A paperless bathroom – could it be done?

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

Here’s news of a great blog post that we came across today which asks whether, since toilet paper has such a huge environmental cost, it is actually possible to find an alternative?

The problem is caused by perceived consumer demand for softness which means few, if any, recycled fibres are incorporated in many mainstream brands.

Instead manufacturers seek the longer fibres from newly cut-down (or virgin) trees – used once and then literally flushed down the toilet. Paper is also subject to potentially harmful chlorine bleaching and other chemical treatments.

Many people feel concerned about the huge environmental cost of all this – but, with the green movement already having a reputation for wishing to promote hair-shirt self-sacrifice, it’s really not going to prove a popular cause to take up.

You can ease the situation by using 100 per cent recycled but this is often perceived as costly or a poor substitute for the softer stuff – cue the John Wayne jokes (which are mildly NSFW if you’re one of the five people on earth that haven’t heard them already).

As with all ‘green’ products there are lengthy debates about whether buying something labelled environmentally friendly actually makes a real difference.

And, contrary to popular belief, newspaper is not a viable substitute since it has no absorbency whatsoever and will lead in short order to terrible blockages.

With this dilemma in mind we were very interested to read Katie’s piece on alternatives in her blog Making This Home – she takes a taboo-busting look at the issues which acknowledges the problems and still goes on to look at some possible solutions. There’s also a good discussion going on in the comments.

One possibility which is at the more acceptable end of the spectrum, judging from the feedback, is a bidet-style toilet adaptation – and this is an idea that may be catching on, as this short article from The Observer, which takes into account water and energy use, shows.

If you want to make a start with this, you could check out the recycled alternative next time you’re buying and see if it’s for you. One thing’s for sure however – it’s a problem that can never be addressed unless we are prepared to talk about it.

Further reading:

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