You knew it had to come up at some point, right? We have to talk about toilet paper.
Not just toilet paper, of course, but also tissues, paper towels, sponges, disinfectant wipes, plastic utensils, paper plates — all the disposables.
Note: I’m omitting the discussion of products solely for women in this post. That’s another discussion.
There are two conversations to have here. One is the question of reduction.
As a society, Americans are pretty lucky. We have the option of buying a product, using it once, and immediately casting it into the garbage. The only limit on our use is our funds. If you’re well enough off, you can burn through as many paper products as you like, with no one to hold you accountable. Often, I think we’re not even cognizant of how much we use these things — we just use them. We have that option, culturally and fiscally. I’m not applying a value judgment to this lifestyle; although I don’t agree with it, it’s just an option we happen to have.
Of course, disposables go straight to the landfill. Which I’ll talk about. But first I want to say: they also come straight out of your wallet.
Economics isn’t my field, but the facts are simple in this case: everything you use, you pay for. If each roll of toilet paper costs $0.58, every 100 rolls is almost $60 out of your pocket. That’s $60 that you literally flush down the toilet. Or for paper towels, throw in the waste bin. Some use, of course, is unavoidable, but how much use is really necessary? And what products can be replaced with reusables?
(I’m not going to suggest toilet paper. Yes, it is an option. No, I’m not going there today.)
Cleaning products definitely make this list. Instead of a sponge, consider a dishrag. Same for paper towels. If you’re concerned about sanitation, keep in mind that your average sponge is actually a breeding ground for bacteria.
If you’re concerned about dishware, consider this: instead of buying a package of paper plates for each summer outing, think about getting a cheaper set of plates that can be used and reused outside. A little more washing for you, but less expensive on the whole.
Bathroom products: health professionals tell us to change our toothbrushes regularly, but do you need to change the whole toothbrush or just the head? Or if you want the new toothbrush, how about considering sending the old one back to be recycled?
Just from my brief search for this post, I’ve found innumerable resources and suggestions for replacing disposables in your life. I’m going to employ some of these practices over the year and I’ll keep you updated on effectiveness. The internet, of course, is a great source of information, but not all of that information is in fact accurate, so check your sources wherever possible
Because it’s not just about money. Waste is a quiet environmental problem, less dramatic than catastrophic climate change but as much a threat to our natural environment.
And if you do need a particular product, at least some of the time, it’s time to look at which companies are particularly responsible. I’m personally a big fan of Seventh Generation and Mrs. Meyers. They’re both very open about their practices and production methods — not something you always find — and several product reviewers highly recommend them.
I’m not writing this to boost their sales, though. What I’m learning as I personally try to do better is that green living doesn’t require huge sacrifices or big life changes. Often it just requires some research and a little bit of care.
Another note about green products: I think they’re wonderful but I also think their benefit to the environment is lessened by careless use. Some “green” advocates allow us to believe as consumers that we can simply go on using as we did before or even use more than we did. Not only is this insanely expensive (green products ain’t cheap!), it’s inaccurate. Reduction is the first part of the process and it’s a vital step in reducing our ecological impact.