February 5, 2011

NBA Research Center: Perfecting The Water Wipe

Toilet paper was invented in China in the 14th century. It was invented for royalty.

Deep in the bowels of the NBA Research Center we are always looking for new ways of reducing our ecological footprint. The goal is to reduce our consumption and live a leaner, freer, more fulfilling life while on a modest budget. Nothing is sacred in our quest - all habits, tendencies, ruts, routines, conveniences, and cultural programs are fair game for assessment, and possible change.

This includes one of the most sacred and cherished of North American routines - wiping with super soft, ultra pampered, royal plush, silky smooth toilet paper. Since December I have thrown on the white lab coat, and have been conducting tests on the paper-less wipe.

But before I share some of my initial findings, a little background.

In the US - largest user of toilet paper in the world - less than 2% of sales are for 100% post consumer recycled. There is a very good reason for this. According to James Malone, a tissue-pusher for Georgia Pacific, customers “demand soft and comfortable. Recycled fiber cannot do it." Well, there you go.

Apparently anything less than 4-adjective toilet paper gives the user an aggressive form of Recycled Fiberitis Syndrome. It first gives the sufferer a nasty rash, then the butt hole falls right off. It looks like all those trees being killed are amply justified.

Kidding aside, I don't think that any kind of forest should ever be made into toilet paper. Our obsession with fluffy bum wipe has serious environmental consequences. Millions of trees are harvested annually to make toilet tissue, including old growth forests in Canada. The tissue pusher is right though - the softest paper comes from standing trees, and that is increasingly what consumers are demanding.

Other countries are far less picky about toilet tissue. In many European nations, a rough sheet of paper is deemed sufficient. Other countries are also more willing to use toilet tissue made from recycled paper. In Europe and Latin America, products with recycled content make up over 20 percent of the market according to environmentalists.

And then you have the billions of humans that don't use toilet paper at all. And that is where my research comes in. This is what I have found so far:

Cons
  1. This method is better adapted to warm environments where you can dry off more quickly.
  2. It seems more convenient to use tp, and I often stop myself from reaching for it.
  3. It may take time to overcome cultural programming that teaches us to never, ever, ever touch any part of our body directly 'down there'.
  4. You have to touch poo. At least it's your own poo.
  5. It seems that washing hands after toileting is optional for some. When you use the water wipe, washing hands after with soap and hot water is critical. (It is if you wipe with paper, too.)
  6. Playing guitar does not help. My fingers may be stronger, but my left wiping fingers are heavily calloused, reducing sensitivity.
  7. Your less informed friends may not want to shake your hand for a while.
  8. Water and fingers may go astray when you are first getting used to this method. Accuracy improves with practice.
Pros
  1. You get to know your body better.
  2. Using water is cleaner than just smearing stuff around. Water eliminates pesky Klingons around Uranus.
  3. Not buying toilet paper reduces the amount of shit the world has to deal with overall (corporate abuse of the environment and workers, for example). We can choose not to support this abuse by opting out.
  4. If you love trees you can quit insulting them by dragging their dead, bleached carcasses across your bum. Plus, paper is way scratchier than water - even the ultra-super-wickedly soft variety.
  5. You can feel the solidarity of billions of fellow humans that also wipe with water.
  6. It will give you the satisfaction of taking action toward a lower footprint, more sustainable lifestyle.
  7. You can always use it as a conversation starter (or stopper) at the water cooler.
  8. It is unconventional, and doing it puts you in an exclusive category of about 0.000001% of the North American population.

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