Ok, I have a question. How do you hang your bathroom tissue? Are you an over person, an under person, or someone who couldn’t give a crap… so to speak.

Loo roll. (Shhh... American don't like using the word 'toilet.')

It’s a silly question I know, but I ask this because the other day someone insisted that the toilet roll in my bathroom was hung incorrectly. I’m not sure that I’ve ever given the subject of how to hang bathroom tissue much thought, but I tend to always place the ‘loo roll’ so it hangs over rather than under, which I was told was the more eco friendly way of hanging bathroom tissue.

“Wait a second,” I thought to myself, “There’s an eco friendly way of hanging toilet roll?” Well apparently so. According to my recent house guest scientists have researched the subject of bathroom tissue usage and concluded that that people use more tissue when its hung over the roll as opposed to under it.

Being a somewhat eco-minded chap I searched the web looking for the facts and figures relating to loo roll positioning. I found various sites including one about a bizarre toilet roll conspiracy theory. Eventually though, I found a website that I felt sure would have details of the scientific study into the environmental impacts of tissue positioning, but unfortunately the toilet paper encyclopedia (I kid you not!) didn’t mention any such research. It did however state that 68% of people hang toilet paper with the first sheet going over the roll, while 25% hang the first sheet under the roll.

The site might not be as reliable as the title suggests though. A breakdown of what people use toilet paper for would seem to omit one very obvious toilet tissue usage which rather brings into to question any of the sites quoted facts and figures. It claims that nose care accounts for largest share of toilet tissue usage at 61%, with 17% for wiping small spills, 8% for removing makeup, 7% for cleaning mirrors, and 3% for cleaning a child’s hands/face, covering the toilet seat, and cleaning glasses.

While I remain unconvinced that there is an eco-friendly way to hang your bathroom tissue I did learn that the use of extra-soft, quilted and multi-ply tissue is causing serious environmental damage.

Allen Hershkowitz, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defence Council, said “Making toilet paper from virgin wood is a lot worse than driving Hummers in terms of global warming pollution.” According to Hershkowitz, the process of making toilet tissue has significant environmental impacts in terms of deforestation and the chemicals used in pulp manufacture. More than 98% of the toilet rolls sold in America come from virgin wood, whereas in Europe and Latin America, up to 40% of toilet paper comes from recycled products.

His position on this is echoed by Greenpeace USA who are running a campaign to raise consciousness among Americans about the environmental costs of their toilet habits. That campaign is surely among the environmental groups more optimistic efforts. After all, getting Americans to think about how they should clean up their shit is hard enough without actually getting them to think about how to clean up their… well, you know…

So, environmental questions and moral issues aside, I’m left wondering if there is a right way and a wrong way to hang ones loo roll? Does my hang methodology say something about me, more even than the fact that I’ve already devoted more time to this than I should have done? In the end I suspect it simply doesn’t matter, but I’m curious, what kind of person are you, an over, an under, or someone who couldn’t give a crap?

Greenpeace tissue guide (Also available as an iPhone app!)
Wipe responsibly
American taste for soft toilet roll ‘worse than driving Hummers’
Toilet Roll Conspiracy Theory
Public rest
Now that’s just silly
The truth about recycling
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