Happiness month day 23 – taking small actions

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deforestation_boliviaA couple of days ago I mentioned how much happiness I got from being with trees.

They help to ground me, they have such presence and carry such wisdom.

Unfortunately trees are a bit of a disposable commodity – we cut them down for all our paper and furniture desires with little thought for the impact of our actions.

The other week small footprints challenged us to give up kitchen towel. As I’ve already done this I upped the ante and decided to make a brave switch – something I’d been planning on for a couple of years but never quite made the commitment to.

I decided to use wee cloths instead of toilet roll! (NOT number twos I hasten to add)

It caused quite a stir I can tell you. Even hardened green readers called it ‘hardcore’ and although I was supported for my decision there were a few who felt it was just one step too far for them.

A friend of mine came to my rescue (and prevented me putting in my own get out clause or failing due to procrastination) by sending me these pretty fellas:


Go on, admit it; you love them right?

There are cat prints, space men, pigs and all sorts of lovely fabric patterns and, although she reckoned they were a bit big (half that size would be perfect) how could I resist?

Being one for numbing my brain with trivial calculations and useless statistics I’ve figured out that in one year by swapping reusable cloths for toilet paper I can stop the need for *this much* toilet paper:


Yep, 20 rolls.

But actually I got it wrong – I should have picked up one more pack of these because now I’ve looked at the photo I realised these are 160 sheets per roll. My calculation of 20 rolls was on 240 sheets per roll.

So by the tiny step of swapping toilet roll for wee cloths, I’m saving 3 packs of my usual toilet roll from being flushed down the drain each year. Astonishing isn’t it?

And before you start on the ‘yes but what about the water, detergent and energy used in washing’ route I’m pretty damned convinced this is better for the environment. I’m not doing a special wash; putting a cloth in the machine is like chucking in a pair of socks or a handkerchief; it’s no big deal. We all know that washable nappies are better for the environment than disposable ones when you take into account the full life cycle including bleach, paper and gallons and gallons of water and I’d hazard a guess that toilet paper is the same.

So for day 23 of happiness month I’m happy that taking small actions really can make a big difference.

According to World Watch magazine, the equivalent of 27,000 trees PER DAY is flushed away as toilet paper across the world.

Nope, you don’t get away with it that easily; read that again. Really read it, absorb it, understand it: The equivalent of 27,000 trees PER DAY is flushed away as toilet paper across the world.

So what about you? Now you’ve seen the saving to the environment AND your pocket (three packs of toilet rolls like these cost me £14.07 per year) is it time for you to get over yourself? Are you prepared to put the ick factor to one side and give it a go?


  1. Melissa on August 23, 2011 at 8:41 am

    Wow – that number is really sobering! 27,000 trees per day! I have toyed with the idea of making this switch, but haven’t gone through with it. In the meantime, I’m sure I could use less toilet paper! I always seem to pull off more than I really and truly need to use. It seems like such a trivial thing, but it really does add up!

  2. nadine sellers on August 23, 2011 at 4:27 pm

    being a “cradle to grave” thinker, i consider some extended factors in making the switch to cloth =a) i count the little squares and use as needed; 2-4 per. b)i buy recycled paper whenever available.

    so now for the eventual try…though in camping or moving emergencies i have on occasion used cotton cloth for personal purpose..

    as i assume that the initial bits of cloth are remnants from the clothing industry, sewn by cheap labor or even by individual user; little thread and effort can last a long time here. BUT..i am holding back on grounds of maintenance.

    cloths must be rinsed, then washed promptly with good detergent, and dried thoroughly. all of which involve running water which is usually chemically treated, cleaning solvents and a turn in the drier if needed. the environmental costs in energy, water and pollutants may eventually equate the loss of trees. i have not done this math..

    the number that impressed me was the 27.000 trees PER DAY..guilt flashing … that is indeed scary..back to the drawing board..

  3. Brenna on August 24, 2011 at 7:51 am

    That number is staggering indeed! We haven’t made that move yet, and I imagine it would be hard to convince anyone else in my family to give it a try. Are you still doing it?

  4. Rachel on August 24, 2011 at 9:53 am

    When I think about the “What about the washing?” argument, I consider those clean, white rolls of tissue. There must be some equivalent of washing in the manufacturing process to get them looking that clean, so the washing part cancels out, leaving the consumption of raw materials as ‘bad marks’ on the toilet paper side.

    In spite of the logic, I’m not ready to make this step (yet). I’m not sure about the logistics. Our washing machine isn’t in a very convenient place for just dropping cloths into (lame excuse, I know). I worry about mixing these in with other laundry – apart from the ickiness, urine is a bleach. Do you do a separate wash just for these? If so, how long does it take to get a full load? Even if I mixed them, I only run our machine about once a week – these could get pretty smelly sitting around for that long.

    I may get there one day. Your blog post is one more nudge in the right direction 🙂

  5. Good Girl Gone Green on August 29, 2011 at 1:54 am

    Its great what you are doing. I actually myself just started to us reusable cloths for #1, ummm #2 not ready for that. I figured I use reusable wipes for my daughter why not for myself. To me it makes sense! 🙂

  6. Joddle on August 29, 2011 at 10:48 am

    Did people used to use leaves or did they, erm, drip dry? Surely toilet paper in its current form is a relatively new invention??? I only ask because often the zero waste way is a return to basics and maybe there is a simpler techniques that means we don’t need to do lots of washing etc. I know that when I was in Nepal people didn’t use toilet paper: they used hand + jug

  7. Mrs Green on August 30, 2011 at 12:19 pm

    @Melissa: Well that’s a great way to raise your awareness, take positive action yet remain within your comfort zone Melissa!

    @nadine sellers: thanks for sharing all your thoughts Nadine; it really is a conundrum and I appreciate arguments both for and against. It’s never easy to reach a conclusion on these things – we just have to do what feels right for us I guess

    @Brenna: I am still doing it! It’s just my thing although DD is desperate to join in. However when people visit, we tuck away the cloths and use toilet paper – just to join the herd 😉

    @Rachel: Hi Rachel; it’s not an easy decision to make for sure. For me, the washing machine is outside the bathroom door, so it’s simple and no, I don’t do a special wash- they just go in with everything else.

    @Joddle: I would have thought toilet paper was pretty new too. Maybe leaves, maybe a squat in the local river; I really don’t know…

  8. Val on September 12, 2011 at 1:19 pm

    I’ve been using wee cloths for some months now. I save even further my cutting up old t-shirts or similar absorbent material which is not good enough for charity shops and which would otherwise be used as a cleaning cloth. How many cleaning cloths do you need after all?

  9. Mrs Green on September 13, 2011 at 7:20 pm

    @Val: Hi Val, thanks for sharing your idea about the old t-shirts; as you say – you only need so many cleaning cloths!

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