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Sustainability Series – Part 3 – At Home in the Bathroom

With the global outbreak of the Coronavirus, there have been plenty of news headlines about people panic buying various essentials including loo roll — I’m not going to discuss the psychological reasons for panic buying loo roll (not my area of expertise!) but I am going to look at the things we use in the bathroom and what changes we might be able to make to reduce our environmental impact.

Have you had a look at what’s in your bathroom recently? Fortunately, we’ve got some loo roll in ours, we also seem to have a lot of plastic packaging and as a family of four we probably use quite a lot of water, though according to our recent water bill we’ve used 40m³ in the last 6 months with an average of 226 litres a day – the national average for a family of four is 452 litres so we are satisfyingly less than that.

Flushing the loo, cleaning teeth, showers and baths all use drinking water (in a standard home in the UK at least), I’ve always found it rather extraordinary that we spend so much effort, money and energy making water clean enough to drink and then we flush the loo with it! But unfortunately I’m not in a position to be able to retrofit a rain water harvesting system to our house, so drinking water down the loo it is – in this house at least.

Did you know that?

  • Brushing your teeth with a running tap uses 9 litres of water a minute?
  • Having a typical length shower (10 mins) uses an average of 62 litres of water?
  • Dual flush toilets typically use 4-6 litres of water opposed to the old style flush systems which use a massive 13 litres per flush?

Waterwise is an “independent, not-for-profit UK NGO focused on reducing water consumption in the UK” and has an ambitious target of reducing water consumption to 100 litres per person per day so to play your part in this, have you thought about:

  • Switching the tap off while you are brushing your teeth?
  • Reducing an average shower time to 4 minutes? According to Waterwise if every home in the UK took one minute off their shower every day it would save £215 million on our collective energy bills every year
  • Putting a Cistern Displacement Device in your cistern to reduce the amount of water per flush? Check which type of toilet you have before doing this though – they aren’t suitable for dual flush loos
  • Using the Australian technique of loo flushing? “If its yellow, let if mellow, if its brown flush it down” – probably not one to use in public or at work!
  • Re-using bath water to water the garden? My in-laws have set up a rather ingenious small bilge pump / hosepipe contraption which pumps the water into a water butt
  • Asking your local water company what free water saving products they can supply? Bristol Water have a range items, from a shower timer, to a toothy timer to cistern bags

Challenge 5

Time how long I spend in the shower and get a free 4 minute shower timer from Bristol Water

Until I started researching this topic, I didn’t know that there is a UN Sustainable Development Goal specifically related to Clean Water and Sanitation, No 6 is all about ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all which includes clean drinking water, safe toilets and sanitation as well as handwashing facilities. I also didn’t realise that it is an explicit human right to have access to clean drinking water and sanitation – this was recognised by the United Nations General Assembly in 2010, Resolution 64 / 292.

Source: www.un.org

Did you know that:

  • 2 billion people in the world (one in four) don’t have somewhere safe to go to the toilet?
  • In 47 countries less than half the population has a proper toilet?
  • In developing countries across the world, girls are disproportionately affected by the lack of safe, sanitary facilities at schools due to risk of sexual violence, lack of privacy and lack of suitable facilities to deal with periods?

Living in the UK I think we all take readily available drinking water, flushing loos and bathrooms for granted, but the lack of access to clean water and sanitation is costing lives across the world every day. By twinning our toilet I can contribute in a small way to another family or community building a safe, private and clean toilet somewhere else in the world.

Challenge 6

Twin our toilet!

Another thing I take for granted is loo roll – though perhaps not at the moment! I have always been frustrated and bemused why loo roll is sold wrapped in plastic, particularly when it is on special offer so 4 plastic wrapped packs are wrapped in a bigger plastic bag. I’ve been specifically looking for paper wrapped toilet roll, manufactured in the UK out of UK materials which seems to be a difficult combination to find. However while researching this blog, I found the Moral Fibres Blog whose author, Wendy, has also written an excellent blog post (I’m pleased I’m not the only person interested in loo roll!) which is where I found out about the UK manufactured Ecoleaf option.

Loo roll comparison

Price

 

Sainsbury's

Sainsbury's Super
9 rolls at 220 sheets per roll
£3.30 (17p per 100 sheets)

Sainsbury’s Super Soft Recycled
9 rolls at 220 sheets per roll
£3.30 (17p per 100 sheets)

Who Gives a Crap

Bamboo Double Length
48 rolls at 370 sheets per roll
£40 (22.5p per 100 sheets)

Recycled Paper Double Length
48 roles at 370 sheets each
£36 (18.8p per 100 sheets)

Ecoleaf

Ecoleaf Recycled Paper Toilet Tissue
9 rolls at 240 sheets per roll
£4.99 (23p per 100 sheets)

 

Packaging

 

Sainsbury's

LDPE Printed film
Recycled Carton board coreboard

Who Gives a Crap

Paper and Cardboard
(very Instagrammable packaging!)

