Friday, August 14, 2009

Is your bum worthy or Ancient Forests and Bleach?

I was inspired to finally write this post by Grace, who reminded us about how seemingly tiny changes can make a difference to our Earth. Go on over and check out her two informative videos (and what do you think about the first interview from Fox??? Was it just me that wanted to shake her, just a little bit? Just a little itty bit?).
("furry" mountains on the drive between Vernon and Vancouver)

If you haven't been yet, this post is about TP. As in for your bum. As in Papier de Toilette. Can you imagine a world that didn't have TP? Where people used, cloths, leaves, or even... water?? It would seem that North Americans are pretty particular and leaders in the TP revolution that has taken on the world by storm in the past 100 years. For thousands of years humans poo'd and peed without the help of fancy, schmancy paper and then... the invention of "medicated paper" was introduced to the United States by Joseph Gayetty who worked extremely hard to convince Americans that wiping their bums with paper was actually a necessity.

Fast forward a hundred or so years and most North Americans couldn't even make it through a normal day without using toilet paper at least once or twice. Have you ever thought about where your toilet paper comes from? The tissue paper industry is a biggy, and according to Greenpeace, Kimberly-Clark (company that owns Cottonelle along with several other big companies) produces more than 4 million tons of tissue paper a year, and currently the majority of their products are made with virgin forests. Including the Ancient Canadian Boreal Forest.... which by clearcutting they devastate the forests biodiversity in plant and animal life. Anyone who has been or lived in BC recently will understand that monocultures can be dangerous. While living in Vernon Andrew and I witnessed firsthand the visual evidence of the pine beetles devasting destruction to BC's forests.... miles of orange pine trees, a monoculture wipe-out aided by warmer winters.

According to Greenpeace, Kimberly-Clark has just announced their new environmental policy concerning sustainable harvesting. Their goal: achieve 100% of their wood product from Certified Forest Stewardship Council forests by 2011.

According to Ecoholic, over 700 000 tons of disposable tissue products are thrown out/flushed in Canada every year, the average person going through about 100 rolls of TP per year. Also, those scary bisphenol A and other cancer-linked chemicals that we're avoiding in our water bottles and products? They have been found to be involved in our toilet paper as well (as if paper is ever REALLY that white naturally). Not to mention the amount of water, shipping and processing that goes into the process of creating those three-ply bum-wipes! (Ecoholic, Adria Vasil 2006).
(pine trees as far as the eye can see on the drive to Vancouver!)

Does my butt REALLY need to be wiped with ancient forests and bleached out chemical soaked paper? Really? Switching to TP made from recycled paper was a super easy solution and there are several companies out there that make fantastic alternatives. Seventh Generation has been one of our fav's... but Greenpeace has a fabulous table to help you wade through the ever present greenwashing poop to find the best eco-wipe!

OR you could be brave... and try cloth wipes. I really like the idea of using cloth wipes for number one, but I'm not too sure I'm ready for the poo-wipes... Please check out The Organic Sister's fantastic chronology of her journey into the cloth-wipe world. It's actually less scary sounding after the first few posts! Also, Crunchy Chicken has a bunch of fun posts about her journey as well!

Thank you so much Grace for giving us those fantastic tidbits of news from Greenpeace!

Article Authored by Eco Yogini at (eco-poo at it's best!)


  1. Now this is the post I wanted to write! Great job on supplying all the crucial facts. I'm such a lazy blogger sometimes.

  2. the canadian green peace website also has a little shopper's guide to paper products. it's not as fancy as the american one, but it does list more canadian stores and products. here it is:

  3. Grace: i loved your videos! especially the second one- visual representations can be much more powerful :)

    Jen: ah yes- i was too much in a rush to go looking for the canadian site (haha, I suppose I could have just clicked on it). Thanks!

  4. Fantastic post. It honestly shocks me, when I stop to think about it, that people still use virgin toilet paper to wipe their butts. Switching to recycled toilet paper and tissue is the absolute easiest green change there is.

  5. I have been thinking about this a lot. I've actually been considering "pee rags."

    I always wonder about our aversion to our waste products. Not that we should be literally embracing what we put in our toilets! ;) But I have a lot of friends who are DISGUSTED by the idea of pee rags...or even Luna Pads or the Diva Cup. For the latter, they say, "I don't want to see that blood, or wash it out! That's disgusting!"

