Brief history of toilet paper

I’ve been known to be a little bit feral at times, but toilet paper is certainly a gotta have in my books – but it really wasn’t all that long ago that none of us used it.

Use of toilet paper started about 150 years ago, in the U.S.A. The original toilet paper consists of aloe-infused sheets of manila hemp (obtained from the leaves of the abacá, a relative of the banana) dispensed from boxes. Toilet paper on a roll didn’t appear until 1890 and it really wasn’t until the 1930’s it became mainstream.

Indoor plumbing was the main reason for the invention of toilet paper. Try flushing a sheet of newspaper down your toilet and you’ll understand why. Actually, don’t try it as it may clog up your pipes. Modern plumbing certainly isn’t made for some of the other things we used to use to wipe our butts.

So, toilet paper is a necessary luxury/evil for many of us; but the number of trees cut down to serve our needs is truly astronomical.

Currently, the United States spends billions a year a year on toilet tissue and while consumption has plateaued there, it’s catching on in other countries – meaning even more trees felled and all the other environmental issues surrounding the production of the stuff. It seems such a terrible and undignified end for something as beautiful and useful as a tree.

There’s a fascinating article on CNN about the history of toilet paper. Once you’re done reading that, you might want to have a read of my article on toilet paper and the environment. While you’re immersed in the topic you may be so adventurous as to learn about the amazing world of humanure – composting human waste :).