A Modest Disposal Proposal: Our Toilet Paper Problem
Published: Thursday, May 3, 2012
Updated: Thursday, November 15, 2012 01:11
Comedian Steve McGrew said that you can never be too strapped for cash to afford good toilet paper. I believe we can come to a consensus that — for a number of reasons — the College should switch to an alternative brand of toilet paper in the near future. This consideration begs the question: to what extent are we entitled to make environmental and monetary sacrifices for the sake of comfort? Better yet, must we make excessive sacrifices at all?
The justifications for the product we currently use—Kimberly-Clark’s Scott brand bathroom tissue — lie in its supposed cost effectiveness and its mixed composition of recycled “paper from responsible sources.”
Along with environmental concerns, cost effectiveness must be taken into account in considering a change from this sandpaper.
After all, the numbers are staggering. Every year, the school orders 1,100 cases of large toilet paper rolls (the ones used in larger buildings) at $29.99 per case and 210 cases of small rolls (the ones used in apartments) at $43.15 per case. The total cost averages about $42,050 per year. That’s a full year’s tuition converted into toilet paper.
With six rolls per large case and 80 rolls per small case, we use 6,600 rolls with 3,174 sheets and 16,800 rolls with 1,000 sheets. Our total annual purchase is about 38,748,400 sheets of toilet paper per year.
The sheer quantity of bathroom tissue we use should compel us to be careful about which brand we decide to switch to. To make any rash decisions could easily have drastic implications for the local environment, as well as on Gambier’s plumbing and waste management systems.
Scott brand is light and highly flushable. Its ineffectiveness, however, requires students and employees to use unnecessary amounts of it. It’s cheap, but wasteful. Even if we were to spend more per case on a higher quality brand, we would inevitably order less of a more expensive product.
In doing so, we can likely find ways to minimize additional costs on softer, more absorbent tissue by finding a product that will make strolling down Middle Path, or bounding among the Brown Family Enivronmental Center’s rolling hills and loops, even more enjoyable affairs than they already are. We can call it an investment in students’ abilities to enjoy the most beautiful college campus in the country (a designation that probably accounts for much of the tuition hike we’ve seen from last year to this one).
Therein lies yet another consideration: the exorbitant cost of tuition demands more absorbent toilet paper. For room and board, we pay $10,340, or $41.03 per day, depending on the room. That’s about the price per night of a highway hotel, and I’m sure there are many Ramada Inns in this great nation with better bathroom tissue than this academic institution.
Furthermore, we haven’t even considered the hygienic costs of subpar paper. How many cases of the Kenyon crud could be prevented by a more thorough alternative? How many trips to the Health Center could be forestalled?
In order to get to the bottom of this issue, we must consider a brand of toilet paper that is cost-effective, environmentally friendly and enjoyable to use. As Greg Widener, Kenyon’s Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds, told me, “There’s a fine line between economics and comfort.”
Widener, who kindly provided the statistics employed near the beginning of this article, believes that “we could spend more money,” on toilet paper, but we would need to “economize with opportunities through our Sustainability Director [Ed Neal] and his initiative for the campus.”
I think I speak for a silent majority of this community when I say that students, faculty and staff deserve better. After all, good toilet paper is both a privilege and a right. It is a privilege in the sense that we must be responsible with our usage; it is our right because we have paid for the privilege to be comfortable and happy while engaged in the first-class education we have been blessed to pursue.