As most (if not all) of us are well aware, there’s been an urgent push to use less plastic and produce less waste to preserve the planet. With this in mind, it’s no surprise that many reusable products have grown in popularity—including (gasp!) reusable toilet paper. While it may sound disgusting or unsanitary, it may actually be a viable alternative.
The United States uses the most toilet paper of any country in the world (a fact that was made quite evident by the TP panic at the start of the pandemic). The estimated annual toilet paper consumption for Americans is 141 rolls, beating out second-place Germany (134 rolls) and third-place United Kingdom (127). Compared to countries like France (71), Italy (70), China (49), and Brazil (38), it’s not a very flattering look for the U.S.
According to Justin Thomas, editor of MetaEfficient, Americans use 36.5 billion rolls of toilet paper each year, which represents the pulping of approximately 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,” he told The Scientific American.
Plus, manufacturing all that toilet paper requires 17.3 terawatts of electricity, not to mention the energy and materials used in packaging and transportation. On a more personal level, toilet paper can clog pipes and wreak havoc on city sewer systems and water treatment plants.
How are countries like Italy and Brazil getting by with so much less toilet paper? Well, it’s often because they don’t need to use nearly as much—and they have bidets to thank for that. Although Americans tend to have an aversion to using bidets, for much of the world, using toilet paper seems more disgusting.
What many non-Americans seem to know and understand is that cleaning your bum with a stream of water is actually more environmentally friendly than using toilet paper. You might think a bidet requires a lot of water every time you use it, but a typical bidet actually only uses about a ⅛ gallon of water to flush. By contrast, the average toilet uses about four gallons per flush.
So why are so many Americans against using water to clean themselves instead of dry paper? Think about it this way: If you stepped in dog poop with your bare feet, you’d probably use more than just sheets of paper to clean it off.
Thankfully, there’s a more sustainable alternative to using all that standard toilet paper: reusable toilet paper. If you think reusing toilet paper sounds gross (can’t say we blame you), consider pairing it with a bidet.
Once the bidet has gotten you good and clean, you’ll essentially just be wiping away water (much like toweling off after a shower). You can wrap the reusable “toilet paper” around a regular TP roll, and once you’ve run through them, simply pop them into the washer. The Marley’s Monsters Toilet UNpaper® Roll, handmade in Eugene, Oregon, is made of 100% cotton flannel that can be washed in hot water.
As for choosing a bidet, you can typically buy one that attaches to your traditional toilet for less than $50. The Luxe Bidet NEO 185, for example, features dual nozzles for rear and frontal wash, plus a feminine nozzle that keeps you clean during monthly cycles (and can help ward off UTIs!). Pair your bidet with planet-friendly reusable toilet paper, and you’ll never fall victim to a toilet paper shortage again.