Friday, March 8, 2013

Why I Use Toilet Paper

On the surface, the answer is trite and obvious, and this may seem like a strange topic, especially for a blog concerned with the "big picture".  The timing may be puzzling, too, unless you follow The Archdruid Report, where his did discuss sewer districts recently.  The point he was making was about forming local associations to deal with local problems.  I and several others made the point that dealing with your own waste is best done at an individual or household level.  The problem, of course, is when your neighbors refuse to properly deal with their own waste and try to pass it along to you.  This, then, becomes a management of the commons issue, which was the post John Michael Greer put up three weeks before.

Back to the issue at hand, there are several arguments against using toilet paper.  From the prepper/survivalist crowd, you hear that toilet paper is an industrial product which will not be available after a major collapse, so you might as well get used to it now.  Environmentalists say that it is very resource intensive for something that just gets used once and disposed of.  Some who have switched to rinsing say they like the results better.  These are good arguments and I agree in principle that at some point I will need to switch.

So why haven't I?  First and foremost, I live in town connected to a sewer system which I am obligated to pay for and to which I can only attach approved plumbing fixtures.  Mullein might make great cowboy toilet paper, but I don't dare flush it.  Health codes do limit my choices too, although composting toilets are an option. Of course, for composting toilets, toilet paper is a good source of the carbon needed to keep odors down. From the collapse standpoint, a weakness of bidets is that they require a supply of fresh water under pressure. And if you use a washcloth, you need to have a means of washing it.  So, you really have to consider your sewage system if you decide to stop using toilet paper.

But there is a much, much larger issue, one that you probably intuitively grasped at the very beginning of this article.  Toilet paper is just one small piece of the puzzle when it comes to preparing for the future.  It is relatively cheap, especially if you can get it on sale, and especially because it can have a very long shelf life.  Not only does it take time to set up a system that does not use toilet paper, it takes time to maintain it.  On the flip side, you can save some money.  What each person has to do is evaluate where to invest his or her time to get the best payback.  For me, for now, toilet paper is not the answer.

We must manage our time and choose our priorities as we make the Long Ascent.


  1. Tulip Poplar leaves are pretty big. I am not sure how long they remain pliant as winter sets in though.

  2. I think about how to choose the wisest projects with limited resources. We'd be well served to pick up a book on night soil in Asia to get a better understanding of gow to properly reuse our excrement. Like Orren said last year, knowing that we will eventually lose access to a basic "necessity" doesn't mean we have to give it up.

  3. >> "From the collapse standpoint, a weakness of bidets is that they require a supply of fresh water under pressure."

    Yes, they are not suited for areas with water shortages, and won't work if the local utility goes down. But they do offer some risk diversification, they might be useful if the just-in-time distribution system fractures but the city can keep their water supply going.

    Without water, the average porcelain throne won't work ... a Luggable Loo is another tool to fit an emergency/transition need.

  4. A squeeze bottle solves the problem of pressure. Plus, a new garden sprayer, the kind you pump up, can be used with no water pressure.

    I already use washcloths. Washcloths with pee will require a little water and lots of sunshine for killing germs. If the day comes I cannot wash them, I will use sewing material, sewing scraps, or torn up clothing and wait for a huge wash day. Tp for poo is still washable. But, torn up scraps could be thrown away if someone does not want to wash them or has no water.

  5. For decades, I've been hearing that society could collapse at any moment, and, of course, someday it will, so whoever predicts it last can say, "See there. I was right."

    I'm glad I'm not married to someone who says that I should get used to not having toilet paper now, so I won't have to later. Think how many things THAT could be applied to. We might as well go ahead and start eating the neighborhood cats.