Zero waste toilet paper isn’t something most of us think about. We need toilet paper to keep clean down there, but sustainable toilet paper isn’t an option we see readily available.
Not only does toilet paper usually come wrapped in plastic, but it also tends to be made from forests we need to fight global warming.
If you’re thinking there has to be a better option than slowly flushing our forests down the toilet, you’re right. There are lots of different types of eco-friendly toilet paper, from bamboo toilet paper to recycled, and there are also completely paper-free options such as bidets.
Here are some of the best toilet paper alternatives out there.
All about Zero Waste Toilet Paper
While a bidet will certainly reduce or eliminate your toilet paper needs, it’s not for everyone. If you don’t want to use a bidet, finding quality zero waste toilet paper is the next best solution.
There are a surprising number of eco-friendly toilet papers out there that can help you.
Pros and Cons of Recycled Toilet Paper
Recycled toilet paper is eco-friendly because it takes paper waste that would ordinarily be thrown away and reuses it for a new purpose—in this case, as toilet paper.
Eco-friendly toilet paper helps save the environment by reusing what we already have and saving trees. It also saves on plastic-wrapping typically seem with toilet paper.
By reusing our waste in this way, we can help prevent the waste of a perfectly good tree. Although recycled paper is better for the environment than toilet paper made from virgin trees, it’s not without its drawbacks.
Why Recycled Toilet Paper Is Uncommon
There are just a handful of companies that have TP made of recycled material as an option. There are several reasons for this, and we think it’s important that we review these reasons before moving on.
Recycled toilet paper is certainly better for the environment because it’s transforming waste into something useful.
What’s not so great about it is the fact that it is still made from trees. Most of the paper used to make this product comes from Canada’s boreal forests, which is an important carbon sink.
The other problem with it is more of a physical problem. Glance at the paper items you’re throwing into your recycling and note just how many of them are glossy papers. Those glossy papers tend to have BPA in them, a known endocrine disruptor.
For those who are actively avoiding plastics out of fear of BPA, recycled toilet paper may not be of interest to them.
To put it in perspective, your skin will come into more contact with BPA by touching a credit card.
Due to BPA concerns, however, many recycled toilet papers don’t actually have much recycled content. Some have as little as 20% recycled content, to avoid adding too much BPA to their product.
Recycled Toilet Paper
1. Who Gives A Crap
This toilet paper is one of the best recycled toilet papers out there for the environment. It's shipped plastic-free, and the paper wrap is stylish enough to display in your home if you don’t mind the name.
They have two lines of toilet paper, recycled toilet paper made from completely recycled fibers, and bamboo. They are a certified B Corp, use carbon-neutral shipping, and genuinely seem to care about the planet.
If you’re looking for a zero waste toilet paper and don’t mind a little sass on your spool, this is a great option.
2. Seventh Generation
Seventh Generation is one of the few toilet paper companies that have a recycled toilet paper option. While their bulk option is wrapped in plastic, they do have singles wrapped in paper that are zero waste.
It’s made from 100% recycled paper and is whitened without bleach, making it a safer option for your bum.
3. Marcal 100% Recycled Toilet Paper
This is a 2-ply toilet paper specifically designed for green office spaces. It’s Green Seal Certified and American Made, which means you won’t be polluting the environment with a long boat ride from China.
It’s not as soft as other products, and you can definitely feel that it has a more ‘office’ vibe than a home use vibe, but it’s still definitely workable.
Marcal takes pride in the fact that their company has not cut down a single tree in the last 50 years it has been making toilet paper, and that’s a really big step.
4. Green Forest Premium 100% Recycled Toilet Paper
A favorite among customers, this is one of the softest recycled toilet papers out there. It doesn’t have many of the issues common with recycled toilet paper, including crumbling and making ‘snow’ in your hands during use.
Unfortunately, it comes wrapped in plastic, and this doesn’t seem to be avoidable. But the outer wrapping is recyclable at most grocery stores, so it's not the worst thing in the world.
Bamboo Toilet Paper
There’s a surprisingly generous amount of bamboo toilet paper out there, and for good reason. Bamboo toilet paper is a real, sustainable solution. It's the largest member of the grass family and grows like a weed.
A single bamboo plant can grow as much as 3 feet in one day, will grow back if cut, and does not need fertilizer or pesticides to grow. Their fiber can easily be harvested and turned into cloth, flooring, and even paper. On top of all this, bamboo doesn’t need as much space to grow compared to traditional forests.
While how it is treated after growth can still be a problem, since some methods require harsh chemicals that are harmful to the planet, bamboo is far more sustainable than cutting down trees.
Although bamboo toilet paper has a lot of benefits, it does have a few cons. It's more expensive than traditional toilet paper and must be purchased online—you’re unlikely to find any at your local supermarket.
Lastly, although bamboo requires much less space than a forest, the demand for bamboo has caused damage to natural bamboo forests, as well as replacing bamboo rain forests with bamboo monocultures.
Although bamboo can be misused, it's also possible for it to be a truly sustainable option for toilet paper, second only to using a bidet—and perhaps better in areas where water conservation is extremely important. With that in mind, here are some great bamboo toilet paper options.
5. Tushy Toilet Paper
If you have a septic tank, this brand of toilet paper isn’t only good for the environment—it’s one of the best choices!
This toilet paper is made without dyes or bleaching, which is a lot easier on the bacteria that are responsible for breaking down toilet paper in the tank. It actually breaks down better and is safer for your septic tank than anything in the store.
