Sorry to Be a Buzzkill, but Quilted Toilet Paper is Destroying the World’s Forests

white toilet paper BELatina

As we are forced to face bare toilet paper shelves and the fact that deforestation is the likely culprit behind Covid-19 (because of one stressed out and sick bat!), it’s time we consider our usage of toilet paper. We hate to tell you, but those quilted pieces of cottony heaven for our nether regions are public enemy number one right now in sustainability circles. But while this news may sound like the ultimate bummer for your bums and Freudian control issues, there are other alternatives out there to consider given the horrendous numbers behind toilet paper production.

Justin Thomas, editor of the website Metaefficient.com, reported in Scientific American that people in the U.S. use 36.5 billion rolls of toilet paper every year, representing the pulping of some 15 million trees. This also involves 473,587,500,000 gallons of water to produce the paper and 253,000 tons of chlorine for bleaching. Thomas adds that TP manufacturing requires about 17.3 terawatts of electricity annually and that significant amounts of energy and materials are used in packaging and in transportation to retail outlets. 

So why not consider growing your own toilet paper like the environmental activist Rob Greenfield? Yes, you heard me, soft, furry leaves to clean your bum. While we’re aware that most people in developed regions aren’t going to use plant leaves as an alternative to wiping with TP (given most of us don’t have compostable toilets or outhouses), many eco-conscious people according to Greenfield are still interested in sustainability and self-reliance. In Greenfield´s opinion it took people panic shopping for toilet paper to wake up to the absurdity of the situation. 

In an interview with BELatina he told us, “People are waiting to step outside of this system and be able to take care of themselves, both in times of chaos and in times of calm (…) I’ve had hundreds of people who have contacted me to start growing their own toilet paper after seeing my toilet paper plant — blue spur flower / Plecranthus barbatus. The good news is that nature provides many different toilet paper plants around the world.” 

If fresh plants on your nether regions isn’t your thing, another simple option is using water. Hygiene aficionados say using water provides important health benefits such as increased cleanliness and its therapeutic effects on damaged skin for those who suffer from uncomfortable rashes or hemorrhoids. Bidets, which were once reserved for Europeans, are now popular all over the world, with 60 percent of Japanese households using hi-tech bidets and 90 percent of Venezuelan ones as well. Greenfield also recommends using spray guns attached to standard toilets or kettles along with other tips listed on his “10 Ways to Wipe Your Butt for Free” blog here. No more squeezing the Charmin, my friends, it’s time to squeeze, ehem, hug, a tree instead.