Toilet Paper (from trees) is back in the Headlines. ‘Is Wiping our Bottoms Wiping out Forests?’

Back’side’ to the Future | Trees or Bamboo?

Toilet Paper: It’s not (as the panic buying highlighted) about shortage. It’s about sustainability.

When you wipe your bottom you may be unintentionally wiping out forests. In last week’s post we wrote about supporting renewable energy that protects our world. The focus was on Biogas as a sustainable energy source, using cattle poop mixed with food waste as the basis of our article. However, fortunately cows don’t use toilet paper/tissue as do such an increasing percentage of the human race. The reason we mention it is the world’s biggest manufacturers use a lot of trees and a lot of water to make toilet tissue. We’ve all been made aware of, and many countries are beginning to react about, the destructive use of plastics which are proven to be damaging to both land and sea. But, why would we necessarily think that toilet tissue, ‘That flush-away daily cleanser we simply pop in the toilet and it disappears,‘ would be anything for us to be remotely concerned about?

Meanwhile, the Amazon burns and Forests are being cut down at an Alarming Rate. The really important issue here (rather than the recent occurrence of toilet paper panic buying) as WHO recently pointed out, is ‘The world has lost 178 million hectares of forest since 1990.’ That’s seven times the area of the UK! With that staggering statistic in mind – add to that how much devastation can be historically, and presently, aligned to cutting down trees for toilet paper production (let alone the amount of water and chemicals used in the process.) We can clearly see that we have reached a crisis point in regards to the impact on our forests, the amazon and our planet. This leads us onto the introduction (if you’d not heard of them already) to an organisation that is kicking up about the use of trees for TP [toilet paper] and we wanted to give that some publicity and their findings an airing…

Trees or Bamboo… and gallons of water too! In this brief article we have no intention of sending you to sleep with reams of information, facts and figures, but we wanted to flag up a few things that may be of interest, or an influence on your choice of which toilet tissue and certain other products to use [e.g. kitchen towel, face tissues, and even wet wipes.] As a comparison, let’s take a quick look at the key ‘need to knows‘ regarding toilet paper/tissue and the advantages of bamboo for sustainability and similarly the environment. We’re focussing on ‘Bamboo vs Trees.’ But in regard to their importance on earth – Trees are essential for our planet and exactly why they have to be saved and protected, not used for toilet paper. Trees are vital, as the biggest plants on the planet they give us oxygen, store carbon, stabilise the soil and give life to the world’s wildlife.

‘Bamboo instead of Trees for Balanced Sustainability. The Benefits.’ Bamboo is a very fast growing, renewable and an easy-to-grow resource. It is an extremely versatile material with countless uses, including; construction, clothes, food and fuel. Bamboo shoots are used in Asian food preparations and in Japan, the antioxidant properties of bamboo skin can prevent bacterial growth and are used as natural food preservatives. Bamboo is well-known for being a Panda’s favourite meal. No fertiliser, pesticides, or herbicides are needed for them to grow, as unlike most crops bamboo requires no agricultural chemicals to thrive. Bamboo absorbs carbon dioxide and releases 35% more oxygen into the atmosphere, more than a similar community of trees. The list is endless and the more we learn about bamboo it’s obvious as to why, ‘it’s a true miracle of nature.

The Natural Resources Defense Council [NRDC] are moving and shaking regarding TP from trees, as it’s not on most peoples radar or list of priorities, but ought to be. A number of you in the know may be following Shelley Vinyard from the NRDC, a campaign expert who has written many articles on the subject of boreal forests. Shelley provides a clear and well-researched view. For further reading, and to expand on the focal points we’ve made above, here are a few sources of useful information from NRDC to check out: ‘All Your Questions About Toilet Paper Answered‘ from June 24 2020, ‘The Issue with Tissue.’ Another useful resource is Mongabay who frequently comment on deforestation with their, ‘News and Inspiration from Nature’s Frontline.’

