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Good-bye toilet paper; hello reusable wipes

Toiletpaper Last year Renee and I and a few of our EnviroMom friends were interviewed by public radio's Marketplace program about 'going green.' During the interview our friend Christy mentioned that a reader had stopped using toilet paper, and we could see the gleam in the reporter's eye -- ah! this is something crazy enough to make into the report! Sure enough, he led with that story and asked whether any of us had considered going 'TP-free.' We all offered a resounding 'no!' Well...it doesn't sound so crazy anymore. Yesterday Renee wrote up a fantastic little behind-the-scenes synopsis of what's wrong with our sewage systems, and TP is a factor. She also enlightened us a few weeks ago about the destruction of old-growth forests for toilet paper. And I know a few of our readers have commented in the past that their families are using reusable wipes instead of toilet paper. Becky is one, and she recently sent us a summary of how her family has changed their bathroom habits. Check it out:

So I am sharing my latest "green" thing with you. I read your post a while back about how you would put a "sorry we killed all the trees to wipe our a$ses" note in a time capsule. I really applaud that post...my husband and I decided to take this TP thing to the next level.

Your post, along with the recent info I've learned about BPA in toilet paper (levels being even more in recycled TP than that super new and soft Charmin) just all came together one day as I was folding diapers and wipes. I asked myself "Why, if I am so set against disposable wipes, do I use cloth wipes for my babies, even when I'm away from home, and then turn around and teach my 2 year old to use TP while she is potty training? Why, when I'm already washing diapers and wipes, do I spend so much more on a paper product that has BPA in it to wipe my girly parts?"

ReusabletpwipesWe have decided to switch to cloth at home. In the picture I am sending, the wipe on the bottom is a Kissaluvs Kint Terry Wipe from Baby Works. The one on top I have made out of 12x12 washcloths that I have had for sometime now. I made three out of each cloth and have plenty (45) for us. We do have TP on hand for guests, because as this is our choice, we are not going to MAKE others do it as well.

Now, this email from Becky was quite an eye-opener. I've met Becky, in fact she was the recipient of my stash of plastic bags not too long ago. She is not living in a cave off the grid somewhere. She is a lovely mom of two, living in a condo and making small lifestyle changes just like you and me. So I fired back a bunch of questions asking for a bit more detail on their whole routine:

What is your washing routine? We wash them with the diapers so far.

What's your system? Where do you put the recently used wipes, and how do you wash them? We have a diaper pail in the kid's bathroom and a small trash can by our toilet. Both have removable pails in them and we keep a "soaking" solution in both. It's just a splash of Bac-out mixed w/ water. For diaper/wipes washing, all the pail's contents -- cloth & liquid -- get dumped into the washer. Then I run a drain & spin cycle before I wash. For soap I use non-chlorine bleach & powder soap, both are Biokleen. We find they are the best choice for us and get stains out best.

How do you store them for easy use? In our bathroom, we keep a stack on the back of the toilet so they are easily within reach. Extras are stored in the cupboard above. So far I have made 45 and so we seem to have plenty of extras. The kids' cloths are kept in the right hand drawer of the sink cupboard. They have always been there. Our routine for diaper changes has always been to place them on the toilet and then grab a cloth, get it wet, cleanup and diaper the baby on the changing pad. This is what works best for us because we EC them. (Elimination Communication.)

Do you see yourself using them after the baby is out of diapers and you are doing less wash? We will continue this setup once E is out of diapers. It's a really simple routine we have gotten into and my husband is very willing, as he always has been, to help with the wash. It's a system we are committed to, not only because of the time already put into it -- sewing all those cloths and what not -- but also because we are doing our best to lessen our waste in this world. For us it's kind of like washing towels, it's such a part of life that we are soon not going to know any different way. : )

And are you using them for, ahem, both #1 and #2?Yes, and ahem, yes. It's not a big deal. But if there were a mess, we have some heavy duty gloves that we use to wash out dirty diapers in the toilet. We would use them for the wash cloths too. Also, as a small side note, I used to be a CNA and have worked in geriatrics before. What anyone in this family expels, including the dog, cannot be as bad as some of my previous cleanups.

Whew. So there you have it. It is do-able, and lots of people are doing it. (Hello, Lee? I know you're out there -- share your story!) I'm not there, and I'm sure my husband is sweating bullets right about now just reading this. But dang it, who knows where I might be in another year? Look back at the changes you've made -- did you ever think you'd be changing your ingrained habits, like not buying disposable products or recycling everything or composting your food scraps? I'm not going to pooh-pooh this one (so to speak) because you just never know when it will finally make sense.

Could you do it? Are you doing it? And, Becky, thanks for sharing!

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