Are Your Toileting Habits Hard on the Environment?

Even the most environmentally conscious Americans rarely give a second thought to using an abundance of a product that may be destroying the ozone layer and depleting our planet's few remaining natural resources - toilet paper. We Americans like our toilet tissue soft, thick, and in plentiful rolls that allow us to "do our business" in comfort. Unbeknown to most of us, however, is that it takes one tree to produce just 1,000 rolls of toilet paper - and far fewer rolls of deluxe or extra thick toilet paper can be made from a single tree. Our toilet paper use is staggering: over 36 billion (with a "b") rolls are used in the U.S. each year, which requires the pulp from around 15 million trees. It also takes around ½ billion gallons of water, ¼ of a million tons of bleach, and an astronomical amount of electricity to turn these trees into toilet paper, in addition to the packaging materials that will be used to get the toilet paper ready for distribution, and the fuel in the trucks that delivers it to the retail store.

Our Love Affair with Toilet Paper is Very Expensive
So why don't we just plant more trees, you may ask? It's not that simple. Trees take a long time to grow, and many of the trees that are used to make toilet paper come from both rare old growth forests in Canada and second growth forests in North American and Latin American countries. While toilet paper can easily be made from recycled materials, the fiber from standing timber is needed to give toilet paper its plush texture - which is what appeals to the masses as is evidenced by the popularity of "ultra" toilet paper brands - like Charmin Ultra or Cottonelle Ultra. Some of this fiber or pulp actually comes from the very last of the virgin forests in North America, which are not only an important habitat for many species on the endangered species list, but are also irreplaceable. Yes, the millions of trees that are cut down each year for the purpose of making it more comfortable when we "do our business" are important in our fight against global warming. Old and second growth forests work hard to absorb carbon dioxide, a heat trapping gas that is at the actual heart of the global warming phenomenon. And, unfortunately, Americans are among the biggest users of non-recycled toilet paper - like the rest of our consumptions patterns - it seems that yet again we are the biggest offenders of Mother Nature on the planet. Read more about this growing problem in a special report published in the New York Times: "Mr. Whipple Left It Out: Soft is Rough on Forests" (Kaufman)

A More Eco-Friendly and Hygienic Alternative to Toilet Paper - the Bidet
Happily, more and more Americans are catching on to a growing trend that is already widespread in Europe, (where toilet tissue sales are much less than they are in the U.S.) - the bidet. A bidet uses a stream of water to cleanse the area that you would normally take care of with toilet paper. This not only eliminates that need for toilet paper, but is also more sanitary for you as well. Water jets in the bidet thoroughly cleanse the area without soap or toilet paper or without harsh wiping (making it great for those who suffer from hemorrhoids). Dry toilet paper does not effectively clean this delicate area like a bidet can, and using toilet paper can leave your bottom irritated. While toilet paper removes the bulk of the "mess", it does not remove all of the bacteria that is found in fecal matter - a bidet can remove these harmful bacterium that can make you sick, cause urinary tract or bladder infections, and a host of other health problems.

Bidets Benefit the Entire Family - While Saving Trees in the Process
Bidets can be purchased as either a bidet toilet that functions like a normal toilet, but with bidet cleansing action or as an attachment to your regular toilet. You can also purchase a hand held portable bidet wand that can be carried in a purse of briefcase for on-the-road use. Bidets are easy to install. Bidets provide optimal cleansing for everyone in the family, including:
  • Women. Women are prone to urinary tract infections (UTI) and bladder infections because of the close proximity of the urethra with bowel movements. A bidet can also alleviate the discomfort a woman feels following pregnancy, or with rashes, soreness, bleeding, constipation, hemorrhoids, and diarrhea.
  • Men. Men are not immune from discomfort in the private area. In addition to the ultimate clean that a bidet can provide, men can also reap the benefits of soothing bidet action for constipation, rectal itching, hemorrhoids, and other problems.
  • Children. Children are more susceptible to germs than adults are which makes bidet use important for kids, too. Children sometimes have difficulty mastering great toileting skills, but when a bidet is installed, the possibility of a child not cleaning appropriately is eliminated. Bidet use from early childhood allows your child to develop optimal personal hygiene habits that will last a lifetime.

A Special Word about Bidet Use in the Elderly

Although everyone in the family can benefit from the use of a bidet, it is even more important when you have an elderly person in the household. The elderly are often less mobile and often are stiffened by arthritis and old age, making it difficult for them to even reach their private areas when toileting. A bidet can give the elderly a sense of freedom when it comes to taking care of their personal hygiene and also allow them to retain their dignity for as long a time as possible. A warm air dryer is available on many bidet models so that the user can be completely dry when they get up which helps to guard against skin irritation that is so common in older folks. Bidets are so highly recommended for the elderly, in fact, that the American Association for Retired Persons (AARP) has included a bidet on its bathroom checklist.