The soft, pure white toilet paper in your bathroom hardly looks like it could hurt anyone or anything—however, a quick investigation into how they make it might reveal otherwise. You might also find it hard to imagine that something as small and as ubiquitous as toilet paper contributes to climate change. Yet, for these reasons, many people are switching to eco-friendly toilet paper.
Manufacturers create regular toilet papers from trees, and trees do not grow as quickly as we cut them down. While deforestation is sudden and complete, forest regrowth is slow and prone to partial recovery. Richard Houghton and 27 other forest ecologists warned in their 2018 paper that forest regrowth does not necessarily translate to a complete ecosystem and biodiversity recovery1. Also, they use chemicals that can harm our bodies to produce soft white toilet paper2.
Therefore, it is time to give some serious thought to eco-friendly methods of taking care of the bathroom business. Today, you’ll find options for products made from recycled paper and tree-free sources. This article provides details on some eco-friendly alternatives you can switch to, and why, to take the best care of those movement moments with the environment in mind.
There are a lot of eco-friendly toilet paper brands to choose from. You will need a little more information than brand names to select the most suitable type. We have put together a list of brands and some essential details to help you make the best choice.
Quick links to our pick of the best eco-friendly toilet papers brands:
Betterway has received loads of 5-star reviews for their organic toilet paper made from bamboo for a more sustainable wipe. Further, you'll find them so confident in their claim of the #1 softest bamboo toilet paper that they also offer a 100-day guarantee. And to stack up the benefits, even more, three-ply, twice the absorption, and two times longer than regular toilet paper. For near-perfect eco-creds, each pack of 12 double rolls comes in a recycled cardboard box while they make the cores too from recycled card.
Betterway is a US-based brand and product and although it ships to the UK it costs a bit and isn't the best environmental choice, check out Who Gives a Crap below for a better UK option.
Toilet paper may not seem like a big deal, but this B corporation cares a lot about them. As a B Corporation, the company meets the highest standard of social and environmental performance. This product is as close to plastic-free as possible. The toilet paper claims to have very little BPA traces because the company uses post-consumer recycled paper such as textbooks and other paper waste. The three-ply roll is septic safe and non-toxic.
Other than making bathroom business earth-friendly, who gives a crap donates half of its profits to charities. They are particularly interested in charities that do a lot to improve basic sanitation in developing countries by building toilets. Check out our write-up of their story we did a while back here.
Seventh Generation makes this three-ply roll from 100% recycled paper, of which 80% is post-consumer fiber. It comes in recyclable plastic packaging. The manufacturers do not whiten Seventh generation rolls with chlorine or any kind of bleach. Further, they do not contain any dyes or fragrances, so people with sensitive skin should find them suitable. The toilet rolls may look a bit rough but are surprisingly soft given the recycled material they make them from. They are septic safe and work well with low flow toilets.
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This brand has an eco logo and Green Seal certifications. It is also EPA compliant. They make this toilet paper from 100% recycled materials with about 25% post-consumer fiber. The two-ply roll is not quite as soft, so people with sensitive skin should use it cautiously. But it has a beautifully embossed surface making it both absorbent and durable. They do not use chlorine during production, and it is septic safe. It comes in a large 80-roll pack with each roll individually wrapped. They design it to reduce the carbon footprint of its shipping by removing excess air and water.
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This bamboo toilet paper is hypoallergenic, and you don't have to worry about allergies or chemicals. It contains no chlorine, BPA, dyes, formaldehyde, or fragrances. It feels comfortable on the skin and wipes without leaving any residue. The 3-ply rolls come in plastic-free packaging. Bumboo plants a tree for every box purchased.
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Want an eco-friendly toilet paper made from bamboo but with the luxury feel of regular toilet rolls? This three-ply roll feels softer than most bamboo paper-based toilet rolls. The roll has 100 sheets, does not leave any residue, and is quite thick. Unraveling piles are not a problem with this eco-friendly toilet paper because the piles stick firmly together. This product has excellent absorbing power and is septic safe. It is also BPA, fragrance, and formaldehyde-free making it all and all one of the best bamboo toilet paper options.
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Caboo makes these tree-free toilet paper rolls from bamboo and sugarcane. You’ll find their two-ply roll soft yet durable, hypoallergenic, and does not shed. The bath tissue is BPA-free, contains no fragrance, chlorine, or paraben, and is verified as non-GMO. It works well with septic toilets and is suitable for all kinds of disposal systems. The product has FSC certification and BRC Global Standards. The company gets its raw material from bamboo producers in South China.
The company is a member of the 1% for the planet organization and supports non-profit organizations that focus on developing and enhancing sustainable practices.
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Trees are an essential part of nature; they can help our fight against global warming. They make toilet papers from wood pulp, and every day they cut down about 27,000 trees to produce enough rolls for our use. That is 27,000 trees flushed down the toilet in a day.
The people who take the time to think about such things predict this number to increase as sanitation standards increase in developing countries. The demand for toilet paper is steadily growing the impact toilet paper manufacturers have on the world’s environment. In 2017 a Greenpeace report warned that large parts of Sweden’s Great Northern forest and its wildlife were under threat because of the growing demand of the timber industry for virgin wood.
It also takes about 37 gallons of water to produce the average non-eco-friendly store-bought toilet paper. Think of how much water goes into producing the packs of toilet paper you use up in a month or a year. The average UK resident uses 127 rolls of toilet paper each year, and the average American will use up 141 toilet rolls per year. The United States is, in fact, the largest consumer of toilet paper in the world.
If you used 13kg of bathroom tissue made from recycled paper, you would be saving 4000 kWh of electricity and 30,000 liters of water. Think of the positive contribution you could make if you used only eco-friendly toilet paper from now on.
