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Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Wipe your bum and save the earth

Cloth Wipe Challenge 2008While the 2008 Cloth Wipe Challenge is at a close, that doesn't mean you should stop using your cloth wipes. In fact, if you didn't participate during the challenge here are a few more tidbits that will help convince you to start wiping your bits with something other than toilet paper, or at the very least switch to a more environmentally friendly TP.

According to Charmin, consumers on average use 8.6 sheets per trip to the bathroom. That's a total of 57 sheets per day and an annual total of 20,805 sheets. There are 230 million adults in the U.S., each averaging a roll and a half per week. Since each roll of toilet paper averages about .5 a pound of paper, that's about 40 pounds of TP per year.

That equals 4,600,000 tons of TP used each year. And that's just from adults. To take the calculation even further, if all U.S. adults used only Charmin toilet paper or the like (aka "virgin fiber" with 0% recycled content or post-consumer waste), the environmental cost is approximately (not including the issues with Dioxin):

  • 78.2 million trees
  • 1.35 million tons of air pollution
  • 32 trillion gallons of water
  • 2.1 trillion gallons of oil
  • 18.75 trillion Kilowatt hours of energy

    Seems rather ridiculous, no? Just for wiping our butts. Fortunately, not all the toilet paper used is such an environmental disaster. Of course, the higher percentage of recycled paper you use in your toilet paper, the less environmental impact you make.

    If you just can't make the switch to cloth toilet paper, at the very least switch to 100% recycled TP. And stay away from Charmin, Cottonelle, Angel Soft and other virgin fiber toilet papers out there.

    For those of you who took the cloth challenge, how did it go? Will you continue to use cloth wipes? Did you run into any problems?
  • 19 comments:

    ruchi aka arduous said...

    I didn't take the challenge, but I wasn't using toilet paper for number one for months having only used my spray bottle. Since I left LA, I have left my spray bottle behind, and all other options are unappealing to me. It's amazing how much toilet paper I've gone through in the past month. I think I've used as much tp in four weeks as I used in the past four months. As soon as I find a place, I'll forage or buy a spray bottle and get back on track!!

    Anonymous said...

    Could someone explain how this spray bottle method works? What kind of spray bottle? Sounds awkward to spray my hoo-hoo and not get other clothing wet. How does it dry off before pulling up one's pants?

    Deborah said...

    Thanks for this kick in the behind, so to speak. I had been using 7th gen. but it was too irritating to my tender parts so I switched to Charmin. A cut-up soft t-shirt is sooo much better than that. No one in the house has figured it out while I test ran the system. The only question I have is do you need to wash #1 cloths in hot water or would cold work as well?

    Hausfrau said...

    I think cold water works fine for washing #1 cloths. I will definitely keep using my P-cloths after this.

    Thanks for the stats, Crunchy! Good motivation!

    Rachel said...

    I've been using cloth TP for #1, and I'll keep using it. I bought an big cookie jar with lid at the thrift store to keep the used ones in. It works pretty well. I just wash the wipes when I was my baby's cloth diapers. This system works well and the amount of TP I've saved is amazing, I'm sure. :) Thanks for the push to use cloth TP!

    Keri said...

    Someone threw out a HUGE box of old curtains and as I was cutting them up to reuse into goody bags for a conference I'm hosting next month, I realized that the inner layer was soft and perfect to use as cloth TP. So I cut them up into squares and have been using them ever since. LOVE it! When I go out and use paper, I realize what a HUGE difference it makes in comfort. I never realized how ROUGH paper was! There's no turning back now. =D

    red fraggle said...

    I did this once a few years ago when i was trying to spend * no money* other than rent, for a month. Funny how not consuming often leads to being green. I think I'll jump on this again - better late than never!

    dahlia said...

    i will continue to use cloth when urinating, as i have for a long time. for poop, the amount of water spent on another load laundry doesn't seem feasible for just one person for a tiny pile of poopy wipes. i think i'd rather spend that time getting busier in the garden or other green projects at this point.

    Jerry Critter said...

