Green Book Fairies #19: Let’s Talk About… Toilets!

The toilet, the W.C., the bog, whatever you call it – it’s sometimes difficult to see how you can be “zero waste”, but we have some ideas up our sleeves!

Let’s Talk About… the Toilet!

Day 19 of #GreenBookFairies and we are talking about the toilet, as it’s one place where people are often hesitant to make plastic-free or zero-waste swaps. We hope this might help you think again!

The problem:

27,000 trees are cut down annually (50% from virgin forests) to satisfy the world’s need for toilet paper. 12-37 gallons of water goes into making a single roll, and these rolls are generally sold in plastic. When looking at toilet cleaning products, bleach consists of compounds rarely found in nature and which can take centuries to decompose, and it can be toxic to waterways and aquatic life. On top of this, flushing toilets is the largest single use of a household’s indoor water consumption.

The solutions:

Ideally, loo roll would be a thing of the past – and bleach would be substituted for strong, natural home made recipes! Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Switch to plastic-free packaging, recycled, unbleached loo roll (one great brand is Who Gives A Crap)
  • Use less toilet roll in general!
  • Switch to washable cotton squares (for “number ones”), and they can simply go in your normal clothes wash
  • Put a bottle of water or a brick inside your toilet cistern (if possible), to reduce the amount of water flushed each time
  • Switch to a natural brand of cleaner or make your own! Very easy recipes on the Book Fairy Blog today
  • Pee while showering! Yes, we went there. It’s a taboo but you’re saving a whole flush of water each time! You don’t have to tell anyone 😉

Make a natural cleaner:

Cleaner is 1/4 of citrus vinegar (distill lemon rinds in vinegar for two weeks) in cup of water. Both are repurposed containers. (Regular white vinegar not cleaning vinegar)

There are lots more recipes to find if you search online!

Fairy verdict:

One place where people are often hesitant to make plastic-free or zero-waste swaps is in the bathroom. 27,000 trees are cut down annually (50% from virgin forests) to satisfy the world’s need for toilet paper. 12-37 gallons of water goes into making a single roll. The United States alone uses almost 474 billion gallons of water a year while many countries go through water shortages. Besides the drain on the world’s forests and fresh water supply, toilet paper also adds to the load on wastewater treatment facilities- toilet paper, often containing chemicals like chlorine to bleach the fibers white, must go through both the primary and secondary treatments before the debris can be removed and sent to a landfill.

These facts alone can seem insurmountable but there are several options that you can try out to see if they fit with your lifestyle. The first option that can alleviate some of the burden on the environment is to use individually paper-wrapped 100% recycled, unbleached toilet paper (like the brands Who Gives A Crap or Pure Planet). Just to keep in mind, many paper-wrapped toilet paper bought from larger stores actually contain a plastic liner to comply with federal safety regulations.

One route taken by many people including myself to reduce their impact on the environment is to use bidets and “family cloth”. Generally family cloth (this can be anything such as washcloths or small flannel sheets) is used only for urine, while a bidet is used for the rest. Used cloths are generally kept in a bin next to the toilet and washed in hot water. Washing with a bit of bleach or steam ironing will sanitize them. Even if you use a combination of these and gradually transition to a low-waste routine,  your water and plastic consumption will be drastically reduced. It may be worth noting, though, that some toilet paper is nice to have around for squeamish houseguests.

  • Emily, Toronto

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