100 Day Challenge #12: Stop flushing forests and choose toilet paper with recycled content

We know toilet paper isn't the most glamorous topic and it's rarely discussed. Have you ever been walking around the grocery store with your 2 packs of 24 jumbo roll toilet paper hoping this isn't the day you'll run into a colleague or random acquaintance? We've all been there. But the truth is that we all use toilet paper... A LOT of toilet paper... every day. So let's talk about it!

Did you know that global toilet paper consumption wipes out about 27,000 trees every day?


When we think of small daily changes that can have a tremendous, cumulative impact over a lifetime, what better example than the tissue we use every day, multiple times a day, for our entire life? I know we all love treating our tush to a super plush, soft wipe, but what price is the planet paying to sustain that indulgence? Here are some of the highlights:

  • A report published earlier this year by the Natural Resources Defense Council and Stand.earth stated that many of the large toilet paper manufacturers are sourcing their materials from centuries-old trees in some cases.

  • According to this report, the every day consumption of tissue products"facilitates a 'tree-to-toilet pipeline,' whereby centuries-old trees are hewn from the ground, converted into tissue pulp, rolled into perforated sheets or stuffed into boxes, and flushed or thrown away. The consequences for Indigenous Peoples, treasured wildlife, and the global climate are devastating." A scorecard (pictured here) was published in the report to rank some of the main toilet paper brands and their sustainability impact.

  • Making toilet paper from 100% virgin fiber “generates three times as much carbon as products made from other types of pulp.”

  • Manufacturing non-recycled toilet paper not only requires virgin trees, but the manufacturing of a single roll also uses about 37 gallons of water.

Okay, I think we've made our point. Not sure about you, but we think our behinds aren't more important than our virgin forests and all the wildlife living in them (not to mention the water and CO2 emissions that could be avoided)! So, it should come as no surprise that we choose to use toilet paper made out of 100% recycled content. There are many toilet tissue companies out there doing a great job, but we can personally vouch for Seventh Generation.


Image of Seventh Generation 100% recycled bath tissue (sourced from the Seventh Generation website)

Here are some of the reasons why we love Seventh Generation toilet paper and feel good about using it:

  • It's made from 100% recycled paper (minimum 50% post-consumer recycled fiber)

  • It's whitened without chlorine bleach

  • It has no added dyes, inks, or fragrances

  • It is wrapped in plastic, but we're able to recycle it at one of several store drop-offs nearby (another post on that soon!)

  • The process of creating recycled toilet paper uses 64% less energy and 50% less water and creates 74% less air pollution

Because we're all about education and knowledge-sharing, for full transparency if you look up recycled toilet paper you're bound to run across several dooms-day articles about how it contains traces of BPA which is a carcinogen. Let's talk about that too! BPA is an industrial chemical that has been used to make certain plastics and resins since the 1960s. Recycled toilet paper takes paper that was recycled at an office building for example, and creates that into a fully hygienic product that is totally safe to use (yes, even on your tush). The reason there are sometimes very small traces of BPA in recycled toilet paper is due mostly to paper products such as receipts or tickets that are coated with BPA making it into the recycling bin. In case you didn't know, paper items like receipts are coated with BPA (a plastic film) which helps keep the ink from fading.

Well that doesn't sound too great; no one really wants even traces of a carcinogen in their toilet paper. True, but we hate to break it to you... you are exposed to way more BPA by handling receipts and consuming products out of plastic containers than using recycled toilet paper. Thanks to the industrial processes we've chosen to use, BPA is everywhere: baby formula cans, food cans, bottle tops, and even water supply lines. So before you let some of these articles you might find on the internet freak you out about traces of BPA in recycled toilet paper, put it into perspective. We would obviously prefer to not have BPA anywhere, but because of the widespread use of it today, we think these articles that are hating on recycled toilet paper just because they contain traces of it are making a storm out of a glass of water. However, that's our opinion and we encourage you to do some research if you're still torn!


Another reason we love Seventh Generation: they are very transparent with the traces of BPA found in their recycled toilet paper products. Here's an article from the "Ingredients & Sourcing"section of their website that can get you started if you want to learn more.


So next time you go to buy that ultra-plush toilet tissue, ask yourself how you would feel if that square you're using were made out of a 200 year old tree from a virgin forest!


A Grist article really sums it up and we couldn't have said it better, "sure, recycled paper may not feel like wiping with something straight from the Buckingham Palace. But let’s save all of our asses instead."


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