    WHY?! Why is it disgusting. It's just blood. It's just urine. No big deal, right?

    But I wonder if this is part of our disconnection with the earth. And part of the brainwashing of our culture. In order to get us to buy all these disposable products, they have to instill in us some fear about our own bodies and how they function. I remember growing up in the 80's and ALL the teen fashion magazines were telling the readers to douche at least once a week. They said, otherwise we would start to smell and boys wouldn't like that. (I get so angry remembering this.) Of course, not long later, it came out that regular douching was dangerous, as it disrupted our natural bacterias.

    I say, embrace your body and all its...stuff!

    Keep me posted on this! I'll let you know when I try the pee rags, though it'll probably be a few months, knowing me! :)

  6. I was 16 before we had an indoor bathroom and I can remember having toilet paper some of the time but mostly I remember having stacks of newspaper and old catalogs piled in the corner of our "three seater".
    Cloth wipes would be a good idea for #1 for your family but I wouldn't expect visitors to use them nor would I want to be washing other people's wipes.

  7. At my yoga school's retreat property in Thailand, there are no flushing toilets and no toilet paper.

    Its strictly a crouch over a hole, use your hand/water for all business. And after four weeks of this practice every day, I can say I missed TP at all.

    Of course, there's a need to wash your hand(s) thoroughly afterwards - which you should be doing anyway.

    And then the 'poo hand' as we fondly called the left hand, became the one you didn't eat with, as is traditional in many cultures.

    Its actually not as gross as it sounds and its certainly more natural to be crouching to relieve youeself.

    Also, we made sure to do #2's in a different place to #1's so the former could be used in compost. Very much circle of life stuff!

    Certainly this isn't too practical for most living in the west but some of my friends in San Fran actually keep the western loo for visitors and as much as possible, still do the 'crouch'.

  8. Awesome! I always use it made from recycled paper.
    Cloth? hmmmm....may have to investigate that further.
    Great post!- thanks for the info.

    * do you remember in the 70's when they came out with coloured and scented toilet paper? ew, ew, ew!!!

  9. I love overshare type posts!

    Not ready for the cloth for #2s though....unless I lived in a forest and wore a loin cloth.

  10. i've thought about this kind of fact i thought about figuring out some kind of cloth pad system for when i was housebreaking my puppy...but in the end it just seemed like too much work to buy A LOT of towels, put together a bleach vinegar bucket for the dirty ones and try to keep the dogs out of that, and schlep to the laundromat all the time to wash we used plastic puppy pads. however i do hope to use cloth diapers for my children someday...9 months will give me much more time to prepare for that endeavor...since the puppy was a surprise thing we didn't have any time to get ready.

  11. I just wanted to say that I love this post, and I love your blog in general.

    Also, I noticed that you're from Halifax, which is very exciting for me! I moved from Halifax to Toronto two years ago, and I'm still missing the east coast.

    Anyway, thank you for a very informative post. I have to admit that I've never given a second thought to toilet paper, but now I'm definitely going to look into greener options.

  12. Why not use soap, hot water, and a sprayer,and wash your hands thoroughly afterwards (which you should do anyway).
    stop using ANY kind of toilet paper.
    you are hurting Mother Earth when you do, AND it is unhygienic. You are merely spreading 10% of your poo all over your butt while getting rid of 90% of it! Soap and water clean it all away.

  13. Anonymous: thank you for your passion and enthusiasm! As I mentioned in my post, many "greenies" use cloth-wipes (essentially the step above your suggestion) and have linked to their fabulous sites to chronicle their "actually not that scary" experiences.

    I have heard from my old roommate who lived in Senegal for three months that water works very well. Unfortunately our Western toilets and bathrooms just aren't geared up for a water splash/wash/soap setting. At least without significant modification and cultural changes. Also, having a wet bum just isn't my deal.

    I figure that i can make more impact for our beautiful Earth by doing other more significant things and striving to not let the competitive "all or nothing", "i can be eco-er than you" attitude take over my life.


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