Last updated on May 21, 2023.
Toilet paper is one of those things that we all buy and use. But have you ever noticed that the vast majority of brands wrap it in plastic? We throw that plastic in the trash because it’s not recyclable. My family used Quilted Northern (or other brands if they were on sale for years) and threw away the plastic packaging every week. Some, like Charmin brand, have packs of 4 wrapped in plastic and then 3 or 4 of those grouped together and wrapped in plastic, again, to make a 12 or 16 pack. Plastic wrapped in plastic.
I’ve looked almost everywhere locally, and the majority of toilet paper is plastic wrapped, sadly.
“It turns out that regular toilet paper—at 1.5 pounds of wood and thirty-seven gallons of water per roll—is surprisingly wasteful.” -Eve O. Schaub, author of Year Of No Garbage1
Plastic-Free Toilet Paper
I discovered a company called Who Gives a Crap, which makes toilet paper from recycled paper and bamboo, meaning they use no virgin paper and don’t cut down any trees to make their products. Their products are plastic-free and they don’t use inks, dyes, or scents. The company also gives back: “We donate 50% of our profits to ensure everyone has access to clean water and a toilet within our lifetime.”2 So plastic-free and toxin-free, and the company does good for the world? I don’t normally buy anything in bulk, but I had to give them a try.
The result is that we’ve been using this toilet paper exclusively since 2018. The company makes recycled toilet paper from “post-consumer waste paper (things like textbooks, workbooks, office paper, etc) and a small percentage (around 5%) of post-industrial paper.” Using recycled paper allows them to reduce their carbon dioxide and particulate matter emissions, and it also saves water. It is also free of BPA because they use recycled paper that is free from BPA.
Who Gives A Crap’s bamboo toilet paper is the one I prefer. Bamboo, which is a grass, is a sustainable option because it grows fast, is very renewable, and needs no irrigation or fertilization. Their bamboo is mainly grown in remote areas of Sichuan Province in China by farmers who plant bamboo on the outskirts of their family farms in order to supplement their income.
Who Gives A Crap’s Mission
When the founders discovered that 2.4 billion people don’t have access to a toilet and that contaminated water from lack of toilets contributes to over 1 million deaths per year, they wanted to do something about it. Here’s how they describe it:
A toilet could make all the difference, but billions of people worldwide still live without one. Without a loo, waste ends up in local waterways – the same place people collect water for drinking, cleaning and bathing. That’s why toilets are an integral part of a bigger health initiative called WASH, which stands for water, sanitation and hygiene. Together, these three elements strengthen communities and save millions of lives.4
This is a really great cause and one we don’t think of much in the U.S. We take toilet access for granted!
Who Gives A Crap’s bamboo rolls cost $68 for 48 rolls, which equals about $1.42 per roll. Their recycled rolls are about $1.29 each. Their rolls are double length, so I’m comparing ‘mega” sized toilet paper rolls in the other brands:
- Charmin 30 mega rolls $31.17, or $1.04 per roll
- Target brand 30 mega rolls for $19.99, or $0.67 per roll
- Great Value brand is $17.96 for 18 mega rolls, or $1.00 per roll
- Angel Soft 24 mega rolls at $15.46, or $0.64 per roll
- Quilted Northern $18.87 for 18 mega rolls, or $1.05 per roll
So the average cost for Who Gives A Crap is slightly higher than regular store brands, but their products are plastic-free, toxic-free, delivered to my door, and half of the company’s profits go to help others across the globe. Keep that in mind!
Sustainable Toilet Paper
In 2020, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) issued a report that rated toilet paper companies by sustainability. They rated Who Gives a Crap the highest. As Eve O. Schaub wrote in Year Of No Garbage, the same report pointed out “that Charmin toilet paper is sourced from 100 percent virgin trees from Canada’s boreal forest, and that every second 1,400 square feet of Canadian boreal forest are clear-cut for products such as toilet paper. Now, we aren’t given the basis of the marks on the NRDC scorecard in the article, and so can’t see how heavily transport figures in to the overall calculation of environmental impact, but unlike so many of the industry sources who are tap-dancing like mad around such issues, the NRDC is a pretty reputable source in my book. They very clearly choose Who Gives a Crap as the lesser of all toilet paper evils. So I decided to accept that they had, in fact, done the math.”5
Alternatives to Toilet Paper
Yes! Bidets are like an additional toilet used for washing your nether regions. “The classic bidet is a miniature, bathtub-like fixture situated next to the toilet, with taps on one end. Its tub is filled with water, and the user straddles themselves over it to wash below the belt,” an article in The Atlantic described.6 An article on how to use a bidet explained that you should “Always use the toilet before you use the bidet. A bidet is intended to help you wash and clean up after using the toilet, but the fixture is not an actual toilet.”7 But they are more popular in Europe and Japan than in North America.
Does the use of a bidet reduce toilet paper consumption, and hence save trees? Yes, according to an article in Scientific American, they save trees and also they save water, from the production of toilet paper!8
Personally, I’d be willing to try this but there is just no room in our small bathroom. But in a future residence, perhaps!
Don’t buy disposable wipes. They are made of plastic, are not biodegradable, and cause major damage to sewer systems. “Once flushed, the wipes glom together with any fat from food waste and can form what are called “fatbergs”—iceberg-style blockages that can clog a whole system.”9 They are expensive to extract and repair the damage they cause. Disposable wipes also end up in waterways, the ocean, and beaches. If you must buy these, please throw them in the trash even if they are advertised as ‘flushable.’
Cloth wipes, sometimes referred to as family cloths, are reusable cloth wipes that you launder after each use. I had a family member who made her own to use while she was pregnant because she was peeing so frequently – brilliant! Many people have strong opinions for and against this process.10 I sewed some family cloths for our home to use instead of disposable wet wipes. I simply took cotton flannel scraps and old t-shirt fabric and made two-layer rectangular wipes. We have found them very useful as a supplement.
Have you found other brands of plastic-free toilet paper? Or have you tried one of these alternatives, or another that I did not cover? I’d love to know if you’ve thought of something else, leave me a comment! Thank you for reading and please share and subscribe.
I did not get paid or receive gifts to write about Who Gives A Crap’s products. The opinions in this article are honest and mine.