Making the switch to a green(er) clean

When was the last time you thought about something that you wanted to change – whether it was something in your personal life, or something in our culture or society – and then became completely overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the thing that needs changing. Sure… you could stop using plastic straws to save those perfect angel sea turtles from getting straws stuck up their noses, but what does a straw up the nose matter when climate change is creating weather fluctuations that are freezing turtles to death by the thousands?

Avoidance coping is “is a maladaptive form of coping in which a person changes their behavior to avoid thinking about, feeling, or doing difficult things.”(Scott, 2019). On the small scale it may be what is allowing you to procrastinate on that work thing you’ve been putting off. On the large scale, it may be stopping you from making small changes in your daily life because the larger problem seems too huge and overwhelming.

Climate change. Deforestation. Poisoned ecosystems. Fair trade issues. Extinction. Human rights violations. All of these things and more can be wrapped up in an issue as innocuous as what type of toilet paper you use. If that thought doesn’t give you a little spike of avoidance coping, I don’t know what will.

The good news is that I have prepared an infographic that may help you make the switch to a greener option for cleaning your butt. You’re welcome.

Since we have learned that 40% of people respond better to text with visuals than text alone, and that the brain can process images 60,000 times faster than text, the infographic is a wonderful way to help get your point across in an interesting way.

Science communication has long been for scientists, by scientists. But Bill Dennison suggests that “a diversity of visual elements enhances the appeal of science communication to a wide audience” (Dennison, 2017). Basically, scientists have interesting stories to tell that can be made accessible to a wider audience through visual storytelling.

Conversely, choosing the audience that you’d like your infographic to speak to is extremely important (Patel, 2019). The audience’s level of education, time, and commitment can all dictate how in-depth the information in your infographic can be (Kolowich, n.d.).

Since I am trying to help the average consumer decide to switch to alternative material toilet tissue, I have selected to keep the information provided to the surface level and a few quick facts and figures that are easy to digest.

In his article Why it’s time for visual journalism to include a solutions focus, David Campbell discusses the Negativity Bias, or our tendency to focus more on bad news or negative information, and even believing or remembering it more than positive information.

We know from psychological research that a steady diet of news about violence, corruption and incompetence leads to increased fear, learned helplessness, hopelessness, cynicism, depression, isolation, hostility, contempt and anxiety.

(Bornstein & Rosenberg, 2016)

I, too, have tried to have a solutions focus in the creation of my infographic. Sure, it was simple to start off with how many rolls of toilet paper we use, how many millions of trees are cut down annually for single-use paper products, and a juicy quote about the American public being misled by big paper but I also included two viable options for greener alternatives as well as their strengths and weaknesses.

By following steps laid out by Neil Patel to create this infographic to keep it simple, know my audience, focus on the flow, and check my facts, I hope that I have created an easily digestible graphic that can help you fight your avoidance coping and start making small, sustainable changes to live green(er).

References and More Information:

Bornstein, D., & Rosenberg, T. (2016, November 14). Opinion | When Reportage Turns to Cynicism. The New York Times.

Dennison, B. (2017, February 28). Practical visual literacy for science communication. University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.

Kolowich, L. (n.d.). How to Create Infographics in Under an Hour.

Larsen, K. (2020, June 24). U.S. toilet paper production is wiping out canada’s boreal forest, report claims. CBC.

Miller, K. (2020, November 23). Tree Free Toilet Paper: Why You Should Use It. Reel.

Patel, N. (2019, February 15). 12 Infographic Tips That You Wish You Knew Years Ago. Neil Patel.

Scientific American Magazine. (2009, December 16). Wipe or Wash? Do Bidets Save Forest and Water Resources? Scientific American.

Scott, E. (2019). Why avoidance coping creates additional stress. Verywell Mind.

Skene, J., & Vinyard, S. (2019, February 20). The issue with tissue: How the U.S. is flushing forests away. NRDC.

Skene, J., & Vinyard, S. (2020). The issue with tissue 2.0: How the tree-to-toilet pipeline fuels our climate crisis.

World Wildlife Fund. (2015). Price of toilet paper for the planet. World Wildlife Magazine.

Young, O. (2021, February 28). Eco-Friendly Toilet Paper: Bamboo vs. Recycled. Treehugger.

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