(This post originally appeared on Entrepreneur)
Toilet paper is certainly a hot item nowadays. But it doesn’t have to be. In fact, according some people — like musician Sheryl Crow — we use way too much of it.
“Now, I don’t want to rob any law-abiding American of his or her God-given rights, but I think we are an industrious enough people that we can make it work with only one square per restroom visit,” she wrote in a Huffington Post piece a few years back. “Except, of course, on those pesky occasions where two to three could be required.”
No, Crow wasn’t talking about the latest shortage caused by the coronavirus pandemic. She was offering various ideas on how to save the environment, and limiting the use of toilet paper was just one of them.
But one square? Is this even possible? Oh, it most certainly is. In fact, many in the military are trained how to use just one square of toilet paper when they’re out on patrol.
Environmentalist Jonathan Levy did some research after Crow’s comments and confirms this. According to a post he made on Zero Waste Guy, the process isn’t that tough. All you need to do is puncture the one square of toilet paper in the middle with your index finger, wipe your bottom clean with that finger and then use the same piece (double-ply, mind you) to clean off your finger. Then of course, wash your hands thoroughly.
“Yes, this sounds gross and disgusting” he says. “But consider that 70 to 75 percent of the world does not use toilet paper at all!”
I have a decent supply of toilet paper, not that it matters. But I have to admit, in the midst of all the toilet paper-buying panic that’s been going on recently, I’ve been using…well…less. Why? Because I can. Because, and I don’t want to gross you out, I was using too much.
In fact, when I look around at my business, I find we’re all just using too much of everything. We over-order office supplies. We have the heat turned on too high. We buy 87 different kinds of coffee for the Keurig. We purchase too many packaging supplies, extra inventory, machine parts, paper towels, raw materials and, yes, even toilet paper for our bathrooms. We lease cars that are unnecessarily expensive, take our clients out to overrated restaurants and spend too much money on travel, trade shows, holiday parties and those silly sweatshirts with our company logos.
You can argue that this is for morale. Or that it’s a “perk” for running a business. Or that it’s giving business to other businesses. I get it. But in the end, we’re still spending too much money. We’re still using too much toilet paper. And whether there’s a slowdown in the economy or not, keeping a close eye on our expenses — even cutting back certain things by just 1 or 2 percent — has a big impact on an organization’s cash flow, be it a small business or a Fortune 100 company. Let’s not forget that.
So I don’t know if Sheryl Crow is really only using one sheet of toilet paper when she goes to the bathroom, and frankly I don’t want to know. But I think her attitude is right. Cutting back on the materials we use in our businesses, even by just a little, would help sustain the environment. Just as importantly, it would help to sustain our livelihoods, too.