A beat behind: my adventure as a no-impact woman

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September 24, 2009

So according to my Chronicle and journalist Justine Sharrock, Colin Beaven, known as “the man who went without toilet paper,” is coming to town to do a promotional tour for his Blog, Book and documentary movie titled “No Impact Man”. While I admit I am a bit out of touch with the rock stars of the eco-conscious community, I am intrigued by his family’s story of trying to leave no environmental footprint for a year.

I mean, I do my best to save our planet. I shop almost exclusively at thrift stores (I hate when I am wearing the same thing as someone else); I don’t run my air-conditioning (well, I don’t have air conditioning as my apartment was built in 1928, but if I did, I wouldn’t run it for more than maybe like 2, 3 or 5 hours). I buy local foods, (Berkeley Bowl is right down the street) and I recycle (though I admit I only learned two weeks ago what composting was). But no toilet paper? Do I dare? My Chronicle has told me to do some crazy things before, but this feels drastic (and honestly a little gross).

I Google “how to live without toilet paper,” and several blogs later learn the best thing to do is use cloth strips. I cut my red checkered dish towels with sewing scissors into strips, I give myself a pep-talk, I think, I can do this. I decide: I do not live in LA anymore; this is the Bay Area, it’s time to fight global warming and wasteful consumer apathy with the big boys.

As I go to bed Friday night I look at the glass of water on my nightstand. I am thirsty but I also know that tomorrow is my first no toilet paper day. I do not drink the water. I do not drink.

In the morning, I turn on my coffee maker and go to take a shower. As I undress I can feel the toilet cloths leering at me. Afterwards I go to blow dry my hair but stop when I realize the blow dryer is probably evil as well. With wet hair piled on top of my head, I sit down to my morning coffee and Saturday morning Chronicle. As I sip my Folger’s Select, I read about Newsom’s new baby girl, Montana. I sigh, knowing this is just one more obstacle between myself and my schoolgirl crush on San Fran’s slick-haired, sweet-tweeting mayor/gubernatorial candidate. Suddenly my stomach gets that coffee-first-thing-in-the-morning-feeling. This is not good. I am not ready to face the bathroom and the leering checkered clothes. I pour out my coffee, take a deep breath, and I am better.

I meet my friend Kim for our weekend walk and talk around Lake Merritt. I don’t bring my usual jug of water because I don’t want the temptation. Besides, I did not figure out how to go paperless on the go! It is a beautiful warm sunny day — too warm, in fact — and as we walk, my empty, coffee and liquid-less stomach is gurgling in a dehydrated and hungry rage. My head is beginning to pound from caffeine withdrawal, and a faint hint of dizziness is starting to set in. The world begins to feel like a carousel.

I know I can’t go on in this condition. I can’t just not eat or drink for the entire weekend. So on my way home I stop at Subway and order a large Diet Coke and drink the whole thing. Knowing my fate has now been sealed, I can feel my bladder expanding. Feel the urgent pressure. Why, I think, of all the articles in the Chronicle, did I follow this one. This was a terrible plan. As I do a childish bouncing dance in front of my bathroom door, I know the moment has arrived. I go in the bathroom and sit down on the toilet. The checkered toilet clothes are still leering. I, of course, thinking myself clever last night, hid all my toilet paper on the top shelf of the living room closet, so that I couldn’t back out. I know me too well.

Suddenly, an idea dawns on me. The shower! Duh! Of course, I turn on the water and jump in. Three hours, two cups of coffee and five showers later, I realize that my plan is a bit of a failure. I am just wasting water — during a drought, no less — which completely defeats the purpose, not to mention I am now water logged and in shower-induced-auto-pilot-haze. I have washed and conditioned my hair five times, and I am now suffering from a severe overdose of Herbal Essence that has left my hair despondent and unresponsive.

I realize that while I want to be a decent citizen, a healthy member of our ecologically-challenged world, there are some creature comforts I am just not capable of living without. However, I vow, from this day forward to try and only use one single-ply square per bathroom visit. That’s got to count for something.


A beat behind: my adventure as a no-impact woman was published on September 24, 2009 in Notes from Abroad, Opinions and tagged with

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