Choosing Water Over Paper

Most Americans are only vaguely familiar with the concept of Toilet Bidets. The presence of the porcelain water-spewing seats in European and other foreign bathrooms is often a source of jokes for travelers that cannot imagine giving up their rolls of toilet paper, but using water to clean up after eliminating waste is actually healthier and more environmentally friendly than flushing a wad of paper down the drain.

While toilet paper is a common and expected site in many bathrooms around the world, it is not a prerequisite for eliminating waste in other areas. In some regions, cleansing is done using water or other materials like sand, leaves or rags because it is believed to be more sanitary or because plumbing does not support paper waste. In the United States, some experts theorize that toilet paper has become a common amenity because early American outhouses were constructed outside to keep the unpleasant aroma of waste from wafting into the house. These outhouses did not have plumbing to provide fresh water, so toilet paper became the preferred cleansing method. Since then, the use of toilet paper has become so widespread and common that most Americans never stop to think about the way they cleanse after eliminating waste.

The average American goes through nearly 60 pieces of toilet paper every day. That adds up to more than 36 billion rolls used every year in the United States alone. If Americans decided to do away with toilet paper entirely, 15 million trees would be saved in addition to the 17 terawatts of electricity and over 450 billion gallons of water used to manufacture toilet paper each year. Although many bidet-using populations supplement the sprays of water with toilet paper, they use far less than Americans.

Once down the drain, toilet paper creates a significant burden on urban sewer systems and water treatment plants. Without toilet paper clogging pipes, septic tanks need to be emptied far less often.