Vive Le Canada

It ain't easy peeing green
Date: Friday, November 17 2006

A woman realizes that while going to the bathroom ecologically meant peeing on trees and lawns, and working with a poo-only toilet, all she wanted was something that flushed and that she could sit down on.

Nicole McClelland
Orion Magazine/AlterNet
November 13, 2006

"Honey, could you please bring me the tissues out of my bag?" I called from the bathroom in the rundown backpackers' hostel. Dan and I had paid two extra American dollars for en suite facilities, and I'd sat down on the toilet without noticing that there was nothing to wipe with. Tiny ants patrolled the cracks between the sink and the wall and the wall and the floor. A few lizards took turns scurrying across the ceiling. I eyed them sharply.

"What for?" Dan asked through the door. "What do you mean, 'what for'?" I called back, laughing quietly in spite of myself. ...

"They don't use toilet paper here, remember?" he yelled from the other side of the door. He turned it into a song: "I already told you that, but you... weren't... listeniiinnng!"

"Please just give me the tissues," I pleaded. He didn't respond. "Dan?" "What?" "Get me my tissues!"

"No," he said solemnly. "Use the water gun, like you're supposed to." And I heard him walk away. ...

Though toilet paper was invented in China in the late 1300s, it was for emperors only, and everyone else around the globe used everything from corncobs to wool to newspaper to lace for the next five centuries. Widespread use of toilet paper didn't catch on until New York's Joseph Gayetty started selling it in 1857, with his name printed on every sheet. Now the U.S. alone uses 7.4 million tons of tissue per year -- over 20,000 sheets of toilet paper per person, according to Charmin -- and North America, which contains less than 7 percent of the world's population, consumes half the world's tissue paper products. By Greenpeace's estimates, Canada would save nearly 50,000 trees a year if every household in the country replaced just one roll of regular toilet paper with the recycled kind. ...

Dan had spent his undergraduate career building and maintaining the miniature ecosystems that purify wastewater using natural processes.

"I'm not saying I know exactly what we'll want to use, but composting is definitely a viable option." That's a good point, I could have said. It wasn't like we were building a house in a week. Or even in five years.

[Proofreader's note: this article was edited for spelling and typos on November 17, 2006]

This article comes from Vive Le Canada

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