Is Bamboo the New You? or ‘What’s the most climate-friendly tissue paper for you and our planet.’ By way of an introduction. To find out about the hottest new influencers in the world of bamboo toilet tissue and our more eco-friendly household products + where you can buy them – here’s a list of links to just a few of the many game-changers (in no particular order) to get you started. Each offering alternates to TP from Trees [availability of brand may depend on your location]:

The Cheeky PandaWho Gives a CrapBumbooCabooNo. 2ReelTushyBim Bam BooPurePlanetClubSilknSoft

We’ll leave you with a few last thoughts to ensure we protect this precious asset. ‘How can we harvest bamboo in sustainable ways to save the bamboo eco-system, to plan not only a scientific but also a holistic approach to bamboo cultivation? Also, the impact of industry on the biodiversity, local peoples lives and those animals for whom it’s their home? These questions are crucial if we are to build a sustainable future and long-term access to Bamboo, an important resource but that, in harvesting it, we don’t destroy it as a habitat, or ignore its value as continuing climate change reboots the natural order.‘ This is a subject we’re going to return to, if you have any comments or want to tell us about your experience with bamboo and or sustainable toilet paper please get in touch. We’ll be back next week…

‘Beauty Spots’ where to go when there’s nowhere to go? This week’s news on loos & no. 2s.

Getting out and about as lockdown eases. Illustration from the children’s book ‘All Animals Poo & We Do Too’ copyright Hendriksen & Hopson

Scoop the Poop. The past few weeks have seen more and more people out and about in the sunshine at parks and beaches. But at the same time public toilets have so far remained shut. This has led to a number of headlines highlighting the growing problem of ‘where to go when there’s nowhere to go’ and what’s subsequently been happening to these well-loved beaches and beauty spots. We’re used to the ‘scoop your poop’ signs and doggy doo’s bags and bins for our pets, but as for us humans? A more tongue in cheek sign at Trinity Bellwoods Park in Toronto, Canada recently served to highlight the issue, one that we felt needed to be discussed in this week’s post. Here’s that exact article by Jenny Yuen for The Toronto Sun in which she said, “Ten thousand people, no bathrooms, you do the math.” So we did – see below!

Facebook | Ira Samuel Cohen

Scoop on the Poop. To focus on one country as an example, the UK has approximately 9 million pet dogs. One in four households in the UK has a pet dog, and they produce 1,000 tonnes of poop a day, or 365,000 tonnes a year [Hansard UK Govt.] and that’s about 85,000 times as heavy as a Hippopotamus [The Measure of Things.] Now that your imagination is ignited… That would mean that in theory if the UK population still had to poop their average 4-500 grams a day outside [LiveScience] then at 68 million people, we would be depositing the equivalent weight of approx. 68 million adult Pandas of poop in the open each year. That’s without accounting for the use of tissue to clean up after, which would mean mountains of mess throughout the land and widespread disease. Fortunately for us that’s not the case, but remarkably it is still the case for 1/3rd of the world population.

To be in the Loop. This may seem rather abstract but it helps us to add a perspective on outside pooping, and also introduces the more serious and less publicised point that open defecation (rare in the toilet owning world), is a huge problem for over 1 billion people worldwide [WHO] that still have to ‘go outside.’ An even higher figure if you add those without access to basic sanitation or water, which brings the total to 1 in 3 people globally. Add to that the extraordinary number of diseases associated to this scenario and you may be surprised to learn that those diseases include; cholera, diarrhoea, dysentery, hepatitis A, typhoid and polio. According to the WHO diarrhoea remains a major killer (432,000 diarrhoeal deaths annually). So far 380,000 deaths have occurred worldwide from coronavirus. But, better water, sanitation, and hygiene could prevent the deaths of 297,000 children aged under 5 years ‘each year’ from said diseases.

The Big Necessity.‘ There are many resources you can access if you want to know more, and plenty of statistics and eye-opening stories but our ‘take home on this’ is that while the problem is being addressed through a number of determined passionate people and organisations, this is nowhere near enough supported to stop the tragic and yearly consequences from being anywhere near adequately addressed. For what we consider to be one of the most ground-breaking, informative and unforgettable books on the subject, go buy Rose George‘s, ‘The Big Necessity‘ – it’s a fascinating read as she exposes the biggest single unexposed health problem on planet earth.

