Saving our forests… one flush at a time

Remember the early days of the pandemic—and the rush on toilet paper (TP)?  The shelves are now restocked, but mostly with the same old, non-recycled brands we saw before.  I often have trouble finding anything but the major brands when I shop.  What happened to some of the other options?  Time to think about those!

In a previous article we reported on the idiocy unsustainability of cutting down virgin forests to make TP—and on the frightening extent to which this is done (especially Canadian boreal forests).  Among other things, we cited the 2019 National Resources Defence Council (NDRC) report (The Issue with Tissue) and version 2.   What to do?  Well, there are really 3 main choices. 

  1. Install a bidet.  This is probably the best option, as it will significantly reduce your use of any TP.  And it is an easy retrofit. More on this coming up in another article.

Using washable cloth squares is another option, but for those of us still opting for TP, there are two primary options.  Here we present the pros and cons of each, so you can make your own decisions. 

2. Use TP made from recycled paper


  • It does not require cutting down virgin forest!
  • Its production helps divert waste
  • It dissolves well (better than TP made from new trees), and thus reduces clogging in pipes and is kind to septic systems (and the black water systems of RVs)
  • No chemicals are added during production—unlike the bleaches added to TP made from boreal forests.
  • Overall, recycling paper into TP requires less water and energy and produces less air and water pollution than producing it from harvested forests.


  • Recycled paper contains BPA—a nasty chemical that occurs in some of the paper that gets recycled (especially the glossy things like receipts, etc.); BPA has limited health risks for humans when absorbed through the skin, but it can pose serious problems for aquatic wildlife, since it does, after all, eventually make it into streams, rivers, etc. Note: some brands, e.g. Cas
  • The TP industry is poorly regulated, and stuff advertised as 100% recycled may contain <50% post consumer waste—incorporating a lot of waste left over from the paper-making process, which is not really waste.  Look for TP that contains a lot of post-consumer recycled content.

3. Use TP made from bamboo


  • Does not require cutting down virgin boreal forest! 
  • Of course, the bamboo must be cut, but it grows fast (1 foot/hr compared to the year it would take a typical conifer to put on a foot), and since it is a grass, it doesn’t need to be replanted when harvested.   Bamboo also grows in a variety of climates, without needing fertilizers or pesticides—it thrives on degraded land.
  • Bamboo products produce 30% fewer emissions than those made from trees according to the NDRC
  • Bamboo is a champion at sequestering carbon in its tissues, and in the soil, taking it out of the air faster than almost any other plant.
  • TP made of bamboo dissolves well and is 100% biodegradable, breaking down faster than regular or even recycled TP according to some sources.


  • Because of its increased popularity, hardwood forests are being cleared make room for bamboo plantations. This reduces biodiversity and creates other issues. Be sure to look for bamboo products that are Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) accredited.
  • Most bamboo used here is imported from Asia, which adds transportation costs to its overall footprint.

Bottom line (pun intended)?  The NDRC says that currently, TP made from recycled paper has the lowest environmental impact, mostly due to the Cons listed above for Bamboo. Look for 100% recycled with at least 50% post-consumer material. If there is no recycled content (as in most major brands), it’s time to find a new go-to TP!

Where is sustainable TP available locally?

Our Footprints zero-waste store in the plaza by Wal-Mart and Cleanway Supply on River St. sell Cascades TP (100% recycled content, minimum 60% post-consumer material, wrapped in paper); “Superstore” sells President’s Choice Green TP (100% recycled content, 100% post-consumer material but exterior packaging is plastic) and various stores sell Caboo (a bamboo product, wrapped in plastic). 

Selling “eco-friendly” TP is a rapidly growing industry but watch out—it’s easy to be misled by slick marketing.   The most highly-recommended products (by various groups, including the NDRC) come from Who Gives a Crap, which offers both recycled and bamboo TP.  In addition, they are a Certified B Corp, which means they put their profits to work doing other good things, and the paper comes wrapped in paper; it can be ordered in bulk, and it comes in a cardboard box.  Seventh Generation also produces a recommended recycled product—I’ll bet it is available somewhere in town! (Let us know in the comments!)

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