We Can Change Our Future!
Wiping Out Toilet Paper
In 2023, a group of young folks from New Zealand went on walk-about, traveling widely through Asia. They had so many eye-opening, beautiful, stimulating, difficult, spiritual, and other experiences, and they opened up, raised their consciousness, saw other ways of living and being, grew and benefitted. Among their experiences were those adapting to bathroom systems not using toilet paper.
At first, they were timid and squeamish, reluctant to use water to clean themselves after using toilets. But they were in places where that’s what everyone did. In India and western Asia, people squatted, over holes in the ground, used ladles of water to clean themselves, and washed their hands afterwards, adopting a convention of cleaning with left hands, using rights hands to eat and interact with others. Japan and South Korea had high-tech toilets you sat on, pushed buttons, got squirted and dried off. Nobody used or wasted toilet paper. It was different, but it wasn’t worse, after getting used to it.
On their return, after a year, they experienced a reverse culture shock. It was surreal to be back home. People were only superficially interested in experiences that had been profound and transformational. They seemed to move around on auto-pilot, operating through life with habitual patterns and habits. They were not present and aware, like you kind of have to be to get through life in alien environments. Life seemed dull, disengaged and 2-dimensional. It lacked the highs of stimulating new places and ways.
So, they got together regularly, to work out on the changes and challenges of journeying away and back. They had changed; but their families, friends and peers had not. They were oddly disconnected now. During one of those sessions, they started talking about toilet paper and how unnecessary it really is. People in Asia live perfectly fine lives without it. They avoid toilet paper clogging plumbing systems. Sewage treatment systems don’t deal with toilet paper, and people don’t put other things in toilets.
In Central and South America, the convention is to use toilet paper, but throw it in trash cans, which means they have dirty toilet paper sitting there and stinking up the place, and have to deal with that.
They did research and found, in 2020, humans on Earth used 3 billion kilometers of toilet paper per year, at a rate that’s like stringing it around the equator every 2 minutes, to the sun and back every 10 days. We cut down half a billion trees per year and used ¾ of a billion tons of water, 50 million tons of oil per year to make, transport and process it. All of that harmed our environments and life-support systems. That defied common sense, especially with the crisis of global warming and its scary pending harms.
They vowed to do something about it, and they did. They produced a series of persuasive videos, and they shared those widely as part of a campaign that used social media, PR and marketing techniques. They were very engaging, entertaining and compelling. They convinced people who used toilet paper to stop using toilet paper and simply use water to clean themselves on toilets, and wash their hands after. It just made so much common sense the ways they presented it, that people couldn’t argue against it.
Within 3 years, most were off of toilet paper, and within 5 years toilet paper was essentially illegal. Bidets are common, and often integrated into toilets. Some are fancy with integrated warm air driers. Others use simple, cheap adapters that screw into standard toilet water supplies, providing controllable, jetted water hoses beside toilets. If we use toilets, we clean ourselves with water and wash our hands.
That very simple change has had a major effect on reducing global warming and environmental harms. It greatly reduces plumbing and sewage system problems, problems processing waste water and sewage into reusable water and natural fertilizers. Nothing goes into toilets that doesn’t come from our bodies. There is no inconvenience to this change. As they’d admonished us to, we “wiped out toilet paper”.
Over the 35 years since this simple change, human beings have cut down at least 18 billion fewer trees, an area roughly the size of New Zealand, where forests have been allowed to stand and mature, and provide atmospheric and environmental services. We have avoided unnecessary use of toilet paper that would have been able to wrap around the equator over 9 million times. That is a great contribution that this small group of travelers made to help avert the shared existential threat of global climate change.
Deforestation was the #2 cause of climate change, after burning fossil fuels, so not cutting these trees avoided enormous contributions to increasing climate change. Leaving forests in place also provided enormous help avoiding climate change, since they remained in service, actively removing CO2 from the atmosphere and sequestering it in forests and soils. Huge climate and other environmental harms were avoided by not making, packaging, transporting and disposing of toilet paper, like 1,750,000,000 tons of oil and 26,250,000,000 tons of water not used in toilet paper production. Leaving ecosystems in place allowed security, peace and conditions for many millions of forms of life to survive and thrive.
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