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by Paula C. Henderson 2 years ago in pop culture
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The Fun, The Waste and The Want

Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

Does anyone remember the toilet paper hoarding of 1973? Apparently Johnny Carson teased on The Tonight Show during his monologue about a supposed toilet paper shortage in Wisconsin causing a shortage at the stores that did not end for months.

Toilet paper has other uses that lean more toward the fun side: Toilet paper has been known to find itself in a few trees across small town America. A tradition called “TP-ing” some ones yard. Many a baby shower and bridal shower has used some variation of a toilet paper game where you diaper a baby or make a wedding gown! It is rumored that the army used toilet paper to camouflage their tanks during Desert Storm. When asked, about half of those polled listed toilet paper as the first item they would take to a deserted island. Listing it as their number one item even over food.

I even found a book called “Toilet Paper Origami on a roll: Decorative Folds and Flourishes for Over-the-Top Hospitality”

According to the first reference to the use of toilet ‘paper’ was from a sixth century text found in China. Scholar Yen Chih-Thui wrote in 589 A.D. “Paper on which there are quotations or commentaries from the five classics or the names of sages I dare not use for toilet purposes.”

Splinter free toilet paper didn’t show up until the turn of the century. Aren’t we happy they got that ‘smoothed’ out. One of the most popular brands, Charmin, was founded in 1928.

Before toilet paper ‘as we know it’ and before the splintered toilet paper people used what they had on hand: newspapers, catalog and magazine pages, corncobs (really?) and moss.

Perforated rolls of toilet paper similar to what we use today were finally mass produced and sold sometime in the 1890s. The patent for the dispenser of a roll of toilet paper was granted in 1883.

Colored toilet paper was somewhat popular in the 1960s and 1970s. Its popularity waned in the 1990s.

About half the toilet paper used in the United States is derived right here in the U.S. and South America.

I grew up in the Midwest (Illinois) and raised my daughter in the Midwest (Ohio). Anytime a blizzard was in the forecast there was always some hoarding done at the grocery store. Milk and bread always seemed to be out of stock if you didn’t rush to the store immediately upon hearing the weather forecast. I don’t recall the toilet paper ever completely going out of stock. Low on stock perhaps, but not out of stock like we have witnessed here in 2020.

Here in the U.S. we are in the minority when it comes to using toilet paper. It is reported that nearly 75% of the world’s population actually do not use toilet paper at all.

Here in the United States we call it toilet tissue or toilet paper. In Britain it’s referred to as loo roll and in Australia it’s called ‘date roll’. I’m not sure why. (?) Many countries do not have toilet paper at all or it is limited, opting for the use of a bidet instead: China, Korea, France, Portugal, Italy, Japan, Argentina and Venezuela are countries where you will not find any toilet paper or very little.

Did you know there is a National Toilet Paper Day? Yep. National Toilet Paper Day is celebrated every August 26. Supposedly the date the very first toilet paper roll was sold, August 26, 1871.

The average person uses approximately 100 rolls of toilet paper per year in their household in a normal year. This year the pandemic has increased our time at home increasing our household use by about 40%.

It takes one average size tree to produce just 200 rolls of toilet paper. About 30,000 trees per day are used to supply us with toilet paper. More than seven billion rolls of toilet paper are sold annually here in the United States. That is during a “normal” year.

Perhaps we need to take a closer look at those companies that offer recycled toilet paper which is made from newspapers. Or perhaps you are ready to get in touch with your European self and purchase a bidet! I found one on Amazon for under $40 with a great rating and over 11,000 reviews. You merely attach it to any standard toilet. There are several ‘how to’ videos right there on the page.

I will close with a plea to please do not hoard the toilet paper. When you panic buy so much more than you need many families are left without any at all. Many are older or disabled individuals who cannot physically go to the store and must rely on delivery just once a week. The delivery apps often remove high volume items completely from the app. If you have at least a 3 month supply then you are good. Just set that back as your emergency use and begin buying only what you need week to week.

Paula C. Henderson

pop culture

About the author

Paula C. Henderson

Paula is a freelance writer, healthy food advocate, mom and cookbook author.

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