When Nature Calls. Meanwhile back to where we started, and a few links to get you through the weeks ahead until the public toilets reopen. Stay safe, stay aware and please leave no trace when pooping outside to keep other safe too. As an addendum, we just spotted an article in the Evening Standard by Lezlie Lowe, published today 5th June, entitled, ‘As lockdown eases we need to talk about toilets.’ Here, Lezlie reiterates the comments we’ve made and also those we discussed about improving public toilets for women, link here. Well worth reading as she’s researched the subject far more than we, and do buy her book too, ‘No Place To Go: How Public Toilets Fail our Private Needs.’ The other article that’s popped up since we published was in HuffPost on 6th June, where Sophie Wilkinson writes for ‘Opinion’, ‘Public Toilets Are An Equalities Issue. Why Don’t We Care?‘ Great to see these expert views on the subject.

  1. Huffpost: How To Pee And Poop Outdoors If Provincial Park Washrooms Are Closed.
  2. Road Trippers: Nature is calling: Here’s how to poop properly in the great outdoors.
  3. A classic list from Adventure Journal: Seven Ways to Poop Outdoors.
  4. The Manual: How to Poop in the Woods: A Guide for When Nature Calls.

We’ll be back again next week.

We’re beginning to get our sh*t together… with ‘Sewage Epidemiology.’

from Mark's Children's Book series about loos and no. 2s
Image copyright | Hendriksen & Hopson [illustration from the children’s book ‘It’s all about Poo.’]

Most people are aware of what a healthy poop should look like and how it can signal or warn of potential health problems. Taking a look at your daily motion is stage one, then if necessary, with poo samples doctors and scientists take that a stage further by providing detailed analysis of our health and wellbeing. But, until now, few of us had known that our collective poop can show a lot about the health of a community and in doing so help track and trace the likes of coronavirus and other diseases. We touched on the subject of testing in sewers a while back – now it’s among the weekly headlines we’ll go deeper into, ‘How sewage analysis can help track, trace and protect against viruses.’

Following on from an article on May 3rd in The Guardian, ‘Sensor taps and no door handles: Covid-19 shows it’s time to rethink public toilets.’ We got in touch with Maria Centracchio to a) to compliment her on her piece and expand on future challenges for public toilets, and b) to mention ‘the onward journey’ from public toilets in regards to another article where, “The Guardian had reported that scientists are researching how sampling our stools could offer a faster and cheaper way to pinpoint where outbreaks of COVID-19 are brewing before scores of people become seriously ill, either by tracking or detecting remnants of the virus in municipal sewage.

No sooner had I posted my reply to Maria when my (Dutch) wife popped into my office to show me where virus tests can be done without testing people directly in this explanatory video from nu.nl in The Netherlands. The accompanying dialogue basically translates as… “Why they are looking at your stool for traces of coronavirus. The coronavirus has been found in our sewers. But why are we specifically diving into our sewage to find it?‘ You can check out the video here. Interestingly, research out of The Netherlands has shown that the virus’ genetic material, or RNA [RNA is one of the three major biological macromolecules that are essential for all known forms of life, along with DNA and proteins] can be detected in wastewater (faecal matter) as much as two weeks before the first diagnosis of a sick patient by a doctor.

However, wastewater testing per sae is nothing new as it has been used for drug testing for some while. This can be seen, for example, in the work of The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction. But with COVID-19 the breadth of testing via wastewater has stepped up. An article from Applied and Environmental Microbiology illustrates how much research and potential this type of analysis holds, (provided courtesy of the American Society for Microbiology [ASM] and released back in 2014) ‘Detection of Pathogenic Viruses in Sewage Provided Early Warnings of Hepatitis A Virus and Norovirus Outbreaks.’ In fact it might beggar the question as to why governments appear not to have picked up on this somewhat earlier. Nevertheless, to get under the lid of just how impactful wastewater testing may potentially be, take a look at the media links on BioBotGlobal leaders in wastewater epidemiology, whose mission is to transform wastewater infrastructure into public health observatories, where millions of dollars are being invested to establish just how effective this particular type of test could be.

