By Susan Caba
The Resale Evangelista
Dammit! I just discovered I bought cheap toilet paper. And by cheap, I mean flimsy—see-through-it flimsy.
I don’t like flimsy toilet paper. (Don’t worry, no graphic details ahead. And, oh my God, don’t read the first sentence of the Wikipedia entry on toilet paper!) I like thick, cushiony toilet paper. White, preferably with those embossed stripes.
Toilet paper comes in one-ply all the way up to six-ply, just like cashmere. And just like that lovely, soft and strong material, multi-ply toilet paper is softer, stronger and, as a practical aside, more absorbent. I like the feel of it—in my hand—better than the thin stuff. I deserve, and can afford, the luxury of good toilet paper.
You may be wondering what the quality of toilet paper has to do with living an artful life. Well, we all have our quirks and preferences, the little things we notice in our daily routines. One of them is soft toilet paper. It’s not like I notice when it’s good–I just don’t like it when it’s bad.
Would that I had stopped with that thought, rather than deciding to write a bright little blog post. If only I hadn’t felt the need to Google toilet paper history. And why wasn’t I satisfied with the perfectly acceptable bits of information in the Wikipedia post—the first hit of 7.2 million on the topic of toilet paper history?
Are you a wadder or a folder?
As a result of that idle observation and my subsequent, too-extensive web-surfing, I can now tell you:
- Americans buy more than seven billion rolls of toilet paper every year. Each of uses an average of 23.6 rolls every year, according to the Cottenelle Roll Poll as reported by the Toilet Paper Encyclopedia. Americans use 50 percent more toilet paper than people in other Western countries and Japan. (According to The Guardian, the British use 110 roll per person each year–but I bet they aren’t buying the jumbo rolls.)
- If stranded on a desert island with only one item, 49 percent of those surveyed would take toilet paper. Not food, toilet paper. Really.
- The answer to that age-old question, over or under, is overwhelmingly in favor of over—72 percent over, 28 percent under.
- And here’s a factoid to drop at your next gathering: 40 percent of people wad their toilet paper before using, 40 percent fold, and 20 percent wrap it. Men tend toward folding while women prefer wadding.
My toilet paper musings brought back memories. I remembered the trip I took to Europe after high school and the rough brown paper squares dispensed in European bathrooms.
I remembered when my son’s girlfriend and her pals tissued-bombed the fir tree outside our front door. Some of those girls had quite the arm—toilet paper streamers hung from branches 20 feet up. Half-unspooled rolls littered the ground like pinecones. “Their mothers will kill them when they find out all this toilet paper is missing,” I thought, as I filled a grocery bag with usable rolls.
Put a bow on it
And Mr. Wipple—I despised those iconic commercials. He was always lurking around the paper goods aisle, accosting customers as they squeezed the Charmin. These days, I dare say, he would be branded a perv-y stalker. Because of Mr. Whipple, I will not, to this day, buy Charmin.
I don’t buy toilet paper with printed patterns, either. In this I am a minimalist. Nor do I fold the loose ends into a triangle—or a paper swan, a leaf or a bird on a tree. Yes, folks, your can origami your toilet paper to make an elegant statement in the bathroom. There’s even a name for this artform: toilegami.
If you’re really interested (and if so, you have waaaay too much time on your hands) download free directions for these toilet paper confections from the Origami Resource Center. After all, says the website author, “If you are going to sit for a long time, why not fold an origami flapping bird with toilet paper?” Yes, why not?
Who knew? Greenpeace has a TP policy
Did you know—I’ll bet you didn’t!—there are four categories of toilet paper: Super
Premium, Premium, Regular and Economy. The difference between soft, thick toilet paper and the flimsy stuff is the mix of wood and recycled materials in the paper. The more wood fibers, the fluffier the toilet paper. Eighty-four percent of American households buy premium or super premium. I blame Mr. Whipple.
So now we come to a moral dilemma. Believe me, if I knew my idle thought would lead to moral ambiguity, I never would have started this post.
Really soft toilet paper is bad for the environment. Greenpeace, the environmental activist organization, says Americans’ pickiness about toilet paper is contributing to deforestation, global warming, harm to indigenous peoples and extinction of endangered species. Virgin forests are being ravished to make toilet paper.
We should be buying paper made with a high percentage of recycled pulp, according to Greenpeace. In Europe and Latin America, about 20 percent of households use toilet paper with recycled content. The rate is about half that in the U.S. Singer Sheryl Crow suggests using just one square of toilet paper per bathroom visit. Uh, no.
Next thing you know, toilet paper will be labelled with its carbon footprint. Oh, wait a minute, that’s already happening. Proctor Gamble and Kimberly Clark are duking it out in California for a low rating by the state’s Air Resources Board, based on greenhouse gases emitted during manufacture–balanced by absorbency that, I guess, makes the finished product more efficient. A British company has determined that a sheet of TP made with recycled pulp uses 1.1g of carbon to manufacture compared to 1.8g for paper made with 100 percent wood pulp.
So there’s my dilemma, soft on the tush or hard on the environment?
The Resale Evangelista is simplifying, clarifying and trying to live a more artful life. She’s going to try not to think too much about toilet paper. There must be easier ways to reduce her carbon footprint!