In a dilemma over to-print or not-to-print, a friend of mine in California and I were discussing our respective green karma. She is of the view that having grown up in India, and having lived there for a long while, I have saved enough water and paper not to worry about printing occasional materials for my writing.
She said that the US was the largest consumer of paper with an average American consuming 730lb of paper, and I found confirmation here.
She added: “Humans kill trees so they can wipe their bums. How would humans feel if we were killed so trees could wipe their leaves?” Pause for thought, eh?
She then suggested that this earlier post from April 2007, deserved a second outing. So here it is:
Warning: Contains some scatological references; please do not read if offended easily by mention of or reference to bodily functions.
* Ration loo-roll to one square except on pesky occasions when 2 or 3 may be needed;
* Instead of paper napkins, use a cloth dining sleeve;
Interesting as these ideas are, I think they stem from deeply-ingrained cultural practices too difficult to change. The mantra for being green goes “reduce, reuse, recycle”. Sheryl Crow’s ideas are based on ‘reduce’ and ‘reuse’.
What about alternative ways?
It may surprise her to know that even in countries where there is a paucity of water, people use water, not loo roll (you could call the bidet a kind of western equivalent).
Further, I agree that paper napkins are a waste, but there is no consensus on the ‘green’ economics of paper versus cloth napkins. Much energy is consumed in washing and then (presumably) ironing cloth napkins, whereas paper napkins could be made from recycled paper and degrade easily without further use of washing up liquid, water or energy. An easier solution? Let’s all learn some table manners, use our hands to dust off loose flour and bits etc, and wash our hands after eating. Having grown up in a developing country, I can tell you with confidence that it takes about 30ml of water to wash one’s hands without soap, and about 100ml with soap.
While we are on the subject of eating, I must mention that many a time, I have been asked why Indians eat with their hands. Well, I explain, it is more sensible to trust the hygiene of one’s own hands than to trust cutlery that has travelled many a mouth. Further it saves washing up, but this ‘explanation’ I have admittedly made up. Instead of promoting the cultural shift needed to start eating with one’s hands, I would again mention innovation in edible cutlery about which my friend Shantanu wrote last year, and which I found in a neighbourhood vegetarian/ vegan store right here in the UK shortly thereafter. No cutlery, no washing-up, no detergent used, no water needed.
Too radical for Ms Crow?