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Next Level Green: Dual Flush, Bidets, Reusable TP, and other Toilet Talk

Okay so for decades I've used TP made from 100% recycled paper (why this is not the law of the land is beyond me, there's no reason to cut down trees with the amount of paper that is recycled/recyclable), tried bamboo (there's quite of a tug of war going on for which is more sustainable), including Caboo, who until recently was selling their TP in easily reusable and recyclable paper packaging at the grocer, and now suddenly uses plastic. I've laughed off companies like Who Gives A Crap who preach sustainability while literally selling their mail-order-only TP in INDIVIDUALLY WRAPPED ROLLS, which are made from non-recyclable tissue paper...and a highly aggressive team who hates being called out on their greenwashing.

I installed my first dual flush toilet when I bought my very first home nearly 20 years ago, and every house since then has meant we instantly switch out the toilets (cleaning and donating the old ones, btw) to Dual Flush (they're only $99 at the big box and easy as pie to install). And back on the farm we installed a composting toilet which was awesome because out there my husband would bury the solids (no smell whatsover due to the coir fiber it was mixed with automatically inside the toilet) and dump the liquids around the exterior of our massive 75'x75' veggie garden that had only a 4' pasture fence, keeping the deer out, which was far cheaper than those deer sprays (fox urine granules) they sell at Home Depot. PS - why do I know this deer-proofed the garden? As soon as we sold our house to the new owners who admitted were afraid of using the composting toilet (?!?!), they then soon after complained of deer in the garden and spent $$ to building a taller fence rather than simply dispose of the liquids this way. There ya go.

And the whole yellow/mellow philosophy has been in our home for years (here's a GREAT article about the psychology around changing these types of behaviors) as well in our dual flush toilets, increasing the water savings even more - particularly now that I'm post-menopausal and have to pee like all the time it seems.

Modern "skirted" toilets, which we love in both bathrooms, are far easier to clean but do not allow you to access the connector to the tank without removing the ENTIRE toilet from the floor

While we'd talked about bidets in the past to decrease TP usage, when we moved to our little home here in the Valley, we TWICE bought and returned bidet attachments by two different manufacturers, due to incompatibility issues with our toilet. Guess what - if you have skirted style toilets, you cannot install a bidet attachment or seat out of the box. BioBidet actually lies on their website and installation instructions, claiming you can just call them to get 'alternative fittings' then when you do, claim to not have any such thing. Other sites force you to spending literally $20-60 for a variety of attachments, from a different T-valve to connect at the wall (required for all) to an extension hose and T-valve adaptor (for Toto) to adaptors for the way skirted toilet seats attach differently. So it's easy to literally double the price of something that is actually going to increase your water bill (while a bidet actually uses less water than it takes to manufacture even a recycled or bamboo roll of TP, with a bidet you are paying the upfront cost of water usage, something many folks are highly cognizant of). All are made from fossil-fuel based plastic, attachments are known to be both rickety and eventually crack, and 95% of bidet seats shrink the size of the bowl by a good 25% while costing anywhere from $200-$1000+. Yes, handheld sprayers are there as well, but they are known to be messy and, for those of us with back issues and other disabilities, impossible to use comfortably and without mess. This is not to diss the bidet, but rather to explain the 'cons' that are often left out of sustainability discussions. As Popular Science puts it quite succinctly, "While it’s fine to debate the pros and cons of toilet paper versus bidets, it’s also important to look beyond your own bathroom and research ways for your neighborhood and city to transition to a more sustainable sanitation system. Also remember that, just like climate change, this is a global issue: Supporting initiatives that secure safe and healthy sanitation for communities in far-flung places can go a long way, too."

So perhaps it'd be better for me to pay $100 to fund the purchase of a dual flush toilet for a low-income neighbor, rather than spend twice that to spritz my tushy, for example...the social justice contribution is one I'd feel better about than paying for a toilet that lights up at night and warms my bum.

Meanwhile, for many years I'd heard the term "family cloth" and didn't take it too seriously. While I appreciated the sustainability of reusable TP, I'd been trying to figure out how to try it out, get past the mental block and dive right in.

BTW, neither commonly used term sounds right - 'family cloth' gives me a distinctly creepy-religious-home-school vibe, and 'reusable TP' has an obvious EWW connotation, even though it's more factually accurate.

And then I thought about my recent post on embracing a Reduceatarian philosophy, something that's not just about food choices but in everything we do. Back in my earliest days as a homeowner and blogger, I referred to it in terms of the old Sears catalog, where products were often categorized as Good, Better, Best. [For example, with toothpaste you start out by buying a sustainable brand (Good). Then you buy a sustainable brand in a non-plastic package, like toothpaste tablets (Better). Then you make your own sustainable-ingredient one at home (Best)!] So when it comes to the idea of reusable TP, it finally struck me - Why not start using it for pee only, and reduce the amount of TP we use in our house considerably?

While there are a ton of sites that want to literally sell you reusable TP (even some that roll up onto an old cardboard TP roll), I've been cutting up old T shirts and the like for years when they get holey, stained, etc., to use as rags or, with the softer ones, facial tissues (haven't bought a box of Kleenex in at least 5 years on the latter because of this), so why not do this for the reusable TP? You don't need to own a sewing machine or spend $40 on hemmed pieces of fabric to wipe! In fact, the best advice I got was in the comments of Red and Honey's blog post about the topic - line a small garbage can with a mesh bag (I happened to have an extra one in my laundry room) and then toss the used cloth in there, which means all you need to do is zip it and toss it in the wash? Perfecto. And since we don't do energy wasting hot water washes in our HE washer/dryer combo, the rags for #1 are fine in a cold water wash because there's no #2 on them. Woo hoo!

So I'm off and running. The first time it was a trip, but so much softer and absorbent than TP! If we ever do invest in a bidet, we'll add the post-number-two wipe to it (since it's just functioning as a drying rag), but right now? I'm good with this...and now am inspired on how to improve efficiency in our very own community...

Other food for thought...

  • Keeping a bucket in the shower to collect excess water and use that instead of the fresh, clean drinking water sitting in the tank that is crazily used for toilets.

  • Just because your dual flush toilet says to push one button for pee and both buttons for poop doesn't necessarily mean you have to follow that. Start out with just the one button when you go #2 and if that works, don't bother with holding down both - and save half a gallon of water right there!

  • Getting involved in your community about water savings and energy efficiency. While many larger cities and counties have water savings rebate programs for things like free dual-flush toilets, a lot of smaller ones do not. How do we change this? I see our town spend money to re-gravel alleys that don't need it (twice this year in our alley already that literally no one drives in!) yet they are jacking up rates for garbage even for residents who don't create any, don't offer mini-bins, and yet give huge discounts to senior citizens, many who are filling theirs to the brim instead of incentivizing for reducing their waste! It's nuts. That's my current homework - speaking up!


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