Bidets Can Save Millions Of Trees Annually, So Why Aren't We Using Them? 

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.


Comments

    Never having used one, I have to wonder about the drying process, surely you still need to dab yourself with paper to get dry afterward. Or is there some kind of air drying going on.

      The basic process is you wipe once with toilet paper first, then use the bidet to clean any remainder. You can dry either with toilet paper or a towel. Air drying is a thing on fancy Japanese toilets but not something you'd usually see elsewhere.

      The overall result is usually less paper used, even if you're using toilet paper to dry.

    Water usage is a bigger concern in Australia I'm afraid.

      Was gonna mention this myself. We already need water restrictions when droughts roll around every few years.

    I'm a bit confused on this matter of the trees.
    1. trees are usually plantation grown for tissue paper. http://www.vicforests.com.au/static/uploads/files/fs-plantation-web-wfkpsjqlbofi.pdf
    2. Most plantation pine (if not all) uses natural rainfall for watering. So if the plantation pine is not there, how will the rain water catchment take place to save the water? Now I understand seedlings for plantation will need water but surely that figure for water is pure seedling only. I realise in the manufacturing process there is a great deal of water used to pulp and clean the paper.

    3. The plantation pine is replanted just like any crop so there is no actual lose of trees in any given year. The used tree is replaced with a new seedling and grown.

    What am I missing here. I'm calling shenanigans to this. The paper bleaching and the like are terrible and there will be manufacturing water wastage, but I'm struggling to see the figures.

    In saying that, though, I'm all for the bidet or hand held "bum gun'. A clean and fresh feeling is assured right after stooling. I've been working in different asian countries for a while and now find it disgusting to go to the bathroom in Australia without taking a shower after.

    It might be a problem to retro fit a bum gun in Australia, though. Need to make sure waterproofing is adequate under the tiles in case of inaccurate shooting.

    Japanese toilets are generally available with a built in bidet and air drier operation.

    Last edited 25/05/17 3:17 pm

      I think the water issue has more to do with the manufacturing process. They use a fair bit of water multiple times during the process which includes bleaching (chlorine) which produces hazardous chemicals (dioxins). http://www.madehow.com/Volume-6/Toilet-Paper.html.

      Google suggest 140 litres per roll. If we cut that estimate down using the plantation logic (which is reasonable) it still seems like the bidet should be ahead. I read a bidget uses under 0.5L per visit. If we assume 1 toilet roll can last 20 visits, a roll would need to use take less than 10L to manufacture to outperform. This seems seems unlikely given estimates are 140L on this site https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/earth-talks-bidets/

      I'm surprised this whole topic doesn't discuss transportation. TP is bulky and we go through a lot. I don't know how to quantify it, but I can imagine in Australia, everyday we have lots of trucks just moving TP around the country.

      I wish I had thought about all this during my bathroom reno, I probably would have put in a washer option.

    Bum guns cost $50 and are super easy to install yourself...plus, they're the best thing ever!

      Once you figure out the process and get used to the fact that sometimes that water is quite cold, the bum gun is definitely the way to go. More water-efficient than a bidet, gets you cleaner than just toilet paper. I thought about bringing one back from Thailand last time I was there, but wasn't certain their fittings would work on our loos.

        Hi Barb, they would work. You would just need an imperial to metric adapter as I think Thailand use American conventions in their plumbing and the USA love a bit of Imperial.

    A lot of places like California are going through a drought, and there's usually a drought in Australia somewhere. And we should be using more water?

    Also, trees suck up a lot of carbon from the air, so if we don't plant trees (for paper) then wouldn't we end up with more carbon in the air?

      Bidets would supposedly shrink the need for TP manufacture, which uses water and energy (releasing carbon) for processing. Utilising that existing water in a non-industrial environment and leaving those trees in the ground permanently would be a more sustainable, environmentally-friendly practice in the long run.

      Plus I'd imagine the processing of waste would be very different (possibly easier?) with significantly less toilet paper and more water "in the mix". Think about it like people using wet wipes and the damage they can cause.

      I would definitely learn to use a bidet if it meant less need for industrial contribution.

        There were signs in Thailand explaining not to dispose of the paper one used to dry oneself after bum-gunning, in the loo, as their infrastructure isn't built to handle it. Instead, they instructed you to dispose of the paper in the small rubbish bin near the loo. (Yes, really, you wipe THERE, after bum-gunning, and DON'T put it in the loo.) Apparently however they process or do not process their waste (I'm not sure which it is), putting TP in the mix gets in the way.

        Most places in Phuket that I visited had these style of toilets. Some even underscore the need for less paper by making it something that you grab, out by the sink (where everyone can see how much you grab, which presumably encourages not wasting paper), and take with you into the cubicle. When I came upon one or two toilets that were the usual Western style, I was like, "Ewww."

          In Australia, we use a 100mm wide waste pipe. In Thailand they use a 50mm wide waste pipe. That is the biggest issue with flushing toilet paper there.

    One thing the article misses is the amount of water that is used in the production of paper.
    Also, bidets are awesome. Get poop on your hand, would you prefer a dry piece of paper or some warm water?
    The ones I have used you push the required setting ( make sure you don't push the "girl" button if you are a guy ) the spray arm comes out, cleans you off, blow drys you, then sprays a fragrance :D

      Also, bidets are awesome. Get poop on your hand, would you prefer a dry piece of paper or some warm water?

      Not really sure if you've noticed this before, but most bathrooms have a tap and sink, often even with some soap pretty close to the toilet.

        You don't wash your bum in a sink. I was referring to, if it was your hand that got poop on it, you would wash it with soap and water. But our bums, we just wipe it with dry paper and call it good.

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