September 29th, 2011

5 Ways to Green Your Toilet Paper

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5 Ways to Green Your Toilet Paper Groovy Green Livin

Toilet paper is a staple in every home and yet it’s rarely discussed. It needs more recognition. It’s a necessity- right up there with food, water and shelter- and our toilet paper choices are impacting the environment in a big way.

One would think that having three boys would actually help conserve toilet paper (they’re not supposed to need it for every visit to the bathroom)-au contraire -we go through the stuff at a ridiculous pace.

I wanted to put taboo topic of toilet paper on the table so I decided to take a quick toilet paper survey among a few friends. Here’s what I found:

  • Most were into some green cleaning and personal care products.
  • All use conventional toilet paper.
  • Price was a big factor in toilet paper selection.
  • Some used the same brand from their childhood (do you remember what toilet paper you used as a kid? I have no recollection).
  • The feel of the toilet paper was of utmost importance–the softer the better. “Green” toilet paper has a reputation of being scratchy and thin.

I found it interesting that some were really into green cleaning and personal care products, but drew the line at toilet paper.  I get it: extra-soft, quilted and multi-ply IS nice. But I worry about the chemicals that make it so soft and plush and then come in contact with our body. And how about the huge ecological consequences toilet paper manufacturing  is having on trees?

Thankfully there are a few ways to green your toilet paper habit.

  1. Use recycled toilet paper. I know what you’re thinking, but no worries the recycled toilet paper is made from recycled paper NOT recycled toilet paper! The Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) says that if every household in the United States replaced just one roll of virgin fiber toilet paper (500 sheets) with 100% recycled ones, we could save 423,900 trees. Not only will we save trees-we’ll also save water and cut back on paper waste that continues to fill our overflowing landfills.
  2. Don’t use toilet paper that’s been bleached with chlorine.  White doesn’t necessarily mean bleached-there are other ways to whiten toilet paper. Look for products that are chlorine free.
  3. Count your squares. Be aware of how much you are using.  According to TreeHugger there is actually a right and wrong way to load your toilet paper onto the holder. If you stick to the “right” way (with the sheets coming over the top of the roll) you will waste less paper. Who knew??
  4. Don’t buy toilet paper that’s individually wrapped. Those individually wrapped rolls produce a lot of extra waste. Try to buy your toilet paper in bulk-there is much less packaging waste.
  5. Make sure the toilet paper has no added dyes and fragrances.

My toilet paper of choice

I know this is getting a little personal. I’ve tried my fair share of green toilet paper. Some of them were scratchy and thin and some fell apart during use (ewww factor). There is one that I’ve stuck by for a few years: Green Forest 12 Double roll pack or the Green Forest 4 roll pack . I don’t think it’s as soft as some of the big conventional choices, but it does the trick.

Also remember, keep your eyes open because green toilet paper does go on sale.

Time for you to share. Do you draw the line at “green” toilet paper? What brand of toilet paper do you buy and are you loyal to it? Does price impact which tp you choose?

Big thank you to my impromptu “toilet paper focus group”. You guys rock!

[Photo used under Creative Commons from Sharon Mollerus/Flickr]

Disclosure: there are a few Amazon Affiliate links in this post. If you decide to buy anything by clicking on them you will put a few pennies in my pocket. Thanks!

35 Responses to “5 Ways to Green Your Toilet Paper”

  1. I’ve actually been thinking about switching to cloth, at least some of the time. I mean, if people can deal with cloth diapers, shouldn’t I pay my dues as a childfree person and at least deal with my own waste? I go back and forth on whether I’m sufficiently over my squeamishness to take that step.

    For now I use Seventh Generation. Honestly, it’s been so long since I used conventional toilet paper that I’m always surprised by how thick and plush it is when I’m at a friend’s house. No, recycled doesn’t feel as nice. But I’d far rather go with thin (don’t we all use even worse at public restrooms) than be flushing virgin forests down my toilet.

  2. I find that MEN are unaccountably picky about toilet paper. Considering their limited usage…

  3. I will admit to doing a shake like while camping when doing number 1.

  4. Important topic! I always love your facts and figures.

    I buy a 48-roll box of Natural Value 100% recycled bathroom tissue. No chlorine. I get a special discount for buy the large box.

    I see from your list the drawback is that each roll is individually wrapped.

    Darn! I expect that the wrapping on the roll is recycled paper too. But still, it’s a lot more waste.

    Hmmn, what to do…

  5. Hi Jennifer-You’ll have to let me know if you switch to cloth. That has never crossed my mind as an option 🙂 I don’t think you need to pay any sort of dues as a childfree person! That’s above and beyond in my book. I think back to how many diapers I changed and washed and I don’t think I could every go there again. I’ve tried Seventh Generation and found that it sort of fell apart during use (there’s that ewwww factor!). Have you found that? I agree-when I have the opportunity to use the thick plush tp I notice a huge difference. I’m OK with recycled toilet paper-just another small way to make a big difference.

