OK… it seems to me that this expression has often rolled off my tongue these days. What a slew of weird events we are currently facing! I never thought I would write an article one day about a stampede where thousands of people were ready to bite for a pack of silky toilet paper ????. In the 19th century, we spoke about the gold rush and now in the 21st century we are talking about the toilet paper rush. Yes, it’s true! I wonder what it says about our society: that our priority in times of crisis is to have a clean bum?
I’m still hesitating between crying or laughing hysterically. Pascale Brillon, a professor in the Department of Psychology at UQAM, helped me understand this troubling phenomenon. According to her, toilet paper is a symbol, it represents not only comfort and cleanliness but also the last barrier that separates civilization and poverty. She also mentions that the present circumstances bring back psychological mechanisms commonly known as emotional and behavioural mimicry.
The behaviour is described as follows: a group of panicked people perform a specific action (like buying cases of toilet paper…), to decrease their anxiety. The rest of the population observes and by imitation begins to feel this panic. Like buying toilet paper seems to relieve the group that is being watched, they go through the motions. Anyway, here we are.
What I find surprising is our addiction!
Our dependence on these objects (toilet paper, tissues, sanitary protections, beauty products, cleaners, etc.!) not only affects our wallet, but also negatively influences our physical health because of the many chemicals they contain. It also has an impact on our psychological health, because the feeling of lack, it is well known, creates anxiety. Finally, the environmental impact of these products, often used in disproportionate quantities, is no longer to be proven. In short, we are dependent on objects that put our well-being and that of the planet at risk. That, too, makes me hesitate between tears and laughter!
For fun, let’s measure the environmental footprint of toilet paper (as it is king and master of the media in our society).
Laure Patouillard, a specialist at the International Reference Centre on the life cycle of products, tells us that the production of toilet paper has a significant impact on the environment. To give you an idea, here are the main production steps:
- Collecting the raw material: wood chips.
- Producing the virgin pulp;*
- Bleaching the virgin pulp; (quite funny when you think about it…)
- Transforming the pulp into toilet paper;*
- Drying and packaging the product;
- Delivering to to various points of sale;
- After use, landing back in water treatment plants.
*These steps are the most costly for the environment because of the energy, water and chemicals used. We must not forget the ecological footprint of transporting and packaging the product.
Did you know?
The production of a roll of toilet paper requires between 45 and 140 litres of water (the equivalent of an almost full bathtub!). For his part, the very hairy François Bellefeuille received the very colourful Mélissa de La Fontaine on the occasion of the wonderful episode: Fini, le papier de toilette. Together, they discussed, among other things, François’s buttocks, but also the situation of the Montreal water treatment plant that Mélissa describes as a big energy-guzzling garbage can. She isn’t wrong.
On average, a “normal” individual consumes 2 rolls per week. After a year, if we put end to end all the rolls used by Montrealers together, we could go around the earth 287 times! 287 times! Can you imagine? That makes a lot of garbage to be managed in our sewers! *See the scientific calculation below. Naturally, anything that goes down the toilet ends up in landfills when it isn’t simply incinerated. All this is much less cute than the animals used to praise the softness of their toilet paper!
Free yourself from the nightmare of addiction with alternatives to toilet paper and other products!
Because yes, there are possible alternatives. Here is a little overview:
Eco-friendly alternatives to toilet paper:
Jean-René Dufort suggested you make toilet paper by pulverizing your bills with water, instead, I would suggest:
- Washable toilet paper. These are small, soft wipes that are reused and washed.
I hear your “ewww” and your “gross” but, believe me, it’s no more disgusting than cloth diapers! Simply soak them in an airtight container and wash them.
- Bidets and showers. They are easy to install on all toilet models and are much more hygienic than toilet paper. In addition, they are an eco-responsible option that will free you from the grip of addiction!
Mme Ovary takes care of your menstrual flow! No need to run to pharmacies in these pandemic times, to invest part of your budget or to put your health at risk. Simple, comfortable and reliable, Mme L’Ovary menstrual underwear is a cotton panty with built-in protection and 3 removable pads that can be replaced depending on your flow. Click here to learn more about feminine hygiene products!
As you probably have nothing better to do these days, here are some easy zero waste projects!
We’re going put the spring back into handkerchiefs! Difficulty level: 1/10.
- Find old silky fabrics;
- Cut them into squares;
- Sew the rim (if you want to be “fancy”)
Why not introduce your bored teens to sewing while you’re at it? Be careful to store them in a safe place after use to avoid contamination.
It is now super easy to make your own homemade cosmetics like deodorants, soap or makeup with only a few ingredients!
I will let the experts on the subject teach you the rules of this art: https://lestrappeus.es/
Preparation of all-purpose cleaning products:
You can also make your own cleaning products that you can use on all surfaces with only white vinegar, orange peels and baking soda. Recipe:
- Fill a Masson jar with orange peels and pour white vinegar to the top.
- Soak for 2 weeks.
- Strain and pour it into a spray bottle.
- Sprinkle the surface with baking soda and then spray
- Leave for about 15 minutes
- Rub and rinse
Between two Netflix movies, I invite you to stimulate your brains with the book Tendre to Zero Waste by Melissa de La Fontaine which invites you to think as much about the contents of your trash as on the foundations of your lifestyle!
Could this pandemic be an opportunity to opt for zero waste alternatives?
Certainly! Great upheavals like this bring about change! It’s a great opportunity to ride the green wave and learn about zero waste movements. There is no shortage of reasons and alternatives! Hoping not to cause the same bidet rush as toilet paper! Psstt! Do you know about the Mme L’Ovary’s #coronaLove group? Apparently, it has the same benefits as a big mouthful of virtual chocolate. You should try to see if it has the same positive effect on you…!
- Scientific calculation: based on a toilet paper from an eco-friendly brand, length of a roll unrolled: (10 cm x 270 sheets): 0.027 km x number of rolls per person per year: 104 x the number of inhabitants of Greater Montreal in the last census 2016: 4,100,000 people. Divided by the circumference of the earth: 40,075 km = 287 laps around the earth.
- Podcast: 3.7 Planets by François Bellefeuille, Episode 9, Fini, toilet paper, November 28, 2019, 25.55 minutes.
- Search engine by Radio-Canada, Coronavirus, Bidet and toilet paper, and telecommuting, March 17, 2020, 53:15 minutes.
- From La Fontaine, Melissa. Tendre vers le Zéro Déchet, La Presse editions, Montreal, 2019, 191 pages.