Prior to the start of this journey, I had already stopped using most other paper products, including paper towels, paper plates, and so on. I had decided not to use these things for obvious reasons. I had always blown my nose in the sink if I had to, or used a piece of cloth. But at the start of this journey, I did I gave myself just a little bit of leeway. I decided that I would continue to use toilet paper that went down the toilet bowl...you know what I mean...
We moved to India when I was seven, and at that point, we had grown a little accustomed to Western-style toilets (although they are certainly less comfortable than plain old squatting toilets). So, we had these Western-style toilets installed in our apartment, and these toilets had water jets that would spray-clean you. Toilet paper was super expensive in India, and no one really used toilet paper. I guess they made some for the expats that just couldn't fathom not using toilet paper. Sometimes my dad would bring some toilet paper when he came from the US, though...it felt like him bringing little trinkets. "TOILET PAPER! YAY DAD! WE LOVE YOU!"
Since then, of course, we moved back to the US, and quickly got readjusted to wiping our asses with toilet paper. Sometimes it is that really rough stuff that just plain hurts. But of course, that soft stuff is really ecologically degrading. (Side story: When I was working in Belgium at the von Karman Institute for Fluid Dynamics, I rented a room from a lovely elderly Belgian couple. They were super-rich. The house was a mansion. They provided the toilet paper. It was luxurious, actually. Quadruple ply. Have you ever heard of that?!) I mean, it's paper. It comes from wood, or recycling of other paper. All bad. (read here, here, here, here for facts and numbers)
But when this who no-trash-waste thing started, for some reason, I thought it was unreasonable to expect me to give up toilet paper. For many people, it is the personal stuff, maybe just one or two things, that is difficult to give up or sacrifice. (Of course, sacrifice is wholly positive.) It is almost like some invasion into your being. But then I thought, that's what this whole project has been about - about showing that it is possible to make changes and question what is thrown at us, and to consider our daily habits, the almost ritual-like motions we go through without thinking about them. Deep-rooted in this culture's psyche is its obsessiveness with its sanitary ways, toilet paper and paper products chief among them. The ecological impacts of our standards of sanitation? Hmmm...we really need to confront the "gross" factor. And so a few months ago, I gave up toilet paper. I just decided to come out to the world today and say it, and show that it can be done. That's right. No toilet paper. No "recycled" toilet paper, no toilet paper whatsoever. I use a little water bottle, and...my...hand. And take it easy, I still use soap.
It works, and it feels so much better than wiping your ass with a piece of paper.