In America, it’s our first instinct to reach for toilet paper in the bathroom. The U.S. is the largest market for toilet paper worldwide. In 2015, the U.S. spent $9.7 billion on toilet paper alone, according to market research provider Euromonitor.
But other countries don’t share our obsession with the soft stuff. People in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East regularly opt for bidets over toilet paper.
Bidets are typically installed in the bathroom, either as a basin or an add-on to a toilet. You use them to wash your genital and anal region after urination or defecation.
Americans owe their aversion to bidets to the country’s forefathers: The British associated bidets with French brothels and consequently thumbed their noses at their use, according to sociologist Harvey Molotch, author of "Toilet: Public Restrooms and the Politics of Sharing," speaking in an interview with Yahoo. Over time, the habit of wiping instead of washing after using the bathroom developed and never went away. So there is essentially no valid reason for shunning bidets and using toilet paper instead.
ATTN: reached out to toilet paper manufacturers Procter-Gamble and Kimberly-Clark for this story, but they declined to comment.
Here are three solid reasons why Americans should change this bathroom habit as soon as possible
1. The environment
Americans use more than 3.2 million tons of toilet paper annually, cutting down 54 million trees in the process, said Bill Worrell, manager of the San Luis Obispo County Integrated Waste Management Authority in California, in an interview with the Worldwatch Institute.
Not only is our high toilet paper usage to blame, it’s also Americans’ preference for soft over recycled toilet paper, which has taken a toll on forests, The New York Times reported. Typically, 25 to 50 percent of the pulp used to make toilet paper in America comes from tree farms in South America and the United States. But the rest comes mostly from old, second-growth forests that serve as important absorbers of carbon dioxide, the "heat-trapping gas" that is connected to global warming, according to environmental groups.
Another environmental issue is water use. “The production of each roll requires an average of 37 gallons [140 liters] of water," Worrell told the Worldwatch Institute. "The average American uses 57 sheets of toilet paper per day, about 3.7 gallons of water per day figured for just for the manufacturing process. This compares to about 0.03 gallons [0.01 liter] per use of the Washlet [a Japanese electronic bidet]."
2. Hygiene and health
“If a bird pooped on you, would you wipe or wash? So why is your butt any different?” said the website for Tushy, a sleek bidet by the makers of Thinx period underwear.
Choosing a bidet over toilet paper benefits your personal hygiene as well as your health, according to Tushy: A bidet can help prevent UTIs and hemorrhoids.
Tushy CEO Monica Pereira told Bustle, “Ultimately, washing with water is more effective, prevents the smearing and spread of bacteria, and is hella more cost-effective than relying on toilet paper.”
In theory, the use of bidets could prevent urinary tract infections, Dr. Manisha Juthani-Mehta, an infectious-disease specialist at Yale, told The Times. This is just one of the potential benefits that bidets provide, especially for older users.
Older adults could also take fewer baths, using a bidet to wash their lower bodies and a washcloth and soap for their upper bodies, they might reduce the risk of falling, Dr. Mary Tinetti, chief of geriatrics at Yale Medical School, told The Times.
While buying toilet paper in bulk is available for some people, it’s still out of reach for many others. American shoppers’ favorite money-saving strategies — the limited-time offer and buying in bulk — come with savings that are more accessible to some consumers than others, specifically those who have more cash available, according to the University of Michigan’s A. Yesim Orhun and Mike Palazzolo, writing in “Frugality is Hard to Afford.”
In order to see how often consumers at different income levels take advantage of discounts, they analyzed the toilet paper purchases of more than 100,000 households across seven years. They found that the so-called “poverty penalty” manifests itself when low-income families can’t take advantage of bulk deals, because they have to wait to make purchases until payday or until they receive their monthly food stamps (which can’t be applied toward toilet paper). As a result, they may pay as much as 5.9 percent more for each sheet of toilet paper, according to the University of Michigan report.
So if someone forgoes the bulk-buying option and instead buys a six-pack of toilet paper rolls for $7.59, a price taken from Jet.com, a family of four will spend approximately $120 per year on toilet paper (based on the stat that Americans use an average of 23.6 rolls annually). Compare that to the one-time cost a bidet toilet attachment, such as the Tushy, which costs $57, and you'll see how the savings can add up.
The Bottom line for your bottom
Your bathroom behavior has a real effect on the environment, your health, and your wallet. Don't let tradition and habit limit you: Consider switching out wiping for washing.
[h/t The Atlantic]