OK, so it's kind of awkward, but I gotta take a minute and talk about toilet paper.
This is a tricky topic in the earth-friendly space, and while there are those who commit to non-disposable toilet paper, i.e. cutting up old rags and clothes to keep handy beside the toilet, and washing and reusing them after they become soiled, I just don't see myself ever getting there.
They say that the journey to sustainability is personal, and that no judgment should be cast on those who fall somewhere on the continuum, so please don't judge me if I don't want to throw my family's poop rags in the laundry and re-use them every few days.
I feel that toilet paper will always be in my life, like a first love you just can't let go of, even if you know you should. If it weren't bio-degradable, it might be a different story.
That said, I have been thinking more about how much toilet paper I use, versus how much I really need, knowing what I know of the resources required to make any kind of paper product (per the Scientific American it takes 37 gallons of water to make 1 roll of toilet paper).
For example, do I really need a wad long enough to wrap around my hand three times just to take care of a little tinkle sprinkle? Definitely not (especially in India, where septic systems really don't want to deal with any toilet paper whatsoever).
I've challenged myself to keep it to three squares per pee, and so far I've sacrificed neither comfort nor cleanliness.
Of course, there are other bathroom scenarios in which you might need a bit more paper (ahem). I'm going to throw something at you here - have you ever considered using a "hygiene hose"? In India, these are standard in most bathrooms, even fancy ones. It's nothing more than a hose with a spray nozzle, very similar to what you'd use in the kitchen sink.
I was afraid of the hygiene hose at first; actually, I was terrified. But a couple bouts of food poisoning in places where toilet paper was unavailable helped me get over that. In fact, using it was a pretty comforting sensation after being sick all day.
I won't get into graphic detail, but it's essentially an alternative means of cleaning yourself after doing a #2. You literally just spray any areas that might need spraying from behind, being careful not to spray outside the toilet.
Once you get over the initial horror of substituting water for toilet paper, it's pretty easy, and just as effective. I do, however, still like to do a courtesy sweep with toilet paper after I'm done, just for good measure. The combination of the hygiene hose and the toilet paper uses a fraction of the toilet paper I would otherwise use, and leaves me feeling super fresh.
I realize that this may not be possible for everyone, but it's making me consider installing a hose in the bathroom of my future home, wherever that may be.
Would you try the #threesquarechallenge for a week? A month? You'll be surprised how little you really need.