I’m old enough to remember the first Earth Day, when I went to a fair at my local high school and learned about so much that was then new to me. It was the first time I tried seaweed as a food, something that was completely unheard of then (eww!). People didn’t talk about being “Green,” it was all about “Ecology.”
Coincidentally, I just made a lifestyle change that significantly lessens my impact on the planet. When I first thought about this as a possibility, it was much stranger than seaweed was to me as a teen. This post may not be for everyone; it may offend some. I’m dedicating it to those brave souls who have gone before me.
I’m talking about giving up toilet paper, probably my biggest remaining consumption. This had been bothering me for a while, thinking about the trees that every square I used represented. I remembered I once heard Sheryl Crow talk about using a single square and I thought, “Is she crazy? I couldn’t do that!”
Many years ago I had had a roommate who had lived in a place where they didn’t use TP, and I was wrinkling my nose even thinking about it. But then I visited Asia, and saw how much cleaner it actually was to use water, and began thinking about how over half the people in the world have the same reaction (eww!) to using toilet paper.
So this consumption had been preying on my mind, and I was also watching my money. After paying my taxes and tracking where my money went last year, I wanted to see where else I could trim unnecessary costs. I love when I can actually make a change that serves both the planet and my pocketbook. This is shaping up to be one of those changes very quickly.
Before tossing the paper, I had a few late-night blog readin’ sessions that inspired me.
The first post I came across, was the cloth wipes Q&A, by Sorta Crunchy.
I particularly liked her introduction:
This post will contain copious amounts of TMI coupled with Overshare. All ye who are squeamish – ye best click away now, me hearties.
This post is really practical, and has a lot of how-tos, as well as a nice picture of her setup.
I also liked this post by Crunchy Chicken — The good, the bad, and the stinky. She hosted a cloth wipe challenge a couple of years running, and I want to know where to sign up this year, cause I’m so frickin’ proud of myself.
In this more recent post she shares some consumption statistics that are staggering.
Many of the bloggers who are proponents of “family cloth,” as it is called, are moms who transitioned to it after using cloth diapers. I used cloth diapers with my son almost 30 years ago, and I always felt pretty strongly that they were so much better than the alternative in every way, but I had to refresh my memory. I read a looong thread on Mothering Magazine, the place that moms went to share information before there were blogs. Among others, a microbiologist weighed in, who said that this was absolutely a clean option to TP.
I decided to add an extra step, and got a bidet attachment that goes on my toilet. It’s pretty awesome. After some comparison shopping, this is the one I went with. It was $70, and I don’t know how I ever lived without it. This is where I break into song, tra-la-la, I feel so clean. Seriously, it took less than 2 days to get used to it, and I will never go back.
I spent some time reading the comments in all the different models, and let me tell you, that is some entertaining reading. The majority of the comments were from guys, which surprised me. There was such an overwhelming positive response, that I felt like I had to try it. Sure, it uses some water, but it seems to be less compared to the water used to flush down primarily TP.
Here is my complete setup:
First we have the aforementioned bidet, with adjustable pressure and nozzle:
Then, I use the cloth wipes for drying. I used my most comfortable old clothes, the ones that you just can’t get rid of cause they’re too soft. I cut them up into varying sizes, around 4×4″ ot smaller. These are a little thicker than a tshirt. I didn’t double or hem, but they do come out of the wash a little more frayed then they went in. Since I have an endless supply of this material, it’s fine, if they get too small, I can just compost them, cause they’re 100% cotton. I purposely used a light color, and the bidet is really doing its job.
I store them in a bag on the door (it’s really close to the toilet in my tiny bathroom). This came from a Japanese dollar store and was less than $5. I wanted to do this with some pretty stuff, to psyche myself up.
My last big splurge was the wet bag. This is a diaper bag I got after carefully reading reviews. Since there’s nothing stinky cause of the bidet, I haven’t had to use anything to combat odor, but if I ever had a problem, I’d probably use lavender or tea treee oil. This bag is washable. I got a medium, but I would have been fine with a small.
I thought this was going to be a sacrifice, but it doesn’t feel like I’m giving anything up. It also feels like I won’t even think about it soon. I’ve caught myself throwing cloth into the toilet in the middle of the night, but that was only a couple of times. Otherwise, I’m really happy at how easy this transition was.
I remember when I watched No Impact Man, that was one of the things he got the most crap about (heheh). When he was interviewed by the NY Times, they made the headline about how he wasn’t using toilet paper, and it made a lot of people really angry. If it’s not for you, I completely understand. It wasn’t for me until recently, but now I’m sorry I waited so long. Making this change has made it harder for me to dispose of paper in any other form as well.
Oh, and seaweed? It’s been a regular part of my diet for more years than I can count. I can’t imagine living without it!
Top seaweed photo by katorisi.