Environmentally Friendly Toilet Paper

While this is not a topic of conversation for polite company, it’s an important conversation to have, and one I’m intrigued to see generates a lot of emotion in people. The issues I see people get most excited about are softness and ply. My issues are scent (surprised by that?), pilling, durability (read strength and absorbency), and recycled content.

According to the Wikipedia article on TP the biggest difference between toilet papers is whether it’s virgin paper (from wood chips and scraps) or of recycled content. But paper hasn’t always been the material people have used for wiping themselves after using the “toilet”. Count your blessings for soft, convenient paper. This short list covers historical methods of toilet paper alternatives.

  • fabrics like wool, hemp, rags, and lace
  • water and snow
  • mineral matter, like stone, sand, or seashells
  • vegetable matter, including grass or hay, leaves, moss and ferns, seaweed, plant husks and fruit skins, wood shavings, and cores or cobs

Interestingly, cleansing with water is the preferred method over paper in much of the world.

Modern toilet paper is made of “recycled content” already, so why is recycled paper even an important issues? The “recycled” content is wood chips, not recycled paper, and it takes fewer resources (energy, water, and chemicals, for starters) to convert recycled paper into toilet paper than wood chips. Let me share some facts about what is saved by using one ton of recycled paper:

  • 6,953 gallons of water
  • 463 gallons of oil
  • 60-587 pounds (depending on the source) of air pollution
  • 3.06 cubic yards of landfill space
  • 4077 kWh (that amount of energy powers the average home for six months)
  • 17 trees

To balance that info, a cord of wood 自動皂液機 yields 1,000 pounds of toilet paper (or about 2,000 rolls).

According to GoodGuide.com the three best environmentally friendly toilet papers — all made from 100 percent recycled paper — are Seventh Generation, Earth Friendly Bathroom Tissue, and Green Heritage. The three worst toilet papers are Kirkland Signature Bath Tissue, Dublsoft Premium Bath Tissue, and CVS Premium Bathroom Tissue. Interestingly, not all of the 100 percent recycled-content bathroom tissues rated an environmentally friendly score. Natural Resources Defense Council takes a slightly different approach, and raises the issue of recycled content and post-consumer recycled content — a good point to keep in mind for the serious environmental consumer.

The issues identified that negatively impact a toilet paper’s rating include:

  1. toxic emissions
  2. hazardous waste targets
  3. sulphur and nitrogen oxide emissions
  4. water conservation
  5. particulate matter and VOC (volatile organic compounds)
  6. health and safety

And issues that positively impact a toilet paper’s rating include:

  1. recycled content
  2. post-consumer recycled content
  3. chlorine usage (less usage is better)
  4. how each roll is packaged

And then there is the packaging! Some bathroom tissue comes wrapped in plastic, others individually in paper, and some aren’t wrapped at all if you buy them in bulk. And other than gimmick paper or gag rolls, TP isn’t made of colored paper because the dye is harmful to the environment and can cause skin irritations. Perfumed tissue should also be avoided because of irritation issues.

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