In Venezuela, for the last two years or more it has been hard, off and on, to find toilet paper. When I was there, sometimes a supermarket had it, but then the line up was two hours and who has that to spare. Especially because after a while of going without it, we realised we didn’t need it. Perforated toilet paper wasn’t invented until 1880. Before that, people had just used water, leaves, or old newspapers. And think about it – you wouldn’t clean your body with toilet paper instead of showering, so why not just use water? When toilet paper first started to be marketed, it had little success, as people felt embarrassed to buy it. Now, it comes in prints and colours and plys and softness grades, brands and sizes and different prices. Yet while globally we flush or dump 270,000 trees per day, 60 percent of people globally don’t even have access to a toilet, let alone access to what needs to be recognized as an unessential luxury.
But it’s not about our individual choices to go without toiletpaper or not, its about an industry that has managed to manufacture an inexhaustible consumer demand for something that isn’t actually needed, at the expense of the planet. How many more industries do this, drying out the earth’s resources that we seem psychologically incapable of realising are finite, and drying out human beings in exhausting, pointless labour?
Here’s a short list of things we’ve been persuaded to believe we need, but actually don’t:
Plastic bags (bring your own), disposable cups and plates, hair dryers, iphones, irons (haven’t been able to use one in many years and I’m fine), fancy clothing, make-up, exercise machines (go for a walk), shampoo (yep, once you stop using it, you’ll find you don’t need it anymore), television, toasters (you can just use a pan), most manufactured small kids toys (a box or some crayons or a bunch of bugs will make their day), air conditioning in most regions, more than say 3 pairs of jeans… and more. What else would you add?