the toilet paper question


Because I don't have a photo of toilet paper to illustrate this post with, I'm going with sourdough starter instead.




BUBBLY! There's more interest in sourdough than I thought, so I'll come back to it, I promise. And I think it'd make sense to be able to see the starter and maybe the sponge and process on a video clip, some things just don't translate to still photography. I'm on it. 

Meanwhile: toilet paper.

No alternative?

Of all the hot spots people have about this challenge, this would have to be number one. I started out with only a handful of rolls and was canvassing our options when my friend Fi showed up with many, many rolls. Adam was very relieved.

But meanwhile our stash is dwindling and if we can stretch the food, can't we stretch this too? 

My thinking gets confused here, because it's easy to go off on a tangent thinking about the ridiculous number of litres of drinkable water we/I flush down the toilet every day. I'm embarrassed by it. We don't have a grey water system or a fabulous composting toilet and talking about the unsustainability of toilet paper loses a bit of it's sting in comparison to depleting our water supply this way.

Yet you don't have to travel far to find people doing without toilet paper very nicely. While the most "European" (read: palatable) alternative tends to be, you guessed it, water, people all over the globe are using fabric, wool, banana leaves, corn cobs, sand and stones. 

So I reckon there probably is an alternative.

While this is not a lovely tight paid up freelance article outlining my experiences trialling the alternatives, this is a blog. And we make it up as we go along, right? 

My Dad has already rung from the centre of Australia to remind me of the very very old sewerage system under this very very old house and not to put anything funny down the toilet. 

So no corn cobs down the loo Dad? OK then.

Our barter system down here is going strong. My beautiful friend Heather today traded onions and carrots for a couple of bags of our chook and cow manure for her garden. Awesome trade! 

Dinner tonight was salad leaves (thanks Mark) with olives and sliced boiled egg and crunchy croutons (buttered, day-old bread cubed and baked in a moderate oven for about 15 mins). The beetroot was a trade from Karina last week, boiled up on the stove and stored in a container with white vinegar. Best way to eat beetroot!




Almost at three weeks. And tonight I scrawled a list of possible dinners from food in the fridge and pantry. Not at the end yet.

We've got guests this weekend and we'll see how low we are on loo roll on Monday.

Of course, this may be the point at which Adam, endlessly energetic and imaginative about this challenge, chucks it in. A man has a limit. Adam's may be cloths next to the loo. 

Might start on good old phone books first if I can find any (free) old ones with the paper paper, not the shiny paper, remember those? 

My Grandma had newspaper neatly cut up, punched with a hole in the corner and tied with string in the outside loo. (Although I wonder if she ever used it – there was an inside toilet too – the outside one was likely for the menfolk in their gumboots.)

What do you reckon?

Corn cob, anyone?


21 Comments on “the toilet paper question

April 13, 2012 at 10:58 pm

I’m really struggling with the visuals of corn cobs to wipe my bum! I think I’d probably go with cloth, washable wipes if pressed. Good luck with it!

knutty knitter
April 13, 2012 at 11:00 pm

Old t shirts cut up for pee is what we have done for around 3 years now. I just heave them in the wash with everything else. That way you save the paper for poo and it is less of a transition. After that I think you might be down to whatever garden plants feel the best:)

viv in nz

April 13, 2012 at 11:08 pm

I love following along with this challenge- way to go! Why don’t you use cloths? You could put a pail in the washrooms (think diaper pail) and then when you wash the cloth diapers also wash the cloths. Really it is the same thing as cloth diapers and cloth wipes. I would also suggest the Diva cup instead of tampons. I started using mine 3 years ago and love it! You can also buy reuseable pads and I figure if I am washing cloth diapers I might as well was pads too.
Good luck and thank you for sharing this wonderful challenge with us.

Melanie @ M&M
April 13, 2012 at 11:31 pm

SouleMama has a pattern for cloth pads in her book, Handmade Home.

Melanie @ M&M
April 13, 2012 at 11:32 pm

Gotta tell you I’m okay with the cloths and like the diaper pail idea, but this would be a HUGE issue in my house. We were in Cozumel a few weeks ago and they provide toilet tissue, but you can’t flush it (island sewage system and all that). I thought my hubs was gonna flip out at first, but he acclimated. Good luck!

April 14, 2012 at 4:06 am

OK, so here is where I lose all maturity and break out into a fit of giggles every time I think of corn cobs and the loo…I mean seriously, I can’t help it. So very sad (Hello?!? I’m 43?!?). I will say that I am continuously impressed by this whole process and you (and your families) willingness to stick to it. Have a great weekend!

April 14, 2012 at 4:22 am

thanks Melanie. I will have to check it out.

April 14, 2012 at 6:48 am

Wow, this is like the $21 food challenge on steroids. I didn’t think you’d make it this far with the toilet paper. I think that this would be the point that I’d have to pull out. All the best.

April 14, 2012 at 7:00 am

Wee wipes. I’ve made ours from bits of old towels that I’ve sewn hems around. Works fine.

April 14, 2012 at 7:21 am

Wow, I’m impressed to see that lots of commenters use washable cloth wipes. While I’m not going to change our household anytime soon, if I visited a friend’s house and they used cloth I would totally respect the system. You might just need a little sign in the loo to explain to visitors.

I can also highly recommend a menstrual cup, mine is a Lunette. 10 times better than tampons, both from a comfortability and environmentally-friendly perspective. You can safely wear it for 12 hours straight – love that I don’t even have to think about taking tampons to work or out with me.

