An End to Toilet Paper?

The convenience of toilet paper is a comfort many Americans can’t picture themselves living without.  America is the world largest market for toilet paper.  Americans per capita use 23.6 rolls per year, totaling about 7 billion rolls a year for the country. Unfortunately, using toilet paper is not the most sustainable practice.

The production of toilet paper results in the harvesting of millions of trees. An average eucalyptus tree makes 1,000 rolls of paper, which means that millions of trees must be harvested in order to satisfy the United States addiction to toilet paper alone.  Depending on the type of toilet paper effects what type of wood byproducts are used to make the toilet paper.  Toilet papers advertised as “quilted” and “fluffy” are made from old growth and virgin wood fibers.

The non sustained destruction of forests is not the only environmental problem with toilet paper. Dioxins are a byproduct of bleaching toilet paper.  Though direct usage of toilet paper with dioxins may not cause any health issues, when the toilet paper is flushed down the toilet into the sewage system the dioxins can find their way into the environment.

So as your reading this article you must be wondering what the alternative is to using toilet paper.  Below I have listed some of the more sustainable alternatives that you should at least consider before you buy your next roll.

Re Useable Wipes

You may have heard about reusable toilet paper on TLC’s show on the cheapest people. But using reusable wipes isn’t only cheaper than using toilet paper it is also more sustainable.  Instead of having a roll of toilet paper by the toilet, people who use reusable toilet paper keep a stack of homemade cloth wipes which can be made from cut up old sheets or t-shirts. After using the wipe, the wipe can be placed in a closed container lined with a laundry bag which can be washed in a washing machine once or twice a week.

Though reusable wipes need to be washed, which requires the use of energy and water, the creation of toilet paper in the mill also requires water and electricity, while also releasing chemicals to the environment. Using wipes made from cloth can be softer then the softest toilet paper.

It may feel like a large commitment switching from toilet paper to reusable wipes but many people are extremely happy about the environmental impact they make by switching.


One of the reasons Americans use so much more toilet paper then our European counterparts is because in many parts of Europe bidets are extremely common.  A traditional bidet is separate from the toilet and is like a wash basin that shoots water for cleaning, but modern “attached bidets “can be connected to the toilet without having to install a separate bidet. Modern bidets also contain other features that make users less likely to use toilet paper, some of them blow air to help the user dry off while others are electricity.

Toilet Paper Made from Recycled Paper

If the option of using re useable wipes or getting a bidet seems too weird for you, at least try and  toilet paper made from recycled paper. According to the EPA  if everyone in the United States exchanged only one roll of regular toilet paper for a roll made from recycled paper it would save 470,000 trees. Imagine how many trees could be save.


Toilet Paper Roll via Shutterstock

by Maddie Perlman-Gabel

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014 at 15:44
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