Updated: Feb 12
At the beginning of 2019, I decided to make it my mission and goal for the new year to convert my house to a plastic-free and waste-free environment. With budget in mind and not wanting to create more waste by simply throwing out what is already in my house, it makes sense to convert what we use and repurchase in our house on the basis of them running out. For example, toilet paper.
Let me just say that I did not intend for the first eco-friendly replacement to be toilet paper, but here we are! I just happened to get to the last couple of rolls in the house at the same time of making this plastic and waste-free commitment. Although, talking about bums in my life is not unusual. The word “butt” will show up somewhere in the conversation between my toddler and I at some point during the day. Just yesterday she walked up to me as I was cooking dinner and turned around to back right up against my leg and start shaking her booty yelling, “Shake ya booty! Shake ya booty!” and then walked away. Haha! Kids think it’s funny to talk about butts! And we use a lot of toilet paper in my house. It’s just the way it is.
So why should you think about changing where and what you buy when purchasing your next roll for the loo? What are some of the facts?
- Toilet Paper History states, “Toilet paper is generally made from "virgin" paper, using a combination of softwood and hardwood trees.”
- Toilet Paper History also states, “If every American household replaced just one toilet paper roll of virgin-fiber a year with a roll made from 100% recycled paper, approximately 425,000 trees would be saved annually.”
- David Braun’s post from the National Geographic Blog does the math to let us all know that “27,000 trees are used to produce toilet paper every day.” And it’s just flushed down the drain.
- Most toilet paper comes wrapped in some form of single-use plastic when it reaches its final destination on the store shelf.
- The bleach used in toilet paper ends up polluting the water system after it has been flushed.
- Brondell also did some math for us - “It takes 37 gallons of water to produce one roll of standard toilet paper.”
So now that I see something as simple as the type of toilet paper we flush down our drains can have an environmental impact, what are my options? In general, these include: toilet paper made from virgin trees (most common), recycled paper, or from other materials such as hemp, bamboo, etc.
But let’s break this down a bit more...
1. Common toilet paper (made from virgin trees) - the word “virgin” in this case means does not contain any recycled material and it is manufactured from new pulp. Leslie Kaufman’s post in the New York Times states, “Although brands differ, 25 to 50 percent of the pulp used to make toilet paper in the United States comes from tree farms in South America and the United States. The rest, environmental groups say, comes mostly from old, second-growth forests that serve as important absorbers of carbon dioxide...two popular brands, Cottonelle and Scott, has gotten as much as 22 percent of its pulp from producers who cut trees in Canadian boreal forests where some trees are 200 years old.”
2. Recycled Toilet Paper - recycled toilet paper starts by using recycled white and colored paper products to form a pulp. Chemicals and certain types of bleach are then used to create the white rolls; however you can find rolls that have skipped the bleaching process, they will be the only rolls on the shelf that are not white. In general, the production of recycled toilet paper uses less water, less energy and creates less pollution than toilet paper made from virgin trees. The downsides to recycled toilet paper can be that it’s not as soft and maybe not be as strong as your everyday grocery store toilet paper. Of course all of this depends on the brand you end up choosing.
3. Other materials (Hemp, Bamboo, etc.) Toilet Paper - These are overall fantastic choices. Bamboo is in the grass family and grows exceptionally fast. Hemp is also a fast growing plant making it easier to replace for the future. Faster than trees anyway. However! If you choose to purchase toilet paper made from bamboo, make sure you know where it comes from! Make sure that it is sustainably harvested and is not extracted from forests that are habitats for wildlife such as the Orangutan, Great Panda and Red Panda.
If at any point you’ve said to yourself “Hmmm is there something less impactful than toilet paper all together??” Yes! There is another option that involves little to no toilet tissue if you’ve officially decided to venture off into no toilet paper land. There are many advocates that say in terms of the environment the following option has the least amount of impact and may actually be better for your overall health.