April 14, 2012 at 10:21 am

My SIL called me from town the other day asking if I needed anything. I asked for toilet paper. She turned up with the thickest, whitest, most luxurious toilet paper I have ever seen. We’ve been guiltily enjoying it for the past few days, like a little toilet holiday.
I love the idea of washable wipes but honestly I don’t think I’m that kinda girl.

Lotsa love and happy weekend you guys. xx

April 14, 2012 at 1:05 pm

I remember reading Living the Good Life by Linda Cockburn a few years ago and they used cut up pieces of loofah that had been soaking to soften them but they had a composting toilet.

My husband’s uncle and aunt have only ever had newspaper and white pages etc, cut up into squares hanging from a nail in their backyard dunny. It always surprised me how well it worked.

I can totally recommend the Diva cup too. Mine is four years old and still going strong. They are brilliant!

April 14, 2012 at 4:51 pm

Like most people that use them, we only use cloth for wees, so washing them is not at all onerous (the used ones go in a waterproof bag that I had left over from cloth nappying. If I didn’t have that I’d use a small plastic tub, but I like the fact this has no lid for the children to forget to put back on. They don’t need soaking and they don’t smell.)

I wouldn’t expect visitors to use them. We do have a downstairs loo, and that only has loo roll in it, but even people who use the main bathroom (visiting children mostly) just use the paper and don’t even notice the little tub of fleece and cotton wipes on the cistern.

Using them for wees only also means I didn’t have to talk my husband into it, because he doesn’t have to use them. He thinks most of my ideas are out of left field, and I spent ages thinking of how I could talk him into it when it occurred to me I didn’t need to. So I just did it after explaining it to the girls. My 13 year old was fine as long as she didn’t have to ask her friends to do it…

And definitely, love my mooncup. I worked out how much money I’d saved over 5 years a while back, and it was a huge amount! Eldest DD uses just pads for the moment.

April 14, 2012 at 7:51 pm

hahahaha a corn cob is just a horrifying thought! Your doing so well. This has been an inspiration. well done

April 14, 2012 at 8:35 pm

your posts have inspired me – I’m currently having a ‘clean out the fridge, freezer and pantry’ period to use up those unlabelled goodies lurking at the back of the freezer and all those dried beans at the back of the pantry! Thanks for the motivation to make do with the bounty that I have already 🙂

I admire your commitment in the face of the decline in loo paper – I’d be on my own for sure if ever we ran out of toilet paper!! lol

April 15, 2012 at 9:48 am

Do you have any old flannelette (or any really) sheets? You could do ‘family cloth’ with those. Personally, I’d still keep TP for no. 2’s, but if you use ‘family cloth’ for wee’s, the TP will last longer! I also have several years worth of old phone books that I am hoarding for such a scenario!!

I read back through your Game On Challenge posts last night. It is so interesting! I love the concept, being Survironmentalists ourselves, of testing our ‘prepping’ without the pressure or hardship of it being ‘real’. I hope to be able to do it for a day, then weekend, maybe longer, with no power/ water/ communication etc. Sounds like a cop out, but maybe when the kids are a little older, we’ll do it. Just grab our grab bags and race off into the night, testing our skills and stamina. Of course, I need to get the skills & stamina first!!

Good luck with the rest of your challenge… you will learn a lot, I think!

April 15, 2012 at 3:55 pm

Oh and I meant to say, I hate the amount of clean water that gets used to flush toilets too, so we do the whole ‘if it’s yellow, let it mellow’ thing and I’ve started using a bucket to catch the warm-up shower water and leaving the water in the bath tub after the children. I bail that out to re-fill the cistern after flushing. It’s not perfect and doesn’t get done every time (it’s also too heavy/messy for 2/3 children to do) but it makes me feel a bit better.
I also encourage everyone to wee in a bucket as much as possible to add to the compost heap. Something else I’m not allowed to share with eldest’s friends!

One day I’ll have a composting toilet…

Penny Hannah
April 15, 2012 at 8:17 pm

I’m SUCH a rotten person – I LOVE being an armchair reader of your challenge and not having to be involved! Am so impressed with how you’ve coped and with the family for going along with it. Good luck with the loo paper alternatives. From what I’ve read from the other comments, cloth wipes and a nappy bucket would be my choice, although some nice young fresh banana leaves for solids might do….

small catalogue
April 16, 2012 at 11:07 pm

Having grown up with a thunderbox in the garden and the nightman coming to collect it; I can firmly attest to LOVING the flushable loo and loo paper. I can absolutely understand lines drawn in the sand about such things (and the embarrassed teenagers who really don’t want their friends to know). I truly think my Mum is a legend for having done terry flats for six babies without a little squirt. Lets not even think about the copper that she washed them in. I clapped myself for doing flats for one baby with an Asko front loader… How the world has turned.

Am loving your adventure in sustainability – though like Penny, am definitely sitting on the reading fence. The sourdough, however – the starter is going great guns! Thanks for the recipe and the push to actually do it! A baker may have been born.

small catalogue
April 16, 2012 at 11:10 pm

Ps: I’d be more than happy to repay all the recipes I’ve used from here with some date roll… definitely a good barter in my mind!

April 17, 2012 at 8:47 am

Thanks Dixiebelle, I think your version might be more what Vanessa had in mind originally, and yes, we are def doing a slightly watered-down one that includes petrol! She has a grab bag too. I think you’d get on well. xx


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