One of the defining images of 2020 was crowds of shoppers in supermarkets desperately stockpiling toilet paper. Thankfully now the empty shelves are behind us, we can stop worrying about it. Or we could think about it more? Because how much do you know about where your loo roll comes from? As a product that is – by definition – designed for a single use, UK consumers use 1.3 tonnes of toilet paper every year, according to the Confederation of Paper Industries. A recent rise in demand for four-ply and other luxury toilet paper has led to an increase in clear-cutting (the practice of completely destroying an area of forest for timber) of virgin forests.
A report by Greenpeace in 2017 showed that Swedish forests are threatened by the toilet paper industry’s thirst for virgin wood. The virgin pulp required to make luxury loo roll is also harvested from the forests of Canada, and the US market alone has claimed 1 million acres of Canadian trees according to the NRDC. These northern forests are home to unique biodiversity and act as a valuable carbon sink. Canadian and Alaskan forests are also vital to indigenous communities.
However, virgin forests are not the only source of fibres that can be used to make toilet roll. Tissues made from recycled paper and bamboo are more sustainable alternatives to trees when it comes to manufacturing toilet paper. Seeking out these alternative or recycled products, plus buying from smaller retailers who provide ethical alternatives is your best bet of avoiding the deforestation caused by loo roll.
Our Top Picks…
Company: In 2012, Who Gives a Crap set out on a mission to raise money to eliminate poor sanitation and contaminated water supplies around the world. A pretty incredible story, the trio of young entrepreneurs Danny, Simon and Jehan set about raising the money to start production via crowdfunding, going so far as to remain stoically on a draughty loo for 50 hours, until hitting their goal. Several years and many rolls later, Who Gives a Crap have raised over 10 million AUD (over 5 million pounds), donating half of their profits to provide toilets and safe sanitation around the world. B-Corp certified, their shipping is carbon-neutral too.
Product: These guys really are passionate about loo roll; along with their awesome name is Who Gives a Crap’s awesome packaging, which is not only remarkably attractive but also manufactured from recycled paper to keep your loo roll order fresh and dry. They provide both bamboo and recycled loo rolls which can be ordered in batches that work out as roughly £1 per roll. They also offer subscriptions at a discount so no need for repeat orders.
Company: Traidcraft have been around for a while and provide a number of sustainable goods. Their toilet paper is made from recycled paper and comes in a recyclable plastic wrapper (this will need to be taken to a supermarket recycling station if it can’t go in your bin collection).
Product: Traidcraft are generally great to buy from as they support amazing causes, so it’s worth looking at some of their other goods while you’re there checking out ethical loo roll. Their packs of four are roughly £2.50 each with a box of 10 four-packs available for £25.
Company: Serious tissues are in the tree planting game and partner with organisations to get native trees in the ground across the world including in Indonesia, Nepal, UK, Ethiopia, Haiti and Columbia. So far, 400,000 new saplings have been planted.
Manufactured just outside of Manchester, all their rolls are made from 100% recycled material and are plastic free. Serious Tissues also have a line of soaps and for every one sold they recover 1kg of plastic destined for the ocean. One off purchases of a batch of their 3-ply toilet roll are £30, falling to £27 a month if you buy a subscription. A line of eco-friendly detergents is also available.
We do our best to research and find the most environmentally-friendly companies to recommend at GoEco. However, if you have any suggestions that we might not know of, or disagree with any of our recommendations, please get in contact: firstname.lastname@example.org. We always want to learn more about the companies with the potential to save our future!