My new motto is “Just Because You Can, Doesn’t Mean You Should!” It has become my guiding principle when making any purchases and has saved me time, money and clutter. I’ve been using it quite successfully in my personal interactions as well.
I have always thought that if something was being sold I had every right to buy and use it. I never thought about the item’s effect on my health, the environment, and others because I assumed that the manufacturers did all of the research and testing to make sure their products are good for our world and us. Clearly I was a bit naive.
As I pass the half-century mark, I’m finally getting a clue. While I’m realizing that some of my family’s purchases were a bit ecologically irresponsible such as a Chevy Suburban to tote our four kids around, a home bigger than we probably need, and lots of food and toys that come in decadent packaging, it was our toilet paper consumption that really hit home.
Around Father’s Day, I was writing about bringing back the handkerchief and my research revealed that Americans not only use too many tissues and paper towels but toilet paper as well. I honestly never thought of these items as coming from trees, so I began my quest to reduce my family’s paper footprint.
Removing paper towels from the kitchen was painless; everyone began using dish towels, and cloth napkins helped cut down on our paper napkin usage. It would turn out that my beloved, squeezably soft Charmin was probably the worst toilet paper we could use. The average American uses 57 sheets of a 325 to 500 sheet roll per day. It takes 15 million trees to make the 36 billion rolls that Americans use each year. We are literally wiping our butts with our forests and then flushing them down the toilet. I decided to keep track of my toilet paper usage to figure out how many trees I was killing.
I don’t have any extraordinary toileting issues so I was horrified when I seemed to be closing in on one a roll a day! I was so appalled that I immediately stopped my experiment. I realized that I was wadding up way too much toilet paper for one visit to the bathroom. In addition to taking care of my personal needs, I was ripping off fresh sheets to wipe off the sink, blow my nose and capture bugs. I immediately switched to a less soft but more ecologically friendly brand and, men cover your eyes, began using my old perineal cleansing bottle. It’s essentially a portable bidet! You can give your bottom a little squirt without having to rub yourself raw with dry paper. I’ve put together a fun package of them which you can purchase online.
After my toilet paper experiment I found myself applying this principle of responsible consumption to my purchases of food, clothes, and household items. If you want to try it, ask yourself:
1. Is this good for me?
2. Is this good for the environment?
3. Is this good for others?
Now that Halloween is just around the corner, let’s apply the principle to the items you might be tempted to purchase in a place like the pop-up shop, Spirit Halloween. Say you’re looking to buy some of those gruesome, bloody Halloween decorations. Ask yourself:
Are they good for you? Clearly, the decorations will give you pleasure, if you are buying them.
Are they good for the environment? No, neither the making of those rubber rats or the disposing of them. But if you use these items year after year and pass them on to your children and grandchildren, than it’s probably okay.
Are they good for others? Probably not. Not only do they scare little kids, there are plenty of people in our communities who have lost loved ones, some violently. I can’t imagine how horrible it is for them to drive around at Halloween and look at these grisly displays.
Lets try this formula with another controversial purchase, bottled water:
Is it good for you? Maybe, it’s convenient and sometimes delicious but where is it sourced? Some say, as much as 40% of bottled water is tap water.
Is it good for the environment? No, the US throws tens of billions of bottles into landfills each year and there is a huge ecological cost to producing new bottles.
Is it good for others? No, especially if you live in a place like Weed, California. A logging company owns the town’s water supply and they sell the water to the Crystal Geyser folks. Crystal Geyser bottles it and sells it to places as far away as Japan. The people in Weed have been told to find a new water source!
As far as the bottled water situation is concerned, I’d add a fourth criterion: Is it silly? Aside from cities like Flint, most of America’s water supply is safe. In a place like Western Springs where I live, with a reverse osmosis system, we literally have bottled water running through our taps. I can’t believe someone hasn’t already started bottling and selling it! I can hear the jingle in my head: Western Springs coming to you Straight from the Prairie State!