Europeans use them; 60 per cent of Japan uses them; 90 per cent of Venezuelans use them. They're called bidets: Basins that jet water straight to the parts that need to be cleaned after you've used the bathroom. And according to Scientific American, they could play a major part in living a green, environmentally sustainable life. But for some reason, North Americans and Australians are not on board.
Image from Aske Holst
Are they good for the environment?
It takes approximately 384 trees to supply one person with toilet paper for their lifetime, which is a lot of trees being sacrificed to keep derrieres only somewhat clean. Some estimates suggest that if America makes a shift from toilet paper to bathroom bidets, it could potentially save 15 million trees.
Justin Thomas, editor of the website metaefficient.com, told Scientific American that he believes bidets are "a key green technology". And it's more than just saving trees from the cruel fate of serving as genital and faecal wipes. According to Thomas, it takes 1,792,722,858,375L of water, 253,000 tonnes of chlorine and 17.3 terawatts of electricity every year to create the 36.5 million rolls of toilet paper needed by Americans annually. That's excluding the amount of resources and energy required to package and transport them.
Won't they use more water?
Simply put, yes. But bidet advocates make the case that the extra water is marginal considering how much water is already being wasted in a single toilet flush. (Depending on what kind of toilet you have, each flush utilises anywhere between 4L to 12L of water. Bidets will consume more water -- water for flushing plus water for cleaning -- but it's supposedly worth it in the end due to the all the toilet paper we save.
Are they hygienic?
One reason for the aversion to bidets is people's concern of how sanitary they are. But medical professionals generally agree that bidets are hygienic, are gentler on your body than toilet paper, and do a more thorough job of cleaning. Though it should be noted that Dr John Swartzberg of Berkeley School of Public Health told The Sweethome that there is no peer-reviewed literature directly proving they're healthier than toilet paper.
So if a bidet is not less healthy or hygienic than toilet paper, then the case could be made that the environmental perks are worth it for those who can afford to make the switch. And you don't necessarily have to toss out your traditional toilet for a bidet: The market is filled with standalone products that can turn your toilet at home into a makeshift bidet for a fraction of the price.