Over the past few years I've done a really good job of getting rid of unnecessary waste in the home. I switched to reusable shopping bags, I went from paper towels to cloth napkins and microfiber cleaning cloths, I even converted to reusable feminine hygiene products.
But I feel it's time to push the envelope a little farther. Even with the changes mentioned above we all--you, me, our neighbors--create a ton of unnecessary waste material each and every day by using...
That's right, I said unnecessary.
Half the world doesn't even know what toilet paper is. Even Americans did without it before 1857. The Brits held out until 1890! Just think for a moment how much trash you flush down your toilet daily by participating in this wasteful, relatively modern, "first-world", cultural phenomenon. It's ridiculous.
The idea wormed it's way into my consciousness via the camping world. A good friend of ours, Mike Clelland, is an outdoor instructor and backcountry guru. He's even illustrated a few books on the subject.
When trekking into the woods you want to carry as little as possible, and when trekking out again you want to leave no trace that you were there. At 4 ounces, a roll of toilet paper is not considered a necessity and if you carry it in, you eventually have to carry it out again...used...possibly a few days, or weeks, later. Yucky.
Fortunately, nature provides a bounty of choices allowing you to eschew the Charmin altogether. And because, as Mike says, "Natural butt-wiping is a lost art" he even created this handy table that ranks your various outdoor alternatives.
So I started thinking, if it's eco-friendly in the backcountry, why not in the home as well? Right?
Thus began my search for an option to carry from the woods to the cabin, so to speak.
- Snow: Any backcountry enthusiast will tell you this is the best option. Plentiful, sanitary...refreshing! And we considered it. But how long would a bucket of snow last in a powder room? I mean really? Even with our thermometer turned down low for maximum energy efficiency, a bucket of snow wouldn't outlast a dinner party. And then, what to do come summer?
- Leaves & plant matter: Woolly Lamb's Ear and Old Man's Beard both sound lovely, but I just don't feel knowledgeable enough in the realm of poisonous & non-poisonous flora to have confidence choosing the correct plants. And I'd hate to send a guest home with a rash.
- Moss: Though not mentioned in the chart above, I personally think this would be the most comfortable choice. Unfortunately, we don't get much moss around here. Too dry. But if you live in the Pacific Northwest I think this could be the way to go. It would make a lovely display in the your bathroom.
- Douglas Fir Cones: Lord knows we have these in abundance. In fact, I often use a small bowl of them on the table as a holiday centerpiece. But despite the high marks for ease of use and absorbency, I worry about creating confusion between the potpourri and the potty wipes. A misstep at Thanksgiving dinner could be quite embarrassing for everyone. Plus, I'm really only interested in a comfort rating of 4 or higher. Call me bourgeois, but that's how I feel.
- Rocks: All-natural, attractive, comfortable and reusable! Perfect for us! In fact, they last forever making them by far the greenest choice, after snow.
I think they give my bathroom a wonderful, Zen-like feel.
Smooth ones work the best.* Not too large as to be unwieldy, but not too small either (see diagram below). Something flat-ish to ensure a good grip. A bit of a rounded point is handy, too.
Even after just a few days, we've found that we each have our favorites. And guess what? They hold heat! You can warm them in your hands for a bit before use. We're even thinking of picking up a small Crockpot at the thrift store for this purpose. A toasty slab on a frosty morning? Now that would be the height of luxury!
Not to put too fine a point on it, but you'll also need to provide a small bucket or waste bin of soapy water for the "dirties." A swing lid would be a nice touch.
Perhaps I'll post on the proper cleaning and sanitation of used potty rocks in another entry but this seems like a good start for now.
Sure, it's a little awkward at first, but that's a small price to pay. Just think how much better you'll feel knowing you've reduced your output of garbage by simply ending your lavish, outdated attachment to toilet paper.
In times such as these, it's really the least we can do for the planet.
*A note to readers in Hawaii--Lava rocks are not recommended.
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