Green Bean

On giving up toilet paper for the Zero Waste Movement

trash near door
Photo by Juan Pablo Arenas on

“What are you going to use if you get rid of toilet paper,” my sister asked me on our family’s WhatsApp group. I had just announced that the Jayapal home in Bangalore was going Zero Waste for eternity.

“Well…” It was a fair question. It shouldn’t have been awkward given that we weren’t always privileged to have toilet rolls in every bathroom. In the 90s, we honestly just washed and walked. No toilet paper. No hand (bum?) towels. No family rolls. In fact, it’s something we do even today in restrooms in public parks and during road trips.

However, it still felt awkward to admit to my sister that I would just be washing and walking even if she had experienced this herself just two decades ago.

So me being, well, me, I decided to use this incident to announce to the world (or at least my three dedicated readers, bless you all) that, “I’m Afsha Khan Jayapal. and I hereby shun toilet paper.”

Yes. I’m joining the Zero Waste movement starting first with my home and myself. It’s been on my mind for a few months. I’ve been harping on about this to people at work too. They seem to be very supportive and proud. Either that or they’re just humouring me to curb my newfound superiority complex and penchant to turn everything into a conversation about misshapen sea turtles and toxic landfills.

But I have to admit it hasn’t been easy. In fact, it has been so difficult that I’ve been almost tempted to lock myself up in the house and pretend that everything in the world is okay, because I am okay.

Two days ago, I was at a fancy supermarket with my son and was surrounded on three sides by sweet, smiling ladies giving out free samples. I usually don’t take free samples because I feel obligated to purchase everything I try. I usually just walk off saying, “Not today, thank you!”

But with a 3-year-old in my shopping cart, things don’t usually work out as per plan. And the sweet ladies, they’re actually quite calculating, know this.

“Here Munna! Try some chocolate bars.”

“No, no! Try these bread sticks with almond butter and chocolate (only Rs 500 for 100 gram tub, ma’am).”


So, yeah. We ended up buying the smoothie, which (oh gosh!) came in a plastic bottle. And a free Styrofoam cup on the side because my kid really loved the idea of drinking smoothie as shots (the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree).

If this wasn’t against my new religion  lifestyle choice way of life, almost all the contents of said bottle (and shot glass) spilled all over his car seat at the first ditch (thank you, BBMP) leaving me with the guilt of having to find a roadside stall for tissues and… oh yes, a screaming toddler too.

So yes, being mindful about what to buy and remembering to carry an array of cloth napkins has been a huge challenge that has made me question how I am going to survive as a Zero Waster in the big bad world. Also, how I will miss toilet paper!

But everything comes with challenges, doesn’t it? I haven’t been inspired to write a about anything whatsoever since my last post in… when was it exactly? 2017? 2018? So maybe pulling through these challenged one by one and writing about them will keep me going. Who knows? I may inspire you to shun toilet paper too. Seriously! It isn’t so hard. Just wash. Wait. Wiggle, maybe? And walk.

It’s time to talk about toilet paper, people. Below is a link shared by a friend which shows you the devastating impact of using toilet paper, especially the cushy, soft, 3-ply sort. Yes, this particular article is set in the West. But let’s not pretend that you aren’t going for the imported sort of rolls over the ‘desi’ ones (are there even desi toilet rolls? Please, I don’t want to know). 

“…major brands’ refusal to switch to sustainable materials in toilet paper is having a devastating impact on forests and climate.”

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