I know what you are thinking.
How can bidets be an affordable and sustainable way to reduce deforestation? After all, a bidet is just a way of cleaning your butt without toilet paper. So for my statement to be true, whole forests would have to be cut down just to make toilet paper.
Am I really suggesting that whole ecosystems are being destroyed just so that people can wipe their butts?
Well, YES, I AM!
Trees are being felled all over the globe to satisfy our butt wiping habit.
For example, between 1996 and 2015, more than 28 million acres of boreal forest in Canada were logged. Now, 28 million acres is hard to visualize so, let me make it easy for you, that is roughly the size of Ohio!
That’s 28 million acres of one of the world’s largest and oldest boreal forests, and it’s related ecosystem destroyed forever.
Land laid bare so that the wood from it can be pulped into a disposable tissue for smearing excrement. And the sad truth is that in today’s society, there is little need for toilet paper as we have a more eco-friendly alternative.
The True Cost Of Deforestation
Let me begin by saying that a forest is not just a group of trees laid out over a wide area. Nor is a forest something that you can replant overnight and have it cooked in say twenty years or so.
A true forest has a rich diversity of life encompassing many different types of flora and fauna.
Forests, for example, the boreal forests of Canada, that has a unique and delicately balanced ecosystem.
An ecosystem is a geographical area where all living and decaying organisms, as well as weather and land elements, work together to form an interactive bubble of life.
In the case of the Canadian forests, these bubbles are incredibly diverse and well established. So logging them to their destruction will have disastrous effects both locally and globally.
For example, clearcut logging in ancient boreal forests threatens the Indigenous Peoples’ ways of life. It also puts at risk the future of the boreal caribou and other wildlife unique to that area.
Furthermore, tree felling releases carbon that has been accumulating in the trees and soils for thousands of years.
The full effect of releasing this stored carbon is over such a short period of time is largely unknown. However, the science suggests that it could have a devastating effect on the planet as a whole.
Plus, millions of trees on the land interrupt air flows, absorb water, provide habitats for life, and have been called the lungs of the earth. We cannot simply cut these forests down and expect no consequences. Nor can we replant the areas with a single species of tree and then manage the wildlife within it and call it a fair exchange.
Ecosystems just don’t work like that.
The Unsustainable Truth Of Toilet Paper
Americans use more toilet paper than the rest of the world. And, as such, I will concentrate my figures here for greater clarity.
Amazingly, although Americans make up just 4% of the world population, they use 20% of the global production of toilet paper. I believe that the use of bidets can reduce this consumption and in doing so reduce deforestation significantly.
Here are a few facts and figures to prove my point.
At present, Americans use close to 8 million tons of toilet paper every year, and forests are being decimated in line with demand.
According to Justin Thomas, the editor of the website metaefficient.com his analysis shows that per year:
- Americans use 36.5 billion rolls of toilet paper
- Requiring the pulping of some 15 million trees
- For this, it requires 473,587,500,000 gallons of water
- This water also requires 253,000 tons of chlorine for bleaching
- Plus, the manufacturing process uses about 17.3 terawatts of electricity
Clearly, that is environmentally unsustainable.
It must also be acknowledged, that the figures above do not include the significantly associated, and many varied, add on costs.
These costs include the energy and materials used in the packaging, transportation, marketing, storing, and selling of the toilet rolls themselves.
In addition to this, we also have cleanup costs associated with dealing with the waste. These cleanup costs are also hidden or, at best, unaccounted for.
We know this as toilet paper clogs toilets, pipes, and sewage systems, which in turn puts a significant load onto any treatment works.
Therefore, every year, the destruction of virgin forests for tissue products also results in millions of metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions that remain unaccounted for.
And yet, All of this can be largely avoided or significantly reduced.
How to Reduce Deforestation
I hope that I have convinced you that the demand for toilet paper is having hugely detrimental effects on our environment.
Our ancient forests are being cut down unnecessarily, just to feed an old habit. A habit which the toilet paper manufacturers are exploiting for a fast buck regardless of the environmental cost.
For the cynical of you out there, think of it this way.
If you are unlucky enough to get excrement on your hand, do you just wipe it off with a tissue?
If the answer is no, then why do you wipe your butt with a tissue and accept that it is clean?
You accept it because toilet paper manufacturers spend millions every year telling you that it is the right thing to do. They emphasize how soft it is and how it cleans better than any other toilet paper.
Well, yes, but they are only comparing paper with paper, and they do not tell you that you are 100% clean.
Yet we blindly accept it and keep the status quo.
However, if you change to a bidet, you can reduce your toilet paper usage from 80% to 100%. This is because a bidet uses clean water to clean your butt, and toilet paper is then only required to dry it.
Some bidet users negate the use of toilet paper altogether by using soft cloth wipes that are easily washed and replaced.
Others cut out the wiping altogether by using bidets with automatic dryers.