As for the feel of the toilet paper? It's softer than the average bamboo toilet paper, but not as soft as a great wood pulp toilet paper. If that’s a sacrifice you’re willing to make for the planet, Tushy is the best bamboo toilet paper option for you.
6. Reel Toilet Paper
Chances are the reason you’re interested in bamboo toilet paper is to help the environment—but it’s no stretch of the imagination to guess you also care about the welfare of other human beings. With Reel Toilet Paper, you can combine both.
It turns out, millions of people in developing countries are forced to defecate outside. This can spread disease, harm aquatic life, and cause people to lose out on a potentially valuable resource.
Reel donates a small amount of money from every purchase to SOIL, a company that makes composting toilets for people in need.
The result is that every roll of toilet paper you buy is not only helping you reduce your carbon footprint, but it's also helping others around the world at the same time.
Customers who purchased Reel all reported being satisfied with the product, including softness, without any real complaints. That’s pretty rare for toilet paper, which definitely makes this a great selection for those who care about quality, carbon footprint, and human justice.
7. No. 2 Toilet Paper
If you need a good laugh, No.2 Toilet Paper eases you into the problem of sustainable toilet paper, and its solutions, in a funny way. Their video demonstrating problems such as “butt crumble” by scratching different toilet papers against someone’s beard and seeing what’s left behind.
It’s easy to put two and two together and understand that butt crumble involves unpleasant debris in places you definitely don’t want any.
This toilet paper is also silky smooth, strong, and comes in recycled packaging printed with soy ink. The wrap is also meant to be an artistic statement, with ever-changing prints that make storing your TP right out in the open a more pleasant experience.
Probably the best toilet paper alternative of all is not to use toilet paper in the first place. Bidets are common in many places around the world and can get the job done cleaner without any toilet paper at all. Instead, a stream of water is sent up to clean the area.
If you’re wondering how you dry off after a visit, most towel off with a ‘family cloth’ after using the bidet, and air drying is the norm in a public setting. If you’re in a hurry, however, a tiny bit of toilet paper (much smaller than you’d need for wiping) can be used to speed up the process.
If you’ve taken a few moments to search for a bidet, don’t feel bad if you’re overwhelmed by the options. Not only are there different types of bidets such as attachments and toilet seat types, but there are also dozens of different brands and styles.
The best bidet for you depends entirely on what you are looking for, but here are a few great options:
8. Hello Tushy 3.0
This bidet seat comes with a temperature adjustment and force control so your spray can be as firm or gentle as you like it. The water does the job of keeping you as clean as possible, while also saving on toilet paper.
This brand is well-liked, with a responsive team that works hard to help you if you have problems or need advice on getting your seat installed.
9. Bidetmega 200 Electric Bidet Seat for Round Toilets
Have a round toilet? This bidet can help. The heated seat gives you a warm and comfortable experience, while the customized water experience is designed to fit everybody. There are even instructions written in braille to make this bidet as accessible as possible.
Bidets are the most environmentally friendly option available, but if you aren’t sold on using them, there are plenty of alternatives out there that are much friendlier to the planet.
10. Element Non-Electric Bidet Attachment
If you don’t want to swap out your entire toilet seat to try out a bidet, an attachment may work best for you. This bidet attachment is best known for being one of the easiest to install. It’s only flaw? The simplicity of installation means that there’s no warm water option. This can be a shock if you’re not ready for room temperature water hitting your body, but they do have a more complicated to install Element+ with a warm water function.
More on Family Cloth
“Family cloth” or cloth wipes can also be used in place of conventional toilet paper. This is often too much even for all but the most dedicated zero wasters, but those who use family cloth in this manner swear by it.
In this case, a large stack of clean family cloths is available and used like toilet paper. Instead of tossing them out, these rags are put in a wet bag, which is later washed on the hottest setting in the washer to sanitize, and then reused.
Some people use a family cloth in this way for everything, others only for pee, and most only after cleaning with a bidet. While this may be a little too zero waste for some people, it is a very sustainable form of reusable toilet paper.
Why Should You Switch to Sustainable Toilet Paper?
As you can see, there are many different options available if you’re looking for a toilet roll with no plastic packaging. If you’re on a zero-waste journey, you probably didn’t have toilet paper on your concern list at all—much less near the top of your list.
Why be concerned about something that is biodegradable and so very necessary to our lives?
Even if you choose traditional toilet paper but get it without the plastic outer wrap, there are still many concerns about how the product is made. About 20% of unsustainable tree harvesting in Canada’s boreal forests is for single-use products like paper towels, facial tissues, and toilet paper.
Cutting down ancient forests isn’t just bad, these forests are a critical tipping point for the planet. If too much of the forests are cut down, it could make it hard for the rest of the planet to remain in balance. It’s not just a matter of using less, but because the planet needs these forests to survive.
On top of this, a huge amount of water and other resources go into making traditional toilet paper. All together, traditional toilet paper uses 3 times more resources than even a basic, recycled toilet paper.
The average roll of toilet paper requires 13 gallons of water to create, so even if you spent a long time using that bidet to get extra clean, you probably won’t be using anywhere near that much water.
No matter which option you choose, switching to a zero-waste toilet paper or a bidet will make a huge difference for the planet. Switching your toilet paper protects trees, conserves water, and makes the world a better place to live—one flush at a time.