


Together with tissue paper, Americans use about 20% of the entire planet’s supply of tissue paper products, while as Americans, we make up only 4% of the population. Georgia-Pacific LLC, manufacturer of Quilted Northern and Angel Soft, further determined that an average household of 2.6 people uses about 409 rolls per year. The Scientific American reported that each roll requires 37 gallons of water for production, 1.5 pound of wood, and 1.3 kWh of electricity.


Why is this bad? Because toilet paper is definitely a single-use product that is most often sourced from virgin wood pulp. Furthermore, the energy and water used to cut down trees, transport them and transform them into rolls with cute patterns is irretrievably gone once paper is produced while the associated polluting emissions remain. Sure, customers could decide to only purchase recycled toilet paper, which generates four times fewer greenhouse gases emissions, or toilet paper wrapped in paper sleeves instead of plastic bags, or bamboo toilet paper.


Bamboo is renewable, right? Indeed, bamboo requires less water and can be harvested again and again since it grows so rapidly. Additionally, organically grown bamboo releases less pollutants into our waterways. However, you might find that the bamboo products are costly, and that the raw material is sourced from Asia, triggering transportation-related emissions.


Where do we go from here? How about using a bidet seat or a handheld bidet sprayer to wash oneself? Bidet seat prices range from $40 to $500. They come in both non-electric or electric models with various functions. Just imagine your dream experience: heated seat, adjustable jet pressure, women and men settings, self-sanitizing, and drying functions. Handheld bidet sprayers are a bit cheaper, starting at $30. In fact, most toilets can be fitted with a bidet seat or a handheld bidet sprayer, which can drastically reduce the need for toilet paper.


The little water used by the bidet seat or sprayer represents significant financial savings, in addition to not repeatedly depleting natural resources and emitting greenhouse gases. Now that’s a strong case against TP.