The humble toilet paper has a big environmental impact, but switching to an eco-friendly alternative is luckily easy to do.
Why Toilet Paper is Such a Problem
Although it seems innocent because it dissolves easily and is made of recyclable materials, toilet paper is a paper-based single-use product.
We Cut Down a Lot of Trees To Make Toilet Paper
Disposable paper products are a major contributor to deforestation, with research suggesting that toilet paper production is responsible for the felling of over 7.5 million trees a year in America alone.
Many companies try to offset this waste and energy-intensive activity by planting new trees. However, this is often done in monocultures, meaning many of the same trees are planted in one place (picture a palm plantation or pine forest).
While all trees are good, what’s really beneficial to the environment is promoting and preserving biodiversity and existing ecosystems - monocultures come with their own set of environmental disadvantages.
It Takes a Lot of Resources & Pollutants To Make Toilet Paper
As well as contributing to deforestation, the production of toilet paper is an energy- and chemical-heavy process.
Any industrial production process takes a lot of power, and harmful pollutants such as chlorine are used to bleach the paper. This increases greenhouse gas emissions and pollutes water supplies.
The More Sustainable Options
Recycled Toilet Paper
Recycled toilet paper reduces waste, and is less damaging to manufacture as it doesn’t directly contribute to deforestation.
However, some recycled toilet paper still uses waste pulp from felled trees to strengthen it, so you should always check the product you buy is Forest Stewardship Council certified. Avoiding bleached paper also reduces the number of chemicals involved in the production process.
However, even recycled toilet paper has problems.
Often, the problem with an ethical product actually lies with the company that produces it.
For example, Georgia Pacific is a big producer of toilet paper, including recycled varieties, and they came out worst in WWF’s 2006 sustainability survey. To be truly sustainable, make sure the company is as ethical as the product.
Bamboo Toilet Paper
Bamboo products are some of the most sustainable on the market - the plant itself is sustainable to grow and manufacture, and the end products are biodegradable. Bamboo paper is also naturally hypoallergenic and softer than recycled options.
The only downside is that it can be a little more expensive, and it is often transported in from China, which can increase its carbon footprint unless the manufacturer offsets this.
Reusable toilet paper
The best way to reduce your environmental impact is to cut down on paper use; the popularity of reusable kitchen towels and beeswax wraps is on the rise, and reusable toilet paper is another great way to do this.
Many independent sellers make washable toilet paper in fun patterns out of organic cotton or bamboo. Buying reusable toilet paper will set you back a similar amount to a 24 pack of single-use rolls, but it’s durable and easy to clean - just keep a wet-bag near the toilet to place used cloths hygienically.
Although the idea is a little off-putting at first, this is a popular choice among the zero-waste community.
Choosing the Right Brand
The parent company is often more problematic than the product, so when you’re making sustainable choices there are a couple of things to look out for.
The holy grail amongst bigger companies are certified B Corps. B Corporations are businesses that meet the highest standards of social and environmental conscience, are fully transparent, and balance profit against purpose. Supporting a B Corp means supporting a very ethical business - not accidentally lining the pockets of an oil baron.
Another option is to support small, independent sellers such as those found on Etsy, who run small scale productions and are genuine about their motives.
7 Great Choices For Eco-friendly Toilet Paper
With all the above in mind, we’ve put together a selection of seven sustainable toilet paper options, including recycled, bamboo, and reusable choices, and a mixture of B-corps and independent sellers.
There are other options out there, but any of these will have you well on your way to a sustainable bathroom.
Bamboo & Recycled Paper With a Great Cause
Who Gives a Crap
Who Gives a Crap perfectly blend sustainability with style. All their toilet paper rolls are free from bleach, dyes, and perfumes, and come individually wrapped in bright (recycled) paper. This keeps them hygienic while eliminating the need for plastic packaging and making them rather aesthetically pleasing.
You can buy packs of 24 or 48 rolls of either the slightly cheaper 100% recycled option or the ‘premium’ option made from 100% bamboo. They also offer fun limited edition toilet papers from time to time, as well as other sustainable paper products like forest-friendly tissues and reusable paper towels.
As well as offering a great product, this company donates 50% of its profits to building sanitation facilities around the world and it’s also a certified B Corp.
Another certified B Corp easily available online from the Ethical Superstore is plastic-free, FSC certified Cheeky Panda toilet paper. Made from naturally hypo-allergenic, anti-bacterial bamboo, this is a great option for anyone concerned about sensitive skin.
The product does ships from China, which requires a lot of transportation. However, Cheeky Panda works with the World Land Trust to fund tree planting, offsetting the carbon emissions from production and transport.
Their toilet paper is also suitable for septic tanks and vegans.
A Reusable Option
This bestselling reusable toilet paper is made by Marley's Monsters. This product comes in a roll, so it fits on your existing toilet paper holder, and the sewn edges of each piece prevent fraying. Their absorbency even increases with washing, so you don’t have to worry about their durability.
The cloths are made of 100% organic cotton. While cotton does have a high carbon footprint as a material, long term use of the product quickly offsets this when compared to repeatedly buying single-use toilet paper.
A More Wallet-Friendly Reusable Toilet Paper
A cheaper option in the reusable toilet paper list comes from Saged Home, a cute brand that sells on Etsy.
Slightly thinner than the Marley's Monsters option and with a smaller range of patterns, this option is equally absorbent and made of 100% cotton. These reusable cloths also cling to one another, making them easy to organize into a roll or simply store stacked.
100% Recycled Paper
Seventh Generation Toilet Paper
A soft and strong two-ply option, this toilet paper is made from 100% recycled paper, is free from bleaches and dyes, and comes in 100% recyclable packaging.
According to the company, if each home in the USA switched to using their toilet paper it would save 4.9 million trees a year from being felled. This company also offers a great range of other plant-based home care products, which means you can make a lot of eco-friendly swaps in one place.
They are also a certified B corp, so you can be sure you’re supporting an ethical business.
100% Bamboo With Recyclable Packaging
Bim Bam Boo
A sustainable brand focused on skin health, Bim Bam Boo’s ‘tree-free’ formula is soft and great for sensitive skin - the best choice to make if you have concerns like eczema.
Their toilet paper is PH neutral, lint-free, and hypoallergenic, making it fantastic for your downstairs health. They are 100% plastic and cruelty-free as well as being USDA BioPreferred Plant-Based, and no pesticides or GMOs are used in their production process.
They also offer a convenient subscription service, meaning sustainable toilet paper will come right to your door on a regular basis!
A Subscription-Based Bamboo Paper
Reel offers a tailored subscription service based on how quickly you use up toilet paper. This is a fantastic hassle-free option which gives you one less thing to worry about.
Their three-ply toilet paper is made from 100% sustainable bamboo, making it soft and naturally anti-bacterial, and all of their shipping materials are fully biodegradable.
Further, Reel’s central mission is to support the development of sanitation in Haiti by working with charity SOIL, who safely remove waste and provide proper toilets. Reel is a socially and environmentally conscious brand to go with, and their rolls are pleasingly wrapped as well.