moving toward sustainability

several days ago myself and several other acorners volunteered at the first ever day of workshops presented jointly by master gardeners and master naturalists. the theme was ‘moving toward sustainability’. we learned about supporting butterflies throughout their lifecycles, creating habitat for wildlife along the edges of fields, replacing invasive plants with natives, and thereby supporting local pollinators, and maintaining your harvest into fall and through winter. i learned about a few plants that might do well around our farmhouse – it’s an area full of dry shade, which makes landscaping tricky. and, perhaps best of all (as i now sit listening to the rain splashing on the leaves outside), the weather was beautiful.

here at acorn we’re working toward sustainability as well. bathrooms are not often thought of as places to start ‘going green’, but circumstances have prodded me to do so over the last year, and so i’ve made some changes.

cloth toilet wipes
cloth toilet wipes

in the bathrooms at acorn, we have low-flow toilets to conserve water. we have a normal trash can, and then a box or bag for paper waste – mostly cardboard toilet paper rolls and their wrappers. this waste is either fed to the furnace as kindling, burnt on our ‘burn pile’ as kindling during potlucks and gatherings, or recycled.

i take it a step further. after living at red earth in northeastern missouri, i learned to live without running water or conventional toilets. since it is generally inadvisable to leave much urine in a composting toilet, i started to pee outside – anywhere off our few main paths was fine. though i did seek out shorter grasses, as ticks are a problem some of the year!

cloth toilet wipe
cloth toilet wipes

to facilitate my outdoor pee adventures, i made cloth toilet wipes out of old flannel shirts. it was incredibly easy, and takes about 12 minutes to make one. all i do is cut out two squares of fabric (about 4-5″ per side), sew up three sides, flip it inside out, and sew around the outside edges to further protect the inside seams during machine washing. of course, at red earth, i washed them by hand, with dr. bronner’s soap and rainwater.

some of you may wonder how it works – it’s simple! you keep a clean wipe in your pocket for whenever the moment arises. when it does, take the wipe out, wipe yourself clean with soft flannel goodness, and then – depending on your comfort levels with such things – either consider the wipe ‘dirty’ and put it in the wash pile, or fold it up and put it back in your pocket to be used again later.

this is a great way to save money on toilet paper, and very helpful if you live on a lot of land and a toilet isn’t always handy. also great for camping trips!

so what do you think? would you ever make or buy toilet wipes? what would your concerns be? how would you see it working in your home?

8 Replies to “moving toward sustainability”

  1. been doing it for years, albeit without the sewing and only as money runs out–about half a month every 3-4 months…so (1) I think it’s a great idea (2) my concerns are minimal–urine is sterile upon exit, and daily washing takes care of the stuff most might folks worry about (3) my brother (and so many others) would rather die first–well, trees don’t get the choice.

  2. thanks randi and devon 🙂 it’s exciting to hear from you! you’re right, randi, it’s basically the same as a cloth diaper if you use the wipes for #1 and #2, and way easier if you’re only using them for #1.

    although i must say, washing my first “#2” wipes by hand the first time felt odd – but probably only because i haven’t been a mom, and so haven’t washed cloth diapers before. but i would if i had a baby, so – might as well adjust now. 🙂 i boiled the wash water for those wipes, to be extra safe.

    that’s awesome, devon – not that money’s running out, but that you’ve been using a simple (and more sustainable) alternative for so long. i know a lot of people who would rather die first… which seems silly to me considering that urine Is sterile. it doesn’t seem like a big deal to me. but i guess i may be an outlier.

    thanks again for your comments. it’s great to hear how other people feel about these things.

  3. “By Recycling 1 ton of toilet paper you save:
    – 17 trees 6953 gallons of water
    – 463 gallons of oil
    – 587 pounds of air pollution
    – 3.06 cubic yards of landfill space
    – 4077 Kilowatt hours of energy”

    Seeing as most americans use 20,000 sheets per year, and you need only about 10 cloth wipes…. the winner is clear 😀


    I read this a while back when I was researching cloth pads and bathroom wipes. This could be really handy! It could even save water if you can get your hands on a pressurized aerating sprayer.

    You guys got a cool thing going there at Acorn. I wish we had something like that in California! (you’d think there would be, but I can’t seem to find any!)



  5. Good idea except for the part about folding it back up and putting it back in your pocket for re-use. Bad idea. This practice is not hygenic and could result in causing bacterial infection in women.

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