Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Cloth Wipe Challenge (TMI alert!)

In all fairness to our more squeamish readers, this is a post about cloth wipes. Anyone with an intensely queasy stomach, feel free to skip this post. For those that I haven't scared off, don't worry; this isn't too graphic.

I've spent the past few days rereading the details of Crunchy Chicken's Cloth Wipe Challenge, and have decided to attempt it. Since the official challenge dates have passed, I'm going to set my own challenge, and replace my Seventh Generation toilet paper with cloth wipes. Being frugal, I recycled some of my old, undonate-able t-shirts into 5 x 5 cloth wipes.

Not only are these much more comfortable than scratchy toilet paper, but they are also much better for the environment. Crunchy Chicken writes on her blog:

According to Charmin, consumers on average use 8.6 sheets per trip to the bathroom. That's a total of 57 sheets per day and an annual total of 20,805 sheets. There are 230 million adults in the U.S., each averaging a roll and a half per week. Since each roll of toilet paper averages about .5 a pound of paper, that's about 40 pounds of TP per year. That equals 4.6 million tons of TP used each year. And that's just from adults. To take the calculation even further, if all U.S. adults used only Charmin toilet paper or the like (aka "virgin fiber" with 0% recycled content or post-consumer waste), the environmental cost is approximately (not including the issues with Dioxin):

78.2 million trees
1.35 million tons of air pollution
32 trillion gallons of water
2.1 trillion gallons of oil
18.75 trillion Kilowatt hours of energy

That's a pretty hefty amount, for something that's just flushed down the toilet! For me the solution is simple: cloth wipes.

I know I probably lost a few of you out there, squeamishly protesting that there is absolutely no way that you would ever use cloth wipes. But hold on: cloth wipes really aren't all that bad.

They're soft. Really, which would you rather use: scratchy toilet paper (made from wood, mind you), or soft flannel wipes?

They're environmentally friendly. Less water is contaminated using cloth wipes than in making toilet paper, which is used once, and tossed down the drain. Plus, how can forty fewer pounds of paper making their way into our sewage system be a bad thing?

They're inexpensive. Sure, you can buy cloth wipes. There are a lot of cute ones made out there, such as the ones from Wallypop or Etsy. But you can also make your own. Grab a few old t-shirts and give them a second life. Flannel fabric remnants are also a great choice, and can be had for very little at Joann's Fabrics or other fabric stores.

So what are you waiting for? Give cloth wipes a try!

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