Sewage epidemiology is now being used around the world, and although The World Health Organisation (WHO) stated that the ‘COVID-19 virus, does not readily spread through sewage and wastewater systems. But like other microbes, non-infectious genetic residues of the virus can remain in wastewater systems in the locations where infected people go to the toilet. Add the work of other major organisations into the mix, such as The Water Research Foundation who held a summit on ‘Environmental Surveillance of COVID-19 Indicators in Sewersheds’ at the end of April. Then also the numerous universities around the world and you get a growing list of researchers in The NetherlandsFranceThe USA and Australia who have been testing sewage for SARS-CoV-2 for over a month now, and generally reported that the rise and fall of their results reflect officially reported local rates of infection with COVID-19.

Another resource is The Toilet Board Coalition, ‘The Toilet Board Coalition has expanded its reach to proactively call for catalysing innovations and new business models that fill the gaps needed to leapfrog to next generation sanitation systems.’ As mentioned above, using sewage to detect viruses like COVID-19 as early as possible is gathering increased interest as the chart below [copyright Toilet Board Coalition] helps to illustrate.

The important point in all this is the more studies that take place, the closer we may be to finding a truly effective way of making the difference we all seek with a new weapon against COVID-19. As part of next week’s post, we’ll look at how human faeces is being used for health, fertilizer, fuel and even ‘sh*tting bricks,’ plus get back up to date on the latest news on loos and no. 2s here at, ‘The Daily Poo!’

‘Mr. Toilet. The World’s #2 Man’ is now available on Amazon.

Mr. Toilet. The World’s #2 Man

A film title that may feel less than serious than it actually is, as this film has an important message. A docu-film about one man’s mission to focus world attention on the enormous percentage of the population who have no access to basic sanitation and/or water. What percentage? According to the World Health Organisation it’s over 2 billion, which to provide a perspective one can more easily imagine is over 25% of the world’s population!

In ‘Mr. Toilet. The World’s #2 Man’ prepare to wade through a lot of poo and unpleasantness that should make you open your eyes to these problems, even if you have to pinch your nose. To get the message across Jack Sim does exactly that, by taking a serious subject with a twist of humour to engage his audience. You’ll see many striking visions of just how bad it really is and how, quite frankly, not enough is being done to resolve the problem, nor to educate and encourage use of toilets and better sanitation practices.

In the earliest times, people really weren’t that fussy about privacy nor easily embarrassed about open defecation, so they tended to just go, when and where they felt like it. Before the first toilets, people lived by, washed, drank and defecated in rivers. But, it wasn’t long before our ancestors figured it was not such a great idea to use the same cleaning and drinking spot in the rivers to also go the loo. They soon understood it was better to wash upstream and do their ablutions downstream, so as not to mix the two! Civilisation was beginning to dawn. It’s been slow progress over thousands of years for the evolution of the ablution and sanitation to get to where it is today. But in these poorer places it’s not a great deal different to those earliest times, the outcome of which is spreading disease and many other serious and worrying peripheral problems.

But, when you get the likes of politicians and ambassadors around the world, plus the UN, Water Aid, Water.org, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the WHO involved, and then add Matt Damon into the mix plus get a movie made about you, then you’ll see why Jack really does make a difference. The film is engaging and honest, but could perhaps have a slightly different structure and focus for a call to action i.e. tangible results. That said it’s a remarkable achievement and Jack’s personality, passion, positivity and engaging nature are getting results and a lot of media attention – if that makes a difference and improves sanitation in those poorer cultures, then ultimately it makes a difference to us all and he has to be congratulated.

If you’ve got Amazon Prime then it’s free, if not… check it out anyway, ‘Mr. Toilet, The World’s #2 Man‘ starring Jack Sim, founder of WorldToiletDay [every year on Nov 19th.]