  6. Sarah-that’s hysterical (and true!).

  7. Thanks Sandra. I need a 48 roll box! That would save me many visits to the store. Interesting that each roll is individually wrapped…..that’s a lot of labor on their end (plus the waste). I wonder why? Do they sell to commercial businesses?

  8. Well, I do have some scraps leftover from my cloth pad making experiment (well…I actually have to finish making them — maybe this weekend!), so it would be easy to experiment with those. The polar fleece doesn’t even need to be hemmed! Win!

    I haven’t had that issue with Seventh Generation, but I fold each sheet into quarters. Sorry if that’s TMI.

  9. Great topic! I remember the first time I bought TP that was marketed as green: when I unwrapped the clear plastic layer, I found more plastic – they had individually wrapped each roll! For a “green” TP option! Nuts.

    Here’s a great resource: the NRDC’s shopper’s guide to home tissue products

  10. I’m surprised at the reluctance to use recycled TP. I’ve chosen it for years when available, and it’s easier to find today than ever. I use the Bright Green brand from Tom Thumb (Safeway, Randall’s, etc) and it’s not too rough. I actually don’t like the really cottony brands because they crumble. Compared to some things you could do to go green which can be expensive and time consuming, recycled TP seems like an easy way to save trees.

  11. I echo Sarah’s comment about men! I buy the TP around here so it is always recycled… but he uses about 75% of it, and this is in a household of 4!

    Interesting thought from Jennifer on using cloths, as I cloth diapered my youngest as she was near the end… What’s the diff? Hmmmm. Something to think about (never thought I would say that!) 🙂

  12. “…there is actually a right and wrong way to load your toilet paper onto the holder. If you stick to the “right” way (with the sheets coming over the top of the roll) you will waste less paper.”

    You make some important points here, but this isn’t one of them. Whether the paper comes off the top or bottom makes no difference, unless you don’t bother to count how much you’re taking.

    And why are you going on about “saving trees”? It’s not as if huge numbers of oak, ash, beech and other slow-growing broadleaf trees are being felled to make toilet paper. Toilet paper is made from softwood species, and all the responsible manufacturers grow their own. If you want to make a difference, never buy another newspaper. These are the real culprits: clear-felling old-growth boreal forests for newsprint.

  13. Thanks for your comment Dennis. TreeHugger and Current Configuration put together a cute demonstration on why they believe the way you hang your toilet paper roll does make a difference in the amount of waste.

    According to NRDC “giant paper producers are forcing the destruction of our continent’s most vibrant forests, and devastating the habitat for countless wildlife species in the process.” While I’m sure there are responsible manufacturers out there, there are still many that are not and are contributing to the destruction of trees.

    I agree with you on the newspaper front-fortunately there are many ways to get your news without supporting hard copies of the newspaper. Another simple way to make a big impact.

  14. Hi,

    I just found your website – I was on the search regarding recycled toilet paper and BPA. What do you think about it – supposedly there is BPA in recycled papers of all kinds due to the paper which is sometimes recycled called thermal paper. Does this worry you if BPA gets absorbed into your body by wiping? Also I use recycled paper towels if I use paper towels and sometimes use them to wipe out my iron skillet or use it for seasoning the iron skillet with oil – now if there is BPA in them as well I wonder how much of it goes into my iron skillet? I want to do good and get poisoned for it? What about recycled paper pizza boxes like Kashi’s? Or any other cereal box and on and on its not only the cans.

    Also regarding cans which ones have more BPA lining or more often steel or aluminum cans? Are there even any alternatives available for the industry? How much does actually get absorbed into the food from the BPA under which circumstances – I know absorption rates differ drastically from solid to liquid to acidic. Why do companies not worry about it what is going on I just need some light shed on this.

    I just had my first baby and I am so worried that the BPA harmed her in some way I cannot see yet while she was in utero due to my recycled paper use – I wished I would have done my research earlier – once I started looking things just kept popping up and I thought I was doing good health conscious wise _ I am relatively informed but somehow there is not enough attention drawn to these matters still. What to do…

  15. I was just checking and BPA is in ALL canned foods to less or more extent – thats what I am reading so far. I am desperate at this point for this country to care about its people but until that happens if at all what should we do – it seems like everything packaged has to be avoided radically these chemicals keep popping up everywhere organic does not help all the time neither. We all have to go start cooking again from scratch we just can’t trust big cooperation or the FDA or even USDA or EPA – they lost integrity if they ever had it for that matter. I hope as many mothers as possible wake up it is time to take back control over our food. Convenience comes with a high price.

  16. Hi Natascha! You raise an excellent point. Yes, there certainly could be BPA in recycled paper. It’s frightening to think how BPA travels and contaminates everything. One more reason BPA needs to be banned. California is paving the way by banning BPA in sippy cups and bottles. Hopefully the rest of the states will follow their lead. You could try Bum Boosa bamboo toilet paper if you want to steer clear of recycled.

    If I am going to buy canned-I try to buy Eden Organic canned beans which are BPA free. Any tomato based products that come in cans will generally contain BPA. I’m not sure how to answer your question about why companies don’t worry about what’s going on-that’s the 20 million dollar question!

