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How Zero Waste Toilet Paper can Save the Planet and Save You Money

Estimated Read Time: 7 minutes

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We have the ability to have all-knowing computers in our pockets and you can text your appliances so why isn’t zero waste toilet paper more common? Check out this list of zero waste TP options.

Toilet paper — the ultimate single use product yet necessary to our way of life — or is it? Toilet paper is the unsung hero of our days. Rarely given a second thought until its needed, its value went mostly unrecognized until its 5 seconds of fame in Spring 2020.

Empty toilet paper aisle at grocery store

Photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplash

But the truth of the matter is toilet paper kinda stinks. Americans are the largest consumers of toilet paper and are responsible for 20% of the global consumption while making up just 4% of the world’s population.

The problem with toilet paper is that millions of trees are cut down, billions of gallons of water are used in production, and thousands of gallons of bleach are used to color it all only to be used once and then literally flushed down the toilet.

The good news is, we don’t need it. Yes, cultural norms tell us we do and the marketing teams at large corporations are largely responsible for that. But the year is 2021 and if we can have all-knowing computers in our pockets, then there must be zero waste toilet paper available somewhere.

Toilet Paper Has Always Been ‘Zero Waste’

Since the beginning of time, humans have found ways to clean themselves, but it hasn’t always been with paper from trees. 

Social status, culture, and even climate all played a role in what kind of natural tools were used for this dirty job. Said tools included water, snow, leaves, grass, sticks, & seashells, to name a few. The ancient Romans even went so far as affixing a sponge to a stick for use in communal toilets.

Stick with a sponge attached to the left side - ancient roman toilet paper

Image from History.com

China is credited with inventing toilet paper in the form of large fabric sheets that only the elite could use as early as the 2nd century; by the 6th century toilet paper was commonly used across China. Mass manufactured toilet paper as we know it today came around in the late 1800’s. And as indoor plumbing became common in most American homes, people needed an option that was easy to use and safer on pipes than what was currently being used (such as Sears magazine pages).

Why Toilet Paper Is Problematic

With every square you flush, you’re essentially flushing away ancient trees. The majority of American toilet paper comes from virgin ancient trees in the Canadian boreal forest. Not only are the trees being cut down but so is the entire ecosystem that was attached to it. 

Between 1996-2005 (9 years) an area the size of Ohio was cut down with half of that supply going to the United States.

Cut down branches and cleared out area from a forest

Photo by roya ann miller on Unsplash

The Canadian boreal forest is referred to as the Amazon of the north, covering roughly 270 million hectares and stretching from one end of the country to the other — seriously it’s really big. This forest accounts for 12% of the world’s carbon storage (the Amazon holds roughly 25% of the world’s carbon). 

Is Toilet Paper Really Necessary?

An argument can be made for whether we need toilet paper and there are plenty of countries today that don’t use it — or don’t use it as much as Americans do. Every year the average American uses 140 rolls of toilet paper

The truth is, we’ve been told by toilet paper companies that using paper to clean ourselves up is the most hygienic thing to do. The reality is, that’s not necessarily true. Over-wiping can cause pain, irritation, even bleeding and just as makeup remover wipes don’t actually remove makeup they just smear it around, the same is true for toilet paper. 

What is a Zero Waste Toilet Paper alternative?

A bidet is our best recommendation for an eco-friendly toilet experience. Our favorite is Tushy. Unpaper reusable strips as well as toilet paper made from bamboo and recycled materials are all alternative options.

Bidets Are the Best Zero Waste Toilet Paper 

The most obvious benefit is that by using a bidet instead of toilet paper you’re saving trees plus the bleach and other chemicals that are added to make toilet paper. That comes out to roughly 15 million trees, 437 billion gallons of water, and 253,000 gallons of bleach every year. Yikes!

TUSHY Classic 3.0

Image by Tushy

How to use a bidet

*Brands like Tushy are very easy to set up and boast an installation time of less than 10 minutes, even if you know nothing about plumbing — another modern marvel*

Adding a bidet is as simple as connecting an attachment to the hose line of your toilet. After you’ve done your business the bidet shoots a concentrated stream of water at your unmentionables. Using a nozzle you can control the water flow for your perfect level of cleanliness.

From there you can air dry, use a smaller amount of TP to pat dry, or be extra eco-friendly and set aside cloths to pat yourself dry with. 

Since a bidet uses water, don’t you end up wasting more water in the long run? The opposite is actually true if you factor in production costs. It takes 37 gallons of water to make 1 toilet paper roll and only 1.3 gallons of water for a week’s worth of using a bidet, such as Tushy.

Reusable Zero Waste Toilet Paper

If a bidet is not an option for you, don’t you worry, there are other zero waste toilet paper options for you! Like this reusable cloth toilet paper from our partners, Marley’s Monsters. Plus they come in a variety of fun colors and patterns! 

Marley's Monsters

Image Courtesy of Marley’s Monsters

To use — Keep your clean unpaper strips close to the toilet and use as you would regular toilet paper except DO NOT FLUSH. Keep a small trash can with a lid or a wet bag available to place the towels into after use. Every 2-3 days, wash, dry and reuse. 

To wash — Very similar to washing cloth diapers! You can pre-soak with vinegar/cleaning solution as needed then wash in hot water that’s at least 160°F (71°C) for at least 25 minutes. If you have a sanitize setting that also works.

Other Zero Waste Toilet Paper Options

If neither a bidet nor reusable toilet paper are right for you in your journey, never fear! Here are some other great zero waste toilet paper brands. 

Two boxes, one with a handle that reads Ecology is Intimate. Toilet paper rolls stacked around the boxes

Image Courtesy of Plant Paper

1. Plant Paper Bamboo Toilet Paper

This septic safe ‘paper’ is tree-free, formaldehyde and chlorine-free, and uses only a fraction of the water needed to make traditional toilet paper. Cartons and shipping boxes are 100% recycled, recyclable, compostable, and free of dyes and coating. Their entire supply chain is completely plastic-free! 

WGAC offers both recycled and bamboo options to fit your bathroom preferences. Their recycled option comes from post consumer paper waste sourced locally from schools and office buildings. Each roll is wrapped individually to keep the rolls hygienic. Wrapping each roll in paper uses less material and no plastic. 50% of all profits go to charity partners in sanitation and hygiene. 

We always say put your money where your beliefs are and the unfortunate truth is some of the big brands in toilet paper claim the demand for toilet paper made from recycled material isn’t there; and they continue to make paper from virgin trees and continue to destroy forests. 

Supporting brands that align with your values has never been more important. Contact your local representative, write letters to corporations, and put your money where your beliefs are. 

*This post contains an affiliate link to Tushy, which is a product and company we highly recommend. It costs you nothing extra to purchase through our affiliate link but we do receive financial compensation.

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