Toilet Paper from Recycled Paper, not Trees: Let’s Do This!


Is it still possible to find recycled toilet paper during the corona virus epidemic? With people stocking up and increasing the demand for toilet paper it is harder to make sustainable choices. The first thing I thought of was why toilet paper? Why not try something new while we are all stuck inside? Why not try a bidet?  And, are bidets environmentally conscious?

I must not have been the only person with these thoughts. According to this business insider article “the bidet uses only one-eighth of a gallon of water, while it takes about 37 gallons of water to make a single roll of toilet paper” It also does not involve cutting down any trees, which is a wonderful plus. There are of course some negative aspects of bidets, such as the fact that many are made from plastic. This plastic will eventually end up in a landfill but their overall impact compared to regular toilet paper is much less. BetterMeetsReality has a great post listing out the positives and negatives of bidets compared to traditional toilet paper. 

But what about other options during COVID-19 for us less adventurous folk? My suggestion is to get on waiting lists such as Who Gives a Crap‘s. To consistently check your grocery store on your weekly shop for recycled paper and honestly as much as jumbo roll toilet paper isn’t soft and lovely most of it isn’t sold out online: including recycled paper! 

*Updated April 23rd 2020 

Using Recycled Toilet Paper  

Does your toilet paper come from Canada’s boreal forests? The National Resources Defense Council is petitioning the makers of Charmin to stop destroying the best carbon-reduction strategy we have: preserving forests.

And lucky for us, we have an easy way to reduce our own carbon footprint, starting TODAY: buy TP made from recycled paper, not from trees! 

As I’ve mentioned before, throwing something in the recycle bin isn’t enough to ensure that it stays out of landfills. To make it financially feasible to recycle, we need to buy recycled products. A recent New York Times article reports that since China stopped importing much of our recycled paper, many municipalities have nowhere to send it. This is where you come in to save the day by picking the TP that’s made from post-consumer paper! 

NDRC reports that Whole Foods’ 365 brand and Trader Joe’s toilet paper that are NOT the “super-soft” kind are perfectly sustainable. Green Forest and other types you may find at the supermarket are probably fine, too. Today, I am sharing information about some of my favorite brands to help you locate and try some of this earth-saving super-material for yourself (contains affiliate links). Give it a try — you will probably survive the experience! 

Seventh Generation: Recycled TP Available at Target

Seventh Generation has high recycled content toilet paper that is “mostly made in North America” according to their website. Although the whole big package is wrapped in plastic film, it’s important to know that it’s a film made from 50% recycled plastic. And it can be recycled at stores that collect plastic bags and films.

This brand can be a bit pricey, but when buying the large bulk size, I think it’s reasonable. The company is always striving to lower the cost, and they remind us that the best way to lower the cost of a product is to tell your friends about it. When it becomes widely adopted, it will be manufactured at lower cost thanks to economies of scale. In other words, doing more of something makes it cheaper per unit. 


Marcal: Recycling Before It Was Chic

Marcal Paper fire: 80 years of New Jersey history gone in an ins

Marcal Small Steps TP was my go-to TP in Philadelphia. It was manufactured in New Jersey from post-consumer paper and no more expensive than the other brands. Being a large, old company, they most likely had achieved some economy of scale.

Marcal found a way to stay in business by closing the manufacturing loop and developing a truly sustainable model. The founder’s grandson says, “He saw New York as a concrete forest.” Marcal ran its own recycling programs for over 20 years, recycling 230,000 tons per year. This was a wonderful thing to do for a city that has struggled to get its high-rise communities to sort their waste. 

I just LOVE how they did the right thing — making “paper from paper and not from trees,”  — before it was trendy and popular. Their packaging was much less “greenwashed” than the other brands mentioned here. Though they listed impressive statistics on their labels, the graphics were not self-congratulatory or fashion-conscious. And heck, if your company had saved 21 million trees from being cut down, you’d probably mention that, too, right?


*On January 30th 2019 the Marcal factory burnt down. Now, a year after this devastating fire the paper plant in Elmwood Park has opened up again. It was a devastating tragedy that left 500 people jobless, along with losing important infrastructure in the paper recycling business. Their re-opening has fortunately been timely with the increase in demand for toilet paper during COVID- 19.  


Who Gives a Crap: Yes, That’s the Brand Name

For a plastic-free TP that comes through a subscription service, look no farther than this chic little company. Their product is made in “the best factory in China,” they tell me. They send a huge box of 48 rolls with no plastic whatsoever.

colorful toilet paper rolls

I’ve reused the colorful wrappers as gift wrap, though the off-color word printed in the very center can be a problem when it comes to kids’ birthday parties. But it can be fun to read the little messages that liven up this usually boring product.

Greenwashed Toilet Paper: Bamboo and More

Unfortunately, brands like Aria, create toilet paper from virgin trees (but plants three tiny smaller ones to try to replace each one!) are probably not eco-friendly enough for me to recommend. It’s imperative that we preserve forests as much as possible, because trees are the best technology we have for sequestering the carbon that is causing crazy climate change. When water is already seeping up onto Miami’s streets on sunny days, it’s time for all of us to grab whatever reachable means we have to slow the melting of glaciers.

Caboo, Seedling by Grove, or any other bamboo toilet paper is one degree better because bamboo is fast-growing, but to me it is still cutting down carbon-sequestering plants to throw in the toilet, when there is tons and tons of paper from our recycling bins with nowhere to go but to waste.

Recycled toilet paper: it is totally within reach, and we can all make a huge difference if we just reach for it. Let’s go!

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