The idea of eco-friendly toilet paper is that the product has the lowest environmental impact possible. The raw materials source, the production process, and packaging must all check the right ethical boxes to qualify as eco-friendly. Traditional toilet paper wrapped in plastic only worsens the plastic waste problem.
Of course, you want to make sure that it won't hurt your skin in any way. Eco-friendly toilet paper is not inferior just because they don't make it from virgin wood pulp. Not at all; instead, it gets the job done and doesn't hurt the earth.
Related: Whereas there is little doubt eco-toilet paper is better than the alternative for a truly environmentally friendly clean other options exist. Check out our guide to toilet paper alternatives for a run-down. You might also consider installing a bidet which is a great way to ditch the rolls altogether in favor of a more hygienic gentle wash.
We regard some toilet paper as eco-friendly because they make them from recycled paper. A lot of brands use post-consumer paper waste. Producing toilet tissue from recycled paper uses less water than is required for making toilet paper from virgin pulp. It gives post-consumer recycle paper waste that would otherwise go to landfills a second life.
A recycled toilet roll may have a bit of a rough feel to it, and we may attribute this to the recycled material’s inconsistency. Further, it is usual for recycled paper to have traces of BPA. You do not have to worry about this because the amount of BPA is too small to cause any serious harm. Handling newspapers, receipts, and other printed documents expose you to more BPA than a recycled tissue paper does. If you would prefer plastic-free, tree-free toilet paper, there are alternatives.
We also have toilet paper rolls made from non-tree sources, like cornstarch, hemp, sugarcane, and bamboo. These alternative sources are fast-growing plants, and they are easier to cultivate and quicker to harvest. Harvesting any of these resources has a less impact on the environment than harvesting trees do. Each makes for a more sustainable resource for toilet paper than trees.
Another critical factor is the use of chemicals. For us to get pure white rolls, they use chlorine bleach and other chemical agents. Now, this is not just bad for the environment because it causes pollution. These chemical agents are toxic, and it is unhealthy to come in contact with them so often. Also, avoid colored toilet paper, however pretty it may look. Dye chemicals contribute to water and air pollution.
Finally, you need to consider the packaging in which your toilet paper comes. A nice attractive packaging may influence your purchase. However nice the packaging is, you’ll also know it's the first thing you toss away. For this reason, consider choosing products with eco-friendly packaging.
Avoid plastic packaging, opting for biodegradable or recyclable packaging instead to reduce plastic waste. Some manufacturers are no longer, including the cardboard tube in their packaging. Buying a tube-free toilet roll means you don't have to worry about the extra waste and how best to dispose of it.
The most important thing to remember when buying toilet paper is that you will flush it down the toilet in a week or two. But nature will bear its cost far longer than that. Consider this, and you will find many a reason to switch to eco-friendly, tree-free alternatives.
Some eco-friendly toilet papers have eco-certification logos. These logos help people identify it as eco-friendly and possibly give an idea of what makes it so. Here are some eco-certifications to look out for:
Be reminded that these certifications are not automatic proof of quality. If a product has none of these certifications, that doesn’t mean it is of inferior quality.
If you use a septic toilet, buy eco-friendly toilet paper that has a septic-safe guarantee. Septic safe means the product breaks down quickly. This way, you do not have to worry about clogged up pipes.
Bamboo is one of the fastest-growing plants in the world, and we can harvest it sustainably. Its popularity as a resource for paper is on the rise. Bamboo is not only renewable; it is recyclable too; we can recycle paper made from bamboo. Bamboo toilet paper can feel softer than an average recycled toilet paper.
The problem with bamboo is that it does not grow everywhere. It grows at an industrially sustainable scale in Asia, specifically in China, where we find the biggest bamboo producers. So if you are using bamboo rolls, make sure that it hasn't traveled miles and miles, leaving a long trail of carbon emission to get to you.
There are other eco-friendly alternatives to using toilet paper altogether. You can use a bidet or reusable toilet cloth. A few companies are working towards making easy-to-use toilet attachments available for everyday households. Compared to a toilet roll, the bidet saves more water. A single bathroom tissue roll uses up about 37 gallons of water in its production, and then some more when you use it. If you use a bidet instead, you only need about one-eighth of a gallon to take care of business. To get rid of wetness, you can use a napkin to pat dry. A bidet can also save you money on toilet paper.
Another option is reusable toilet paper, which is more like a piece of clothing than paper. This method requires a lot of washing, and you would have to wash the cloth after each use. It also calls for disinfecting and sanitizing because of germs that will most certainly get on the cloth. The healthy way to use reusable toilet paper is to keep it as clean and germ-free as possible and don't share it with anyone.
Toilet papers live a brief life, and they are a single-use item that works great for sanitary reasons. However, a product that offers such a short service shouldn't leave permanent damage to our planet. Unfortunately, regular toilet paper contributes to deforestation and chemical pollution, which in turn aggravates climate change. Eco-friendly toilet paper helps us slow down deforestation, conserve our forest resources, and protect wildlife whose habitats get destroyed when we chop down trees.
|Watson, J.E.M., Evans, T., Venter, O. et al. The exceptional value of intact forest ecosystems. Nat Ecol Evol 2, 599–610 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-018-0490-x|
|Abildgaard A. et al. (2003). Survey of Chemical Substances in Consumer Products. No 34. Pages 9,10 & 11.|
Jen’s a passionate environmentalist and sustainability expert. With a science degree from Babcock University Jen loves applying her research skills to craft editorial that connects with our global changemaker and readership audiences centered around topics including zero waste, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.
Elsewhere Jen’s interests include the role that future technology and data have in helping us solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges. She’s also busy researching and exploring technology applications for product development for a changing world.