Reducing single use items and being kinder to our planet in general is a mission that is quickly gaining momentum. However, toilet paper is likely not the first item we stop to think about when it comes to sustainability.

While it’s not plastic, most paper products are single use and sourced from virgin trees. Cue Madonna, “Like a Virgin.” But truly, chances are the toilet paper we use to wipe our tushies are from virgin tree pulp. They will be “touched for the very first time,” only once, then swirled down into sewage. This grossly unsustainable process has been dubbed the “tree-toilet-pipeline.”

Okay, but we do need toilet paper. Don’t worry, I’m not going to suggest cleaning yourself with a leaf. However, as conscious consumers, it’s the small choices we make in our daily lives that can add up to big change and impact for both animals, people and planet. I recognize that we live in an imperfect, consumeristic society so harvesting trees is, well, just about inevitable. The larger issue here that we are using pulp from virgin trees, one of the most environmentally destructive sources, to create a product we use once and then toss down the toilet. 

“Although a roll of paper towels may come and go without any significant impact on consumers’ wallets, the cost to forests is high and the impact on the environment enduring.” 

NRDC

Forests are the lungs of the Earth. They effectively regulate greenhouse gas emissions and absorb massive amounts of carbon dioxide converting it into life giving oxygen. Yet, we are clear cutting forests at the staggering rate of more than a million acres of boreal forest every year, the equivalent to seven National Hockey League rinks each minute! This is undoubtedly a threat to the environment and climate change. 100% virgin pulp has one of the highest carbon footprints, generating three times as much carbon as products made from other types of pulp. Not only that, with fallen tress comes the devastating decline of indigenous species to native forests and indigenous people as well. These eco-systems are some of the last undisturbed places on earth that support habitat for wildlife that are not seen anywhere else on the planet.

There has got to be better way. Forests are far too vital to be flushing away.  

Photo by Annie K on Unsplash

Thankfully, there is! There are many other sustainable alternatives — one being tissue and paper products made from recycled paper. We absolutely do not need to rely on trees from ancient forests for our paper needs. Instead, we can create them using post consumer recycled content or other sustainably sourced alternative fibers. Using 100% post-consumer recycled content in tissue products has a significantly smaller environmental footprint and is also far less toxic to create.

It is important to be mindful that not all recycled paper products are created equal. Many products can boast using recycled content when they actually only contain a small percentage of post-consumer recycled content. Don’t worry though, finding 100% recycled toilet paper that is high quality and durable is not difficult. In fact, it’s likely already in stock at your favorite store. 

Since 1988, Seventh Generation has been continuously setting the bar higher for products that are biodegradable, cruelty free and sustainably sourced — using the power of nature to make them effective and easy swaps for the conventional, chemical laden products many of us grew up using, myself included. They are dedicated to their mission to nurture and protect the health of the next seven generations via household products that are gentler on humans, animals and the environment. Thus, all of their paper products are made from 100% recycled content using a minimum of 50% post consumer recycled paper and no more than 50% pre-consumer recycled paper.

“We will care today for seven generation’s of tomorrows by stewarding social and environmental progress in the communities we live, work and do business through education, environmental conservation, research and advocacy.”

Seventh Generation

I remember when I first discovered the dirty truth about paper and cleaning products. I was angry, upset and confused. Seventh Generation was one of the first brands I felt comfortable investing in. Additionally, I felt empowered knowing they give back to communities through The Seventh Generation Foundation. They are also a Certified B Corporation which means they are held to a higher ethical and environmental standard. Plus, they have a whole list of other third party certifications too.

Living a more eco-friendly lifestyle is always a process. I am still learning everyday, doing my best to live low waste and eco-consciously. I do slip up from time to time. No one is perfect but we can all strive to do better little by little and learn from each other. I’ve listed a few ways to practice the 3 R’s in relation to household paper products which I hope is helpful if this is newer information to you!

Reduce: Minimizing how much we consume is always the first step in living more consciously. By assessing our consumption of single use paper products and identifying ways to reduce our use, we can opt for a more sustainable choice and/or use less. I feel this also goes hand in hand with investing in quality products that have better performance which generally means you don’t have to buy or use as much.

Reuse: Definitely not advising to reuse toilet paper or tissues but noticing any areas in your life or cleaning regimen where you can swap paper products for rags — using old towels, tee shirts , etc. If you have a utensil roll up to avoid plastic cutlery, maybe including a cloth napkin or even using cloth napkins at home instead of paper. Reusables over single use whenever possible.

Recycle: If every household in the US replaced a 4 pack of 240 sheet virgin fiber toilet paper with recycled toilet paper we could save over 740,000 trees! Doing our best to purchase only 100% recycled paper products, like those from Seventh Generation is a perfect example. We can also compost used paper towels and napkins as long as they haven’t touched chemicals!

Thank you to Seventh Generation for generously sponsoring this post and raising awareness for the absurdity of using virgin paper for household paper products. As always, opinions are all my own.