Because I always have a pile of books next to my bed that is taller than I’ll ever realistically get through, this spoof of the panic-driven shortage of toilet paper that started in Australia and spread more quickly than the dreaded Corvid19, made me laugh.
But then I stopped laughing, because the towers of toilet paper crowding the aisle at Pemberton Valley Grocery store (that were even being offered at a 2 for 1 price) on Friday, had all been sold by Tuesday morning. WTF?
Because I’m trying to see a possible global pandemic and recession as an opportunity, rather than a cause for a complete melt-down (because let’s face it, there will another headline next week designed to drive me into a state of psychic collapse), I was prompted to ask myself: could it be time we got off toilet paper altogether? Isn’t there a better alternative?
Bright Australian minds have already tackled this question. Thank you, Samantha Dick, reporter for the New Daily, for this:
There is no doubt that Australians – along with most people in Western countries like the United Kingdom or Canada – are ride-or-die toilet paper users.
Going camping? Pack some toilet paper.
Music festival? Better take an emergency roll.
Backpacking? You never know when you’ll need to go.
Heated debates between scrunchers and folders, or fights over the correct way to hang the toilet roll, have long divided our great nation.
Here’s the thing: four billion people – more than 70 per cent of the world’s population – don’t use toilet paper.
And here’s another thing: super-soft multi-ply toilet paper is “worse than Hummers” for the environment. A one year old report from the National Research Defence Council said the issue with toilet tissue is that a lot of it comes from Canada’s boreal forest- virgin pulp from old growth that has become a “tree to toilet” pipeline to feed a 100 pound per year toilet paper household addiction. (In the US, where toilet paper consumption is the highest, people use on average 3 rolls a week!)
While Canada has cultivated a strong international reputation as an environmental leader, its reckless and wanton use of its natural resources has left many of its ecosystems in jeopardy. From 2000 to 2013, Canada lost the most intact forest of any country in the world, save for Brazil and Russia.15 Each year, Canada logs more than a million acres of its boreal forests, equivalent to seven NHL hockey rink–size areas per minute.16 The federal government and the provinces have largely failed to implement key environmental protections including their Species at Risk Act, driving threatened species like the boreal caribou ever closer to extinction.17 Canada is also not fully accounting for the extensive carbon emissions that result from forest degradation in their reports to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).18 See: https://www.nrdc.org/sites/default/files/hemp-bidets-bamboo-tissue-faq-fs.pdf
Wow. There has to be a better way. Maybe this is our opportunity to explore it. It might feel icky at first, as we push past our cultural programming around what’s clean and what’s dirty, but on the other side of the experiment, we might have a cleaner planet… and less vulnerability…
What if we just washed our bums?
Dick’s research reveals other cultural practices, like the Filipino tabo or the lota.
Granted, it’s a bit trickier to navigate in the workplace or in a shared washroom…
The preppers have been thinking about this for years… and one of the most simple solutions, it seems to me, is to use a cloth or rag:
This method is more accurately referred to as “family cloth” and is used by people who are trying to be as frugal and/or eco-friendly as possible. The idea is to use cloth rags to wipe yourself, then wash them afterward so you can continually reuse the fabric.
Soft fabric sourced from old flannel diapers or nightgowns works best for this, but you can also use towels, washcloths, or even old T-shirts. Whatever you chose, simply rip the fabric into suitable sizes and trim them with pinking shears to prevent fraying.
Used in connection with the water method mentioned above, this could be an effective way to get by without toilet paper indefinitely. Just make sure the fabric doesn’t accidentally get flushed down the toilet.
Instead, put it in a sealed container next to the toilet and once you have enough for a load of laundry, wash them. But don’t mix them with your regular laundry.
As Wikihow explains, “Reusable cloth may sound icky, but any parent who’s used cloth diapers can tell you they aren’t that scary. Give it a try and see if you find it more comfortable.” Cut some rags from an old tshirt. Line a bin with a pillow case to make laundry easier. Wash every couple of days in hot water (and bleach) if it makes you feel better.