A long, long time ago I started a list of things I swore up and down I'd never use or implement in our daily lives, or things I'd never give up - things that are typically considered either very crunchy (and thus very eco-friendly) or things that are so anti-crunchy that most self-proclaimed crunchy families give them up quickly (see: hot dogs). I started that list back in 2011 and got through all of two posts in it before I promptly forgot about it entirely. But today I'm bringing it back! Mostly because I thought of something else I don't think I could ever, ever do.
#18 is family cloth.
I didn't actually really need to link to an article on that; it's exactly what it sounds like. Although cloth wipes seem to me to be a whole different genre of "okay", the idea of using cloth for the rest of my family to wipe their butts is to me disgusting. Not to knock anybody who uses them - hey, that's your choice! - but I have no desire whatsoever to breach this wall. Holy cow.
Not that they aren't cute; I've seen lots of super-crunchy families (moms especially) who make and maintain adorable little containers for them, who stuff them back into said containers in a nice neat order, who just kind of make the whole thing look rather attractive if you ignore the fact that the number of cloth wipes that would need to be pulled out of a toilet full of poo while everybody's adjusting to this change would be massive. I already have enough diapers to wash, and I worry enough about them getting as clean as they should (I have an HE front loader and no way to soak them). Sometimes they stink. I'm already having ammonia problems with them but don't have any blue Dawn at the moment to strip my diapers. I can only imagine the added laundry I'd be doing, never mind the SMELL of these things sitting or immediately upon usage if I had ammonia issues with them, too.
Are they environment-friendly? Well, that depends. Toilet paper can be harmful to septic systems but decomposes quickly and fairly easily. It is often made of recycled materials. Downsides are that we need a LOT of it as a family of four who uses the potty, which means that we are tossing a lot of TP down the drain (quite literally) and thus are spending a considerable amount on it. Other downside would of course be that although it decomposes, it is also heavily bleached and treated with other chemicals to get it as white as it is. Cloth results in less going into the sewer, but it needs to be washed - which means putting more detergents into the water supply and means it must be further inundated with chemicals to get the detergents out.
So which is better? I can't judge for your family. But I know we won't be using family cloth anytime soon.