    I understand the statistics about TP vs cloth, but I find it hard to bring myself to use cloth. It brings back memories of the "old diaper pail" that we used for cloth diapers when my daughter was an infant about 40 years ago. I still remember the smell when we would dump out the pail.

    Some things you just never forget!

    jenny mae. said...

    we are here to stay with this. we've used cloth wipes as a family for 2 yrs now and have no intentions of going back to paper. i havn't gone all out with using them outside of the house yet though. i really need to get a wetbag. the only real "problem" is guests who come over and are a little freaked to wipe like a dirty hippy. so we keep a roll in the bathroom at all times. problem solved i suppose.

    ruchi aka arduous said...

    Anonymous, I use a plain old spray bottle. The water jet isn't that strong, so you're unlikely to get your other clothes wet. Basically, I just spray a little bit so I feel nice and fresh, and then I might do a little wriggle around and then that's it. It is a little wet, but you dry off very quickly.

    AK said...

    I haven't heard of the spray bottle method, but I've been using a plastic water bottle with a sports top and squeezing a stream at my nether regions for #1. It's very accurate. Then a couple of bounces and the drips fall off, after which I just pull up my cotton undies and that suffices. I don't mind if slightly damp for a few minutes while undies dry. There are lots of plastic water bottles around not in use since the shift to metal.

    In Thailand, where I was raised, using TP alone is not considered clean enough. Before plumbing, old houses would have a water jar and bowl to scoop water to sluice yourself with. Now they install what the Australians call a "bum gun" which is a little hose with a squirt nozzle plumbed into the toilet intake line. It hangs on a hook and you use it much like a garden hose with nozzle. I hear you can mail order these. I've seen one installed in a friend's house, for his Cambodian wife, here in California.

    Paola said...

    I didn't do the challenge but I have been using recycled toilet paper, paper towels, and napkins.

    Anonymous said...

    I made the switch and think I am going to stick with it. I have had to hide it from the rest of the family, especially hubby. I took an empty mayonaise jug (you know those bulk size ones) and use that for the dirties. I put a little home-ade laundry soap and vinegar in it with some water. When I wash, because I don't have hot water in my machine, I boil apot and let them soak with some soap for a few hours then wash as normal. So far so good. I think I will stick with it and try to switch the girls over. Thanks for the challenge.

    Katie said...

    I'm a little late to the party, but my husband and I have made the switch and it has been largely painless. As for having a pile of wipes that "smell," what we have done is keep a clean 32oz yogurt tub (but anything would work) filled with water, a scoop of washing soda, and a couple of drops of tea tree oil next to the toilet. Just drop the wipes in when you're done, and when it gets full, dump it out and rinse it well (I use hot water) in the bathroom sink or tub. We then run them through the laundry with whatever else needs to be washed. Works great!

    Dana said...

    Didn't and likely never will take the challenge, but who knows what the future holds?

    Just thought I'd answer anonymous' question, however, out of my experiences not being able to wipe the traditional (or would that be modern?) route after child birth.

    Anything works, but the hospital gave me a little squirt bottle that looked kinda like a dish detergent bottle, and it made a nice stream of cool water that felt quite nice and cleansing.

    So you could probably use that.

    Diana R.Smith said...

    So what kind of TP is the best? Sorry but my family is just not gonna buy the rag thing...took enough time for adult son to take to hanging out his load of clothes weekly. We use Scott and got thru a roll about weekly for 3 adults and part time a fourth. Hopefully all the other ecological things we do will cancell out this TP thing...we do do the "if it's yellow" thing......DEE

    Anonymous said...

    It's spreading. My daughter (9) commented that using toliet paper didn't seem wise, besides, she doesn't feel clean. I let her in on my secret so now there are two of us in the house using cloth. Also, it makes it easier not to flush every single time because you're not clogging it up with paper products.

    gailmom said...

    I just read this (linked from another blog) and so I wasn't part of your challenge. But we've been using unbleached cotton cloth wipes in our house since 2005. Started with a baby who was sensitive to chemicals, so I started making my own cloth diaper wipes, and it was a logical step from there to eliminating toilet paper. I've never looked back. I LOVE using cloth wipes, and really dislike traveling because toilet paper just doesn't feel clean to me anymore.

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