Global, Green

Toilet Paper


First post back from vacation is going to be about toilet paper.

For the last few years, Krissy and I have allowed ourselves to be pushed and challenged in different areas – theologically, practically, politically, etc.  One of the areas that has been particularly challenging is trying to figure out how we can live our lives in a way that recognizes the impact that our actions (often actions that contribute to massive injustice) have on others (whether next door or around the world).  Part of this is in conjunction with the “green” trend, but we honestly hope that our actions have less to do with cultural and social trends and more to do with desiring to have our lives and actions more closely match our hearts and beliefs.  These thoughts have changed a lot of the habits of our everyday life – riding bikes or walking instead of driving, eating vegetables and grains instead of meat, and living in community versus living in isolation.

But one thing that we haven’t really changed yet is how we use toilet paper.  It will not surprise many of you to know that I have a reputation for being a bit thrifty.  Growing up in the Midwest, I inherited a knack for finding (and loving) deals.  So, because of that, it’s sometimes hard to buy eco-friendly products that cost more than the “regular” variety without any clear kick back in our direction.  It wasn’t hard to switch to CFL light bulbs – the energy savings makes it a no brainer.  It’s not that hard to bike or walk instead of drive – gas is expensive.  It’s not hard to eat vegetables instead of cows – we grow vegetables in our garden and eat them, but we cannot do that with a cow.  But toilet paper doesn’t offer the same kind of incentive.  You use it once, and you try to get rid of it as soon as possible.   Spending $2/roll doesn’t do much except drain your wallet faster.

There have been a number of reasons that we haven’t “gone green” with our toilet paper.

  1. It costs more.  We like deals.  We buy what’s cheap.
  2. Recycled toilet paper lacks the “sexy factor” of other “green” trends.  No one is looking at our toilet paper and judging what percentage of post-consumer materials it’s made from or what method was used to bleach it.  Your toilet paper won’t get you the same look that walking out of a grocery store with 27 plastic bags instead of using canvas ones will cause.
  3. The one time we tried to buy a better/friendlier toilet paper, it ended up being individually packaged and I could smell the fossil fuels we burned in the production of such wasteful material.  This soured me to all but our usual brand of toilet paper that we get from Target.

However, I have grown convinced that what kind of toilet paper we use is important.  The Natural Defense Research Council says that if every household replaced just one roll of conventional toilet paper (98% of our toilet paper comes from old-growth forests), nearly half a million trees would be saved.  Additionally, some companies even advertise that their toilet paper comes from old forests simply because it makes it softer.  Awesome.  We are fine with harming creation as long as we have something soft to clean up with.

So, the search for eco-friendly toilet paper has begun.  However, I have yet to find an awesome option.  I have searched in stores and online for a toilet paper that is (a) made from recycled material with a high percentage of post-consumer materials with eco-friendly bleaching, (b) affordable (although I am ready to spend more for eco-toilet paper now based on some of the statistics that I cited above), and (c) is packaged in a way that is responsible and efficient (i.e. it is not individually packaged, I can get more than 12 single rolls in one package, the rolls have more than 192 sheets for each wasted cardboard roll, etc.).

But it is just not easy to find the “winner.”  The NDRC has a great list of “recommended products,” but good luck wading through them and finding one that meets my criteria.  It actually led me to search around for alternatives to toilet paper – one of my roommates found a Japanese toilet we can buy for $400 which uses bidet-like sprayers to do the dirty work and there is also a movement toward the “family cloth” (I will not explain it but you can read about it here if you wish).  But I’d rather just have a nice source for recycled toilet paper.

So, options are on the table.  The search is on.  I will let you know what I come up with.  Let me know if you have any tips.


3 thoughts on “Toilet Paper

  1. Pingback: Just do it. «

  2. nikki says:

    Pine needles work well when you go the right direction. They even leave a nice pine sent. But not sure how well they’d go down your toilet. In my opinion, the better option would be snow. It cools you down and actually works remarkably well. I realize this might be more difficult in bathroom in CA than in the Wyoming wilderness. You should simply buy a snow cone machine. You’d also be eliminating the waste produced by using toilet paper. (You might want to look into energy efficient snow cone machines… not sure about that part yet.)


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