How To Green Your IBD

There Are Several Ways You Can Lessen Your Environmental Impact

Many people are concerned of the impact that their daily activities have on the health of the environment. Recycling of glass, paper, and plastic is now common in many communities. There is also an emerging interest in recycling technology, especially as devices become less expensive and more people are taking advantage of smartphones, tablets, and computers.

One aspect that we often don't readily consider is the "greening" of our personal care. People with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) might consider how their specific needs might impact the environment and the community. One place that people with IBD might consider making some small changes is in the bathroom, especially where it concerns bathroom tissue and water use. Another area that might be of interest is medications, especially when medications expire or a change in treatment renders a prescription no longer necessary. Leftover medications need to be disposed of properly so they don't find their way into our water supply.

Here I describe several ways to green your IBD, with ideas ranging from those that take a minimum of effort, to those that may be considered by those who want to take their concern for reducing and recycling to the next level.


Choosing Recycled Toilet Paper

Roll of toilet paper
Some of the newer brands of recycled toilet paper are quite good, and aren't as scratchy as they used to be. Have you given them a try?. Suki Photography by Sandra Grimm/Moment/Getty Images

Toilet paper preference ranges far and wide, and many people with IBD and their families have a particular preference for a specific brand. However, many of the brands most commonly found in grocery and discount stores have no recycled content whatsoever. What's more, they are often bleached to obtain their stark whiteness, which companies seem to think is so very important to consumers, but has no real practical purpose and is a considerable source of water pollution. There are many brands of recycled toilet tissues on the market, and with a closer look at the toilet paper aisle, you are likely to find at least one. Some brands even do away with the paper roll in the middle, which further reduces waste. Several environmental groups have investigated the toilet paper issue thoroughly and make recommendations as to which brands are doing the most to reduce waste.

Want to do more? For those who want to take their greening further, and for those who would like to be cleaner after using the toilet, using cloth is the way to go. There are many options for reusable cloths in the bathroom, which can include everything from flannel wipes created for that purpose, to handkerchiefs and facecloths, to repurposed old t-shirts. Cloth is softest on sore bottoms, and for those who need to use soap and water to clean up, this is easier to achieve with cloth than with paper.


Install A Toilet That Uses Less Water

White Toilet
Your old toilet might be wasting water. Some DIY upgrades could be in order. Photo © winnond /

A dual-flush toilet is considered by many environmental groups to be one of the best ways to save water when flushing. Dual flush refers not to flushing two times, but instead to offering two types of flushes. In fact, you may have seen these types of toilets in newer buildings and in those that are seeking to achieve a green building status. One type of flush in a dual-flush toilet may be referred to as the "rinse" and often uses less than a gallon for flushing. This might be used for liquid waste, which doesn't require much effort or water to flush away. The second type of flush typically uses between one and two gallons, and is recommended for more solid waste. People with IBD might arguably use the more water-intensive flush more frequently than the lower-water flush, but having the dual option does help conserve water in the long run.

For those that aren't in the market for a new toilet, existing toilets can be retrofit to convert them to the dual-flush type. The toilet will need to meet certain criteria in order to be converted, but this option is much less costly and might be a do-it-yourself-option. Older toilets that use a lot of water could also fairly easily be converted into a low-flow toilet that uses less than 2 gallons per flush and costs very little.

Want to do more? Use a waterless or a dry toilet, often also called a composting toilet. Composting toilets are not common, and might most often be considered as an alternative to a septic tank in areas that don't have septic lines running down the street. The benefits of a composting toilet include using less water and also having an output that can be used to fertilize a garden


Greener Cleaning

Cleaning Tools
Some common household items and elbow grease can reduce your reliance on expensive, store-bought chemical cleaners. Image © scottchan /

After paper and water, the third thing that is used frequently in the bathroom and other rooms in the home is cleaning products. It's important to keep clean surroundings, especially for people who are compromised by other illnesses and who want to avoid other sicknesses that may be spread by friends or family members. Many conventional cleaning products are harsh and do not break down after use. However, there are many greener cleaning products readily available. They often work just as well as harsher products, and have the advantage of keeping your home free from more harmful chemicals.

Want to do more? To go a step further, forgo the store-bought cleaners and make your own cleaning products. Baking soda, lemon, borax, and other common household substances can be used to make your own cleansers. This has several advantages, including saving money, reducing chemicals in your home, and being customizable to your own tastes (especially if you employ essential oils to include pleasing scents). You can repurpose a spray bottle from one of your emptied store-bought cleaning products, or pick up a spray bottle or two from your local hardware store.


Dispose of Medications Properly

Pills On Spoon
Your prescription medications should always be disposed of papery. Photo © Atsawintarangkul

Most people with IBD take medications at some point, whether they are prescription or over-the-counter. But when these medicines are no longer needed or have expired, the question comes as to how to dispose of them properly. Traces of medications are found in water throughout the world, and water is usually not treated to remove them. Even filtered water and bottled water are not spared: they may also contain medications. Removing chemicals from our water is a long-term problem, but going forward, we can avoid adding to the situation. Medications should be disposed of properly, which is usually accomplished by handing them over to a local government or pharmacy that is equipped to handle them, or during one of many medication take-back days featured at locations throughout the country.

Want to do more? Local agencies are always looking for volunteers. Partner with your local IBD groups to help people understand the dangers in improper disposal of prescription drugs.

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