By using bidets in this way, they can reduce deforestation by negating the need to buy toilet paper, and reduce their carbon footprint further by having no wipes to wash.
Quick note:- Bidets are no longer just separate stand-alone units but come in many forms. The word bidet now simply refers to a washing appliance rather than a specific thing such as a toilet. For example, you have bidet sprayers, toilet attachments, toilet seats, and stand-alone units, but they are all seen as bidets.
So in short, A bidet is a specialized bathroom fixture for washing your undercarriage!
I don’t think they have quite got the message!
Is Owning A Bidet Affordable?
With emerging technology and a host of innovations in the bidet market place, bidets are now more affordable than ever.
They only use about 1/8th of a gallon of water per usage, and products can start from as little as $30.
That means you can own a bidet, and as you cut down on the toilet paper usage, it will pay for itself within months!
Are Bidets Sustainable?
One might argue that most bidets are plastic and that in itself is a bad thing and unsustainable for the planet. However, I would counter-argue that deforestation with it’s resulting climatic problems is a far greater threat. Plastics are not my favorite thing, but I do realize that a compromise must be reached.
I also hold out hope that the plastics problem may have solutions, whereas deforestation does not.
Indeed, plastic-eating bacteria have been discovered in both our landfills and our oceans. The effectiveness of this bacteria is currently under investigation but hope runs high for this natural solution. Other plastics reducing solutions are also being developed, to counter the plastics problem.
Therefore, in my mind, the use of plastic bidets is a necessary compromise in the fight to reduce deforestation on a global scale.
Shouldn’t I Just Use Wet Wipes?
Long term use of wet wipes is bad for your personal health, hygiene, and the environment. Not to mention your plumbing as they are not actually flushable, despite what it says on the packet. They cause many problems in sewage systems, water treatment works, and even the open ocean.
In short, flushing wet wipes is a bad idea, just don’t do it!
Long term use of wet wipes also leads to skin breakdown, rashes, increased sensitivity, irritation, and cracking and fissures. In some cases, the moisture left from using wipes provides the ideal environment for the colonization of bacteria. Researchers from Cardiff University even found that some wipes don’t kill bacteria at all, as, like toilet paper, they simply spread the mess around.
Will A Bidet Fit In My Bathroom?
Short answer: yes. Because 98% of toilets come in standard sizes, and for those that don’t, you can buy a bidet sprayer.
Essentially this is a type of handheld sprayer on a short hose attached to your water pipe.
For the 98% of toilets which do come in a standard size you only need to consider a few things;-
- Would you prefer a handheld spray attachment
- Is your toilet seat elongated or round? (To match a new bidet seat)
- Does a bidet seat come in your size? (Most come in both round and elongated versions)
- Do you want to buy a stand-alone bidet to complement your toilet
With so many different options, models, and price points on the market today, it’s never been easier to find the right bidet product for you and your family. However, if you are looking for a total toilet paper replacement, you should look no further than the electronic bidet seat.
Can I Install A Bidet By Myself?
Except for a stand-alone bidet, installing your new bidet is easy. Primarily as these products are constructed as Do-It-Yourself upgrades with little skill or knowledge required. However, if you are not confident about any installation, then professional help should be easy to arrange.
There should be no new plumbing changes to make (no new water lines, heating elements, etc.). Furthermore, all the parts needed to install your new bidet, whatever type, should come with your new bidet.
This article asked the question, are bidets an affordable and sustainable way to reduce deforestation?
I began by looking at why forests are being cleared and zeroed in on one product, the humble toilet paper.
Now, whilst it is true that the wood obtained from the forests can be used for many different things. And it is also true that I did not go into depth about any of them. I hope that I proved my point that a vast amount of wood sourced from these forests is being channeled into the making of one product.
That product is toilet paper, and as a product, it is no longer effective or required in today’s society. Advancements in bidet technology, design, and affordability mean that this must now be a serious contender in personal hygiene.
In fact, when you factor in the money saved from the reduction of toilet paper usage, a bidet will pay for itself during the course of its lifetime.
Bidets can also be said to be sustainable, given that the only add on purchase is hidden in your water bill. Although as a bidet uses very little water, 1/8th of a gallon on average, that add on cost will be negligible.
The water that is used is also as clean as your drinking water. We know this because the water is being sourced directly from your water pipe and not the toilet cistern. This is important to know from a health and hygiene point of view.
So a Bidet is affordable, sustainable, hygienic, and can remove the need for toilet paper. This, in turn, will reduce the demand for virgin wood pulp within the paper industry, specifically the toilet paper industry. And a lower demand means fewer trees being logged, and in this way owning a bidet, or bidets, can reduce deforestation.
Mark Aspland is a proud father of two boys, would be amateur actor and green living enthusiast. He has been sharing hints, tips and sustainable living content on his website Sustainability Dad since august 2019.
He now has an army of followers who are like hearted individuals passionate about the environment and how to affect positive change through peaceful action.