Although toilet paper is known to help us maintain and enhance household and personal cleanliness, it leaves a rather surprising environmental footprint, given that it is designed to disintegrate readily in water. As such, opting for other natural alternatives to toilet paper is important.
When we use the restroom, clean surfaces covered with dust, and wipe some surfaces in our home and even our skin, toilet paper suits these purposes and has been a part of over 95% of households globally.
Toilet paper on its own is not bad, but the manufacturing process involved in its production poses a problem for the environment.
Toilet paper is a soft, absorbent tissue paper product that is primarily used for personal hygiene and cleanliness after using the toilet. It is also commonly used for cleaning other body parts and surfaces. Toilet paper is typically sold in rolls and is designed to be flushed down the toilet after use.
The composition of toilet paper can vary, but it is generally made from wood pulp and recycled paper. Some varieties may include additional materials, such as chemicals, for added softness or strength.
Toilet paper comes in different ply (layers) and textures to cater to individual preferences. The use of toilet paper is a common practice in many parts of the world, and it is considered a standard item in household bathrooms.
However, we will be looking into some of its negative impacts on the environment, which is why we should get to know its alternatives.
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Toilet Papers and the Environment
Toilet paper is made from wood resources such as pulp and other recycled paper. Because it readily melts in water, disposal is very easy. These and other reasons have made it a favorite for almost everyone.
Although it has been known to have many eco-friendly attributes, there is still a need to know the environmental flaws involved in its usage and production. Some of these flaws include the following:
- Resource Use: The production of tissue paper typically involves cutting down trees for wood pulp. This can contribute to deforestation and habitat loss if it is not managed sustainably.
- Water and Energy Consumption: Its manufacturing process requires significant amounts of water and energy.
- Chemical Usage: The bleaching and softening processes in toilet paper production may involve the use of chemicals that can be harmful to the environment.
- Packaging: The packaging of toilet paper, especially plastic packaging, can contribute to pollution and waste.
- Disposal: Flushing toilet paper down the toilet contributes to wastewater treatment loads.
Amidst all these flaws, some brands of toilet or tissue paper producers are taking more eco-friendly steps to mitigate the effects of the manufacturing process on the environment. For instance,
- Some brands are transitioning to chlorine-free or oxygen-based bleaching processes to minimize the environmental impact of these chemicals.
- A lot of manufacturers are working to reduce their environmental footprint by adopting more sustainable practices, such as using recycled water in production and using renewable energy sources.
- Some brands are moving towards more eco-friendly packaging options, such as using recycled materials or reducing overall packaging.
- Many toilet paper brands now promote the use of responsibly sourced or recycled materials, which can help mitigate deforestation and habitat loss caused by manufacturing these products.
Despite these steps by some of the brands and manufacturers of this very important household commodity, we must take note of some eco-friendly alternatives in the event of their absence and avoid patronizing brands that don’t apply the best eco-friendly practices.
Natural Alternatives to Toilet Paper
Here are some of the alternatives to toilet paper. Some of these items to be listed and explained below may be thought of as disgusting, or their usage may not be familiar to you but they have been proven to be more eco-friendly than conventional toilet paper or toilet roll, whatever we choose to call them.
So, here they are:
- Water and Hand
- Natural Sponge
- Clothe Wipes
- Coconut husk
1. Water and Hand
Using water and the hand as an alternative to toilet paper is a common practice in various parts of the world, mostly in developing and underdeveloped countries.
It involves using a scoop, a vessel, or the hand to pour water over the genital and anal areas for cleansing after using the toilet.
Users typically combine the use of water with their hands or a dedicated tool for cleaning. Afterward, thorough handwashing is essential for hygiene.
While this method has been a traditional practice in many regions, it may not be as widely accepted in some Western cultures, where toilet paper is the predominant means of personal hygiene after using the toilet.
The acceptability and convenience of this practice can vary based on personal preferences and cultural norms.
Bidets are fixtures found in bathrooms that provide a stream of water for cleaning after using the toilet. Bidets come in various forms, including standalone fixtures or attachments to existing toilets.
They offer a more hygienic and eco-friendly alternative to toilet paper, as they use water to cleanse instead of paper. Some modern bidet models even include features like temperature control and adjustable water pressure.
Bidets are considered more effective in cleaning and can be a sustainable option, reducing the need for excessive toilet paper use.
3. Natural Sponge
The use of a natural sponge as an alternative to toilet paper involves the use of a clean, natural sea sponge for cleansing after using the toilet.
This practice has historical roots in certain cultures, especially those situated near coastal areas. The sponge is typically dampened and used to wipe the genital and anal areas.
After use, it’s important to clean the sponge thoroughly and allow it to dry before the next use.
While this method may be considered eco-friendly, it’s crucial to ensure that the sponge remains sanitary to prevent the spread of bacteria.
Natural sponges are biodegradable, but the acceptability and convenience of this practice may vary based on cultural norms and individual preferences.
4. Cloth Wipes
Cloth wipes are a reusable and washable alternative to traditional toilet paper. Made from materials such as cotton or bamboo, these wipes are used for personal hygiene after using the toilet.
Users typically dampen the cloth wipes with water or a mild cleansing solution before use.
After use, cloth wipes need to be washed thoroughly and can be reused, making them a more sustainable option compared to disposable toilet paper.
However, it’s essential to have a dedicated set of cloth wipes for personal hygiene and to follow proper cleaning and hygiene practices to prevent the spread of bacteria.
Cloth wipes are a natural alternative that some individuals and communities adopt to reduce their environmental impact and promote sustainability in personal hygiene practices.
Using leaves as a natural alternative to toilet paper involves the use of plant leaves for cleansing after using the toilet.
This practice is often associated with outdoor or wilderness settings where conventional bathroom facilities are not available.
Users select non-toxic leaves, which can vary depending on the local flora, and use them to wipe the genital and anal areas.
While leaves can be biodegradable and readily available in certain environments, it’s important to exercise caution and ensure that the chosen leaves are safe for this purpose.
Additionally, thorough handwashing is crucial to maintaining hygiene. The acceptability and convenience of using leaves as an alternative to toilet paper may vary based on cultural norms and individual preferences.
6. Coconut Husk
Using coconut husk as a natural alternative to toilet paper involves the use of the fibers from the outer shell of coconuts for cleansing after using the toilet.
The abrasive nature of coconut husk fibers makes them suitable for cleaning. This method is practiced in some tropical regions where coconuts are abundant.
Users typically use a small bunch of coconut husk fibers to wipe the genital and anal areas. After use, it’s crucial to ensure proper hygiene by washing hands thoroughly.
While this may be considered an eco-friendly option, the acceptability and convenience of using coconut husk fibers may vary based on cultural norms and individual preferences.
It’s important to note that hygiene practices should always be a priority, regardless of the chosen method.
In conclusion, natural alternatives to toilet paper offer diverse and eco-friendly options for personal hygiene, reflecting cultural practices and sustainable choices.
In all, toilet paper isn’t bad in its self and hardly causes any environmental damage, but its manufacturing processes is the aspect that is very eco-unfriendly.
Whether embracing bidets, water and hand cleansing, cloth wipes, coconut husks, or even leaves, individuals have the opportunity to make environmentally conscious decisions in their bathroom habits.
While these alternatives may vary in cultural acceptance and practicality, the overarching theme emphasizes a growing awareness of reducing environmental impact and promoting more sustainable choices in daily life.
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A Passion driven Environmental Enthusiast/Activist, Geo-Environmental Technologist, Content Writer, Graphic Designer, and Techno-Business Solution Specialist, who believes it is up to us all to make our planet a better and greener place to reside.
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