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Crohn’s & Green Living: Flushing is Bad for the Environment

I’m fairly sure I was born an environmentalist, and I’ve tried to live my life in as earth-friendly a way as I can. I do what many others do: I’ve replaced my old light bulbs with the new low-energy long-lasting bulbs; I drive as little as possible, and not just because of the price of gas; I turn off lights when I leave a room, and turn down the heat at night and keep it low all winter. I carry my own reusable cotton bags to the grocery store, and the few plastic bags I do end up with, I reuse as garbage can liners, “poopy bags” when walking the dogs, or as packing material for fragile items I mail. If I have no use for them, I take them to the recycling center. And so on. You know the mantra: reduce, reuse, recycle. And then Crohn’s came along.

As someone with Crohn’s, there are a few areas that pose difficulties for me in staying eco-friendly. As you might expect, most of them revolve around the bathroom, but let’s start with a couple of others. I’m ashamed to admit that I often throw away food, especially fruits and vegetables. I buy them with the best intentions, but my intestines may get in the way. The other thing is that I live alone; there’s no way I can keep a head of lettuce fresh long enough to eat it, or a bag of grapes, or even a large container of strawberries (this is assuming Crohn’s says I can eat any of them).

Having Crohn’s disease isn’t the cause of my less-than-perfect transportation. I rarely use public transportation, and I don’t bicycle to my destinations. I live in a relatively small town, and the public transportation system we have is new and not very convenient, and of course lacks any “facilities.” I’ve never been good at riding a bike, and there’s no way I could do it with packages of any sort. We also have very few bike paths, and the thought of riding in the middle of car traffic terrifies me. I do walk when I can, and when it’s not too hot or too cold (rare days in my part of the world). My car is small, and I try to plan my trips to use the least amount of driving to run the most errands, but Crohn’s disease can pop up and demand a trip when I least expect it.

Because of Crohn’s disease and other health problems, I don’t tolerate heat well. When the outside temperature reaches 85 degrees or higher, I need to be somewhere cool. I rely on my air conditioner, a central air system, throughout the summer. I did purchase a new more efficient unit, but I might have done better adding insulation to my home. It’s hard to know, when the cost of the two things are about the same, and I can only afford one. I keep it at a level that’s cooler than that of most people I know, but I really need that cool air. It’s not very green, but it’s one of the areas where Crohn’s gives me no choice.

Crohn’s disease raises some other obstacles to living green. Flushing the toilet uses more water than anything else in the home, according to multiple studies. If Crohn’s is flaring, flushing that toilet is not optional. I did purchase low-flow toilets for both my bathrooms, but the number of times they get flushed is more up to Crohn’s than to me, and is probably many more than my “share” if I want to live green.

Another problem raised by Crohn’s is the use of toilet tissue. Most of the brands you see advertised on television are bleached, which is bad for the environment, and slow to dissolve, which creates problems for the water treatment plant. I’ve tried the more environmentally-friendly tissue from Seventh Generation (and I use their cleaning products throughout my house, anywhere I’m not relying on vinegar and sweat), and found that it was a little rough, not a good thing when you need to use it a lot. I decided to buy both Seventh Generation tissue and their baby wipes. When Crohn’s flares and I need something gentler than their tissue, I pull out the wipes, which are both soothing and eco-friendly.

I’ve found that thanks to Crohn’s, I can’t live as green a life as I’d like to. I try to focus on the areas where I can go green instead of those where I can’t, and try to live as simply as I can. Each of us can make a difference, and it’s often the small things that matter the most. Or so I tell myself.

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