The numbers don’t lie: it’s time to toss out that toilet paper

Washing up on the porcelain throne has never been so easy (or environmentally friendly)

Zara Ammar, Reporter

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In 1857, Joseph Gayetty had a vision. Tired of the corn husks and newspapers that were commonly used to cleanse oneself, he decided to create packages of aloe and hemp-infused paper. This toilet paper took America by storm and gave birth to what would become a 30 billion dollar global industry.

Nearly two hundred years later, Gayetty’s invention can be found in virtually every bathroom across the nation. Toilet paper has become a hygienic staple that many Americans use without a second thought. However, in a world where environmental concerns are becoming more imminent, some are beginning to question the status quo.

In fact, a statistic from National Geographic found that toilet paper production wipes out 27,000 trees per day. To put this into perspective, that contributes to roughly 10% of the total amount of trees that end up in landfills daily. Switching over to water-based methods seems to be an overlooked solution that would save thousands of trees daily.

One of the most efficient water-based methods is a bidet, a plumbing fixture or type of sink often adjacent to the toilet, intended for washing the lower regions of the body after excretion. Some may question how “green” these bidets, or removable fixtures like washlets, are in comparison to toilet paper. After all, wouldn’t such methods waste more water?

Shockingly, no. According to Scientific American, producing toilet paper uses 37 gallons of water per roll, while a bidet will typically use one-eighth of a gallon per flush. To put this into more comparable terms, let’s find out how many bathroom visits 37 gallons of water will equate to using a bidet versus toilet paper. Considering that one roll of toilet paper has 1000 sheets and the average person will use 8.6 sheets per bathroom visit, 37 gallons of water will equate to roughly 116 bathroom visits when using toilet paper.

This is dwarfed in comparison to the 296 visits it will take to use the same amount of water via bidet. Aside from environmental reasons, toilet paper is inferior from a hygienic standpoint as well. Think about it. If most people got feces on any other part of their body they would probably do more than just wipe it off. So why are our behinds any different? Naturally, water is able to remove more filth than wiping alone and is also less likely to cause skin irritation. Studies have linked toilet paper with health issues due to its ability to cause micro-cuts. On top of that, toilet paper is laden with chlorine bleach during the manufacturing process, which can cause further health problems.

Some may be afraid to switch from toilet paper due to financial reasons. After all, with prices starting at around $250, an electric bidet is not exactly cheap. However, there are more affordable eco-friendly options. Handheld-bidets–water sprayers that are attached next to a toilet–are typically $30-$60 on Amazon. Even less expensive are water-pitchers (commonly used in South Asian countries, such as Pakistan), which are no more than $15. Keep in mind that these are all one-time purchases, unlike toilet paper which constantly needs to be replaced.

It is easy to overlook the consequences that something as simple as toilet paper can possess on the environment, despite how conscientious we may try to be. Like the corn husks and newspapers of yesterday, toilet paper will hopefully fade into American history as better, more hygienic, and more environmentally-sound methods are popularized.