4. Bidet’s and/or Family Cloths - one of the arguments for Bidet’s is - why would we use a dry piece of paper to wipe our butts? We clean the rest of our body and everything else in our life with water, not a dry cloth, why not clean that part of our body with water that… let’s just say it… poops! Which is another word that floats around my house multiple times on the daily. If you’re a mom, you get it. For some, using a bidet comes with the use of toilet tissue after using water, but the amount is far less than using only toilet tissue. Family cloths can be used by themselves - pretty self explanatory, think cloth diaper… you use to wipe and then wash. Or! They can be used after using a Bidet. This would essentially just replace any toilet paper that you would have used in the process.
If you want to learn more about Bidet’s these websites can help you out.
If you have decided to take the bidet train and skip the toilet paper altogether, good on ya!! However, based on what I have learned, in my search to find good quality eco-friendly toilet paper, I have found a few brands that have stood the test of my skepticism and have received approval from my family.
Starting from left to right starting in the back, and then left to right in the front row:
Simple Truth (King Soopers brand) 100% Recycled Bathroom Tissue
365 (Whole Foods brand) 100% Recycled Bath Tissue
Seventh Generation 100% Recycled Bath Tissue (Also, found at Whole Foods or Sprouts)
The obvious upsides to the first three are that they are extremely accessible since you can find these in almost every local grocery store and they are the most affordable options. The big down side... they are wrapped in plastic. The next three options in the front row are not wrapped in plastic so that's a win; however, not the most affordable options. Hopefully though, as more of us purchase eco-friendly products to use in our day-to-day lives, more and more companies will follow suit making plastic-free and eco-friendly options more readily available and affordable. Also, for those of your stockpilers and buy-in-bulk fans, several of these options can come in bulk with a variety of deliver-to-your-doorstep subscription plans. So no excuses, make the change - it's a small change, but it's worth it.
Below is my current favorite. I will update this in the future as new products come on the market which is inevitable as the vast majority of people are shifting to a more eco-friendly way of living.
What I like about it:
It's shipped to my door virtually plastic free. The only plastic that I could see was the tape that held the box together. *Note: I have heard of some people receiving their boxes with large plastic zip ties around the entire box along with tape, that has never been the case with any of the shipments that I have received.
I can subscribe to regular shipments so I don't have to rush to the store when I'm on the last roll. If I am on the last roll and my next box hasn't shipped yet, I can make an early request on the website to have my next box shipped sooner than scheduled. The added "Emergency Roll" at the end of the box is extremely helpful in that case (pictured below).
The actual toilet paper is soft and holds up well. It doesn't break apart.
I love what the company does to give back to the community and the world every time I buy a box of TP.
In terms of the nitty gritty manufacturing process, the hard questions are answered in this blog post from My Plastic Free Life. This blog post helped me make the decision to order a box.
What I don't like about it:
I wish they had a bleach-free option. My toilet paper does not have to be white.
Each toilet paper roll is individually wrapped; it seems a bit excessive and could be cut out to save paper.
They still use the cardboard tube in the center of each roll. A few companies are shifting to the tubeless roll and in the spirit of cutting out unnecessary paper-use, the tube could go.
Overall thoughts: 4.5 stars. Only because the things that I mentioned above are places where the company could improve to keep moving towards the goal of reducing excess paper, plastic, etc.
I hope that this blog post has if nothing else just helped you to think about something we use on a daily basis that is actually making a giant impact on our environment. I hope that I can inspire you to make a change in some ways to lessen that impact and to share what you have learned with the people around you.
That being said, I would love to learn more from you about alternatives to common virgin-tree toilet paper. Please share with myself and other readers in the comments below about alternative brands or options for toilet paper that you have discovered as you begin to shift to a more plastic-free/eco-friendly way of life.
Until next time! Happy toilet paper shopping and don't forget to subscribe to my blog for more ideas that will help you switch your home to a plastic-free environment too!
*Disclaimer - I am not being paid or asked to review any of the products that I mention in this blog post. I simply love sharing what has worked for me and my family in hopes of helping you, the people you do life with, and the environment, as well.
*Toilet Paper History
**National Geographic Blog https://blog.nationalgeographic.org/2010/04/16/toilet-paper-wipes-out-27000-trees-a-day/
***Toilet Paper History
*****New York Times
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