Ecoleaf

Bioplast fully compostable (home composting) packaging from potato starch

 

Materials

 

Sainsbury's

FSC certified paper / recycled paper
“The Forest Stewardship Council ® (FSC) system independently guarantees a chain of custody from forest to store. This proves that the materials used to make this product and its cardboard core come from well managed forests and other controlled sources.”

Who Gives a Crap

Bamboo
“Our bamboo is predominantly grown in remote areas of Sichuan Province in China by farmers who plant bamboo on the outskirts of their family farms to supplement their income. The processing of bamboo is all very localised – each village has their own bamboo co-op and pulp factory. Unlike industrial agriculture, no vast areas of land are cleared”
Recycled Paper
“That’s why our recycled toilet tissue is made from 100% recycled paper. This includes post-consumer waste paper (things like textbooks, workbooks, office paper, etc) and a small percentage (around 5%) of post-industrial paper. This means offcuts from nearby paper factories which our partners buy and re-purpose to make tissue paper. By using recycled paper, we're reducing our CO2 and particulate matter emissions, as well as saving water.

Ecoleaf

Recycled Paper
“Our toilet tissue is made from 100% recycled fibre sourced exclusively from the UK. It's produced from a mix of consumer and trade waste using chlorine-free processing”

 

Country of Manufacture

 

Sainsbury's

UK

Who Gives a Crap

China

Ecoleaf

UK

 

Transport

 

Sainsbury's

Most likely road freight

‘Last Mile’ Private car to the shop and home again

 

Who Gives a Crap

Sea Freight to port nearest to London warehouse, then road freight

‘Last Mile’ Delivery vehicle

 

Ecoleaf

Most likely road freight

‘Last Mile’ Private car to the shop and home again

 

 

Impact

 

Sainsbury's

4 commitments:

  • We’ll reduce waste and put it to positive use in our business
  • We’ll help customers to reduce their waste and put it to positive use
  • We’ll reduce our operational carbon emissions by 30% absolute and 65% relative (to 2005)
  • Through robust water stewardship we’ll ensure that our business manages all areas of water vulnerability

Impact information

Who Gives a Crap

Donate 50% of profits to build toilets – donated just under £1.5 million so far.

Saving trees, water and energy.

Impact information

Ecoleaf

“We strive to protect our planet, and make efforts to find eco-friendly alternatives to everyday items such as fashion, food, cosmetics and cleaners that do as little harm to the environment as possible -we want to give you the choice to use environmentally friendly products that suit your lifestyle”

Ethical information

 

A small part of me wants to buy the very cute, Instagrammable Who Gives a Crap Loo Roll, but I don’t feel comfortable with the amount of energy and processing it takes to turn bamboo into loo roll and then ship it from China to the UK. At the moment (like a lot of people!) we are buying whatever loo roll is available but I’m going to try the Ecoleaf version in the future.

Challenge 7

Try Ecoleaf toilet roll

Even if I manage to swap the plastic around the loo roll for compostable potato starch, there is an awful lot more plastic in our bathroom to go – with four of us in the household (the cats don’t use the bathroom) we seem to have a wide range of things in plastic bottles, about the only thing not in a plastic container is the (palm oil free) hand soap (and that took a lot of label reading to find!) I’ve had a look for some alternatives to plastic and have come up with the following list of things to swap:

Bottle of shampoo and conditioner
Solid bars of shampoo and conditioner
Plastic toothbrushes (did you know a plastic toothbrush can take 1000 years to decompose?)
Bamboo toothbrushes like the ones reviewed in this article
Plastic tubes of toothpaste
Toothpaste tabs like these Lush ones (not sure about this one!)
Baby wipes
Reusable fabric Cheeky Wipes (these are brilliant, we’ve used them ever since the boys were babies and still are using them – when do children stop being sticky?)
Nappies
Reusable fabric nappies
Period products (did you know a standard pack of menstrual pads can contain as much plastic as five carrier bags? I certainly didn’t)
Plastic Free Periods is a campaign run by the Bristol based City to Sea community interest company and has lots of alternatives to standard period products on their website.

Challenge 8

Try some Plastic Free swaps in our Bathroom

I’d love to know what bathroom challenge you are going to take on and what swaps you can make!

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