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Why Couldn’t The Toilet Paper Cross the Road?*

Toilet paper. For those who use it, which is less than 30% of the world’s population, toilet paper can be a very personal choice. Two-ply or one-ply? Ultra-soft or just soft? Even how you put in a new roll of toilet paper could cause a debate: does the paper come out from the front or back?

Americans love their toilet paper. We make up about 4% of the world’s population, but are responsible for 20% of the global toilet paper consumption. When considering the environmental impact of consumer purchases, toilet paper rarely gets a mention. But when ranking items with harmful environmental impacts, toilet paper [ahem] is far from the bottom. Consider the following:

  • Toilet paper is a single-use product;

  • Many types use virgin paper, destroying forests, some of which are ancient. The process generates as much as three times the amount of carbon as products made from other types of pulp;

  • Even when forests are replenished, they are typically done with monoculture plantations which are comprised of a single species of tree that does not offer native plants and animals the chance to thrive; and

  • Chlorine, which is used to bleach the pulp white, often ends up in our water supply.

Now I am not suggesting that everyone stops using toilet paper or buys a bidet. Having lived in a country for several years where toilet paper was not readily available, I personally appreciate this luxury. However, there are choices we can make to have less of a negative impact on the environment without sacrificing too much.

One option is to use toilet paper that has recycled content. Many markets now carry these types—consumers just need to read labels carefully. Another idea is to purchase toilet paper that is not made from trees at all, but from bamboo, which is highly sustainable. Companies like Reel, Bim Bam Boo, and the amusingly-named Who Gives A Crap make toilet paper from bamboo, offer subscription rates, and are often also environmentally conscious in their products and shipping practices.

To see environmental ratings of some more popular known brands, check out this link:

Also remember if your toilet paper comes wrapped in plastic, you can easily recycle that plastic film.

So continue your environmental roll by reconsidering your toilet paper purchases!

*It got stuck in a crack.

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