I’ve wanted to get to the bottom of this one for ages. I heard a few years ago of a debate that raged around whether scrunching or folding toilet paper was more environmentally friendly… and this took place during a green buildings training course (yes that’s how much we care).
At the time I didn’t know folding was even an option… that’s just weird.
Having thoroughly researched this topic now, I feel wiser and more informed. I’ve also had a terrific laugh and highly recommend that you find a quiet room to follow the links below and have a read.
So the conundrum is this; which method, scrunch or fold, uses less toilet paper over the whole sitting, and is therefore more environmentally friendly? Here are the key findings from my research;
- Folding is more popular than scrunching [or is it just that ‘folders’ are more vocal about the topic and ‘scrunchers’ are just laid back and cool?]
- There is no empirical data on male/female methods or ratios [apparently it does make a difference], although it is claimed that Americans lean to scrunching whilst Brits tend to fold, and older people prefer folding [might it be that our more frugal Baby Boomers already know the answer?]
- There is no empirical data on paper use per fold type, e.g. the simple fold uses less paper than the ‘mummy’ or the ‘crane’;
- There is no empirical data on how many transactions each method requires per sitting;
- Refolding a fold for another transaction is all sorts of wrong.
Some attempts have been made to test the above with more rigour, using porridge and pretend… er…, but the findings were inconclusive. We are therefore left none-the-wiser as to which method uses less paper.
Discovered during my research I highly recommend another blog titled ‘Do You Scrunch or Fold?‘. An insightful blog that also addresses critical topics such as ‘over or under’ [the under method clearly does use more paper] and ‘sit or stand’… you can’t argue how rigorous my statistical analysis has been.
Other good sources of info;
- CreateDebate – online debate forum. Some insight into the ratio of folders to scrunchers, and affirmation that there are lots of funny people out there;
- SodaHead – as above;
- Wattzon – embodied energy data on toilet rolls and per sheet [and according to the above sites there are ‘one sheet wipers’ out there… I doubt they drink coffee…]
OK, we’re trying to reduce our footprints here [or our bottom line] so how do we move forward?
Here are some workarounds;
- Conduct your own census, e.g. over a month, trial both methods for a 2 week period and see which consumes more paper. You’d need to allow for unfamiliarity with the method that is foreign to you [unless you’re one of the small group who use both], and also ensure that your diet remains consistent for that period;
- Use a bidet – this one gets tricky as far as embodied footprint goes, but it’s still an option. I’m sure there’s a study somewhere on this one…;
- Use junk mail – although ink marks, lack of requisite friction and poor flushability may all present problems; or
- Purchase 100% post-consumer recycled non-bleached locally manufactured toilet paper.
As tempting as the other options are I choose option 4 – the eco-friendly toilet paper. There’s something poetic about using recycled office paper to wipe our… er… anyway, it’s better than using our old growth native forests which is in my view a form of treason.
Only around 5% of the toilet paper used in Oz is made from recycled paper – the rest comes from trees [plantation and old growth]. And every tonne of paper recycled saves 13 trees. Sounds to me like we could wipe away both problems at once… simple supply and demand curve.
To source the friendliest paper; for the Australian readers the best data I managed to find was a study by Choice where they’ve listed the most eco-friendly papers. Some spot research has verified at least one of these products as being legit.
Background info on eco-toilet papers here;
- Statistics on toilet paper impacts at North East Waste Forum
- SAFE toilet paper by Planet Ark
- Earthcare toilet paper
So what’s the lesson here? Well, it won’t go down in the annals of history but at least we’ve shown there are some options for reducing our toilet paper impacts; reduce – yes to a point. reuse – well not really unless you’re one of those weird double-folders, and recycle – yep, that’s me all over.