  17. Natascha-try Eden Organics. Their canned bean products are all BPA free. You could also soak your own beans if you are feeling very ambitious (I know you have a new baby and this probably isn’t an option!). Cooking from scratch, using fresh, local, organic products is the solution, but not a viable one for most. Well said: convenience comes at a high price.

  18. Thanks for the laugh Lisa!

  19. I really need to get around to changing in this dept. I don’t use napkins or paper towels, but still buy cheap TP and tissues. That BPA issue does give me pause. Maybe I should just use my kids’ cloth wipes, at least for #1. For sure, I need to find non-bleached ones.

  20. Hi Betsy-The BPA issue is frustrating and makes this whole issue very confusing. I can’t wrap my head around using reusables for TP-I can do it for tissues, no problem!

  21. […] toilet paper rolls are ready for action. They can be unraveled by the sneakiest of children in a matter of […]

  22. Just saw the great discussion. What about a cheap disposable “buhday” like the ones europeons use all the time. I actually bought one to try it out. I figured it would be wonderful, but it has set on the box staring at me:) the price was like just $60. I think I got from But it looks like it will be fantastic!

  23. I have to admit Jeff, I’ve never heard of a disposable bidet. Interesting idea instead of toilet paper. You’ll have to let us know if it works 🙂

  24. Wow, truly you learn something new everyday! I didn’t know about BPA in recycled paper, that’s a bummer. We’ve been trying so hard to eliminate plastic, or at least drastically reduce and I love how close we’re getting, an overwhelming task. We’ve used recycled TP for years, I switch between brands, Sev Gen, Green Forest, etc. whatever is available where I am at the time. I’ve thought about reusable cloth, but we also cloth diapered our two children and that task is daunting to think about again. I love the Bidet idea, I’d also like to look into the bamboo TP you mentioned above. I do wish these things were more important to our government, but it seems the people are really going to be the ones to get these changes made. Thanks for your great posts!

  25. Hi Tanya, BPA seems to be in so many places that we wouldn’t ever imagine. I can’t wrap my ahead around reusable clothes for TP. Just need a BPA free TP solution for starters.

  26. […] you are not quite ready for water cleansing, you can still help to save virgin tress.  Check out 5 Ways to Green Your Toilet paper at Groovy Green […]

  27. Cloth toilet paper is awesome! I’m planning a blog post about it soon!

  28. BPA in recycled toliet paper is because of people recycling receipts. Keep them out of the bin!

  29. True-toilet paper can have BPA. Let’s get the BPA out of receipts!

  30. Please share when you write the post on cloth toilet paper!

  31. One brand of green toilet paper that I have been using is Bum Boosa. Instead of being made from trees, it is made from bamboo, which is a lot more sustainable. The toilet paper is made from 100% bamboo processed with the mechanical pulping method. It is tree-free, biodegradable, BPA-free, elemental chlorine-free and it breaks down quickly. Even the packaging is made from recycled paper. I find that it is really soft and the paper is thick, so it doesn’t tear easily. The best part is that they plan a tree for every 4 rolls sold.

  32. Thanks for the info Steve. I’ve heard of Bum Boosa, but never tried it. Sounds like a fantastic option and a great company. Appreciate the comment.

  33. I’m surprised you didn’t family cloth. My wife gets really scrappy and cuts up old t-shirts and places them in nice wicker baskets in each bathroom. We use them for our hands, bums and cleaning.

  34. So I tbink its important to note here that “BPA-Free” is a farce since it only means that they have replaced it with one of many nearly identical bisphenols – namely BPS or BPF, that have now been shown to be just as bad OR WORSE than BPA. Just google “BPA BPS” & you will turn up a host of reports & studies from major universities & science organizations stating just that. It’s ridiculous. 100% Bamboo toilet paper seems to be the way to go. I’d steer clear of the ones using sugar cane &/or corn as these are some of the most heavily pesticide/herbicide/fungicide laden crops out there, which without a doubt ends up in the final product (your tp), not to mention the corn being used is most likely GMO. Keeping receipts out of the recycle is not going to do anything since it will go to the landfill & end up in our soils, waterways & oceans where it will continue to contaminate the food (& water) supply for thousands of years. Just handling those receipts exposes you to more BPA than anything. The fine BPA powder coating the surface of the receipt is absorbed transdermally through the skin directly into the blood stream. If you then touch your mouth, nose, eyes, your food, etc. exposure is greater. Those working in retail by far have the most dangerous level or exposure since they handle receipts all day. For canned food products there is currently no good choice other than to NOT buy them. I don’t. EVERY can, from safe-way to whole foods, from conventional to organic, is lined with this plastic. If you want to avoid these dangerous endocrine-disrupting chemicals, canned food is off the grocery list. Sorry. It’s not pretty, it’s not nice, but it’s the state of affairs in the world today.

  35. I have used consistently the TJs tp. Not only is it recycled paper but it’s not scratchy and the price is reasonable. check it out!

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About Lori

Hi! I’m Lori, a recovering attorney, writer, and mom to three boys. Join me as I uncover and share the latest info on healthy living. Learn more.

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