According to statistics from 2010, more than 27,000 trees are cut down for toilet paper daily – that’s a whopping 9,855,000 annually – and founder of bidet company Hello Tushy, Miki Agrawal, tells me it’s actually closer to 15,000,000 now. When we consider what trees do for us – converting carbon dioxide into oxygen, reducing air pollution, helping to cool cities, provide flood protection (I could go on), it seems pretty counterintuitive to be cutting them down, wiping our bum with them and then flushing them down the loo.
When you’re in the toilet doing your business, being planet-conscious might not be at the forefront of your mind. However, the decisions we make every single day when it comes to our personal hygiene takes a pretty huge dump on the planet. And after watching David Attenborough’s recent masterpiece, Our Planet, we know just how crucial it is to make changes now to protect our home.
As a woman who is half Japanese, half Indian, Agrawal has grown up with bidets being a normal part of a personal hygiene routine. In Japan, they have bum-washing facilities built-in to the toilet. “They basically send you to sleep they are so fancy and so high tech,” Agrawal explains the dichotomy of Japan’s toilets versus India’s less attractive “bum guns” that are hooked up to the toilet. “What we wanted to create was something very beautiful, aesthetically pleasing, it felt like an upgrade to your life and it looked like something you were proud of to have in your bathroom.”
Hello Tushy sells bidets that attach to your toilet with no plumbing or electrical work needed, the Tushy showers your bum with a pint’s – or half a litre – worth of water, enabling you to then pat or shake dry and continue about your day. I can hear you thinking: “but isn’t using water instead of paper less sustainable?” No. Toilet paper uses roughly 437 billion gallons of water (1,654,224,949,608 litres) and 253,000 tonnes of bleach annually. Not to mention: the energy it takes to cut down the trees, transport them, process them into toilet paper, package the toilet paper, transport that to stores and then to your bathroom. A pretty hefty feat.
Agrawal also argues the benefits of the bidet from a hygiene perspective: “If you jumped in your shower and didn’t turn the water on, just used dry paper to clean your dirty bits, people would think you were crazy, right?” she says. “For the dirtiest part of our body, we are using dry paper and smearing poop into our butt causing 30 million combined cases of chronic urinary tract infections, anal fissures and anal infections.” Not glamorous at all.
According to Agrawal, the average American uses 57 sheets of toilet paper a day, adding up to $500 of toilet paper a year – that’s £383.50. And tissue industry figures show that Briton’s actually flush more toilet paper than Americans per year. This means that switching to a bidet hold a lot of benefits. “Saving your money, saving your health and hygiene and saving the planet. It’s just a no-brainer. It takes ten minutes to install and it looks like a beautiful upgrade to your bathroom, you’re like a posh person with a bidet,” Agrawal says of the Tushy. To make the case for the switch even more convincing – Hello Tushy will be announcing soon that they are officially working to offset any carbon emissions they do produce by planting trees.
If you aren’t quite ready to commit to the price of £53 for the Tushy Classic, or £76 for the Tushy Spa (that has a temperature control feature), there’s another option: the HappyPo easy bidet. At under £24, it’s a portable bidet that you fill with tap water, aim the bottle head where you would like to clean and then just squeeze. If you’re not down for air drying post-spritz, you can go completely zero waste and pat dry with Cheeky Wipes’ reusable, organic cotton terry wipes or subscribe to Who Gives a Crap’s completely plastic-free, 100% recycled toilet paper service that is delivered to your door.
Whilst Who Gives a Crap’s toilet paper does end up more expensive – 48 rolls’ worth is £36, in comparison to £20.50 for 48 rolls of Andrex from Tesco – you get a lot for your money. Not only is the toilet tissue more sustainable by way of not cutting down any trees, but the company donates 50% of its profits into building toilets for those in need. So far they have donated £1,000,000 into giving toilets to the 1 in 3 people globally who currently don’t have access to any kind of toilet.
Now is the time that we need to look to our most wasteful areas and make positive changes for the good of our planet. “We are cutting down these magical things that are literally keeping us alive,” Agrawal says. “Trees suck in carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, all the huge toxins in the air and spits out oxygen for us to breathe – that keeps all living beings on Earth alive – and yet we dishonour them and destroy them without much thought. 46% of all trees on earth are gone – but when it gets to critical point, we will all die.”