People don’t often think about the environmental impact of their toilet tissue, but as awareness increases about everyday products that contribute to emissions, bamboo toilet paper is rising in popularity. But, is bamboo toilet paper really eco-friendly… are there any truly organic brands?
Toilet paper impacts a lot more than personal hygiene. In fact, toilet tissue affects environmental health so extensively that the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) released a scathing report outlining the damages caused by the the “tree to toilet” pipeline’s leading contributors.1
To avoid adding to the ongoing environmental destruction wrought by toilet paper production, it’s best to switch to sustainable alternatives like bamboo. Check out these three examples of truly organic toilet paper and bamboo tissue products to determine which sustainable toilet paper alternative is best for you.
3 Sustainable Organic Bamboo Toilet Paper Brands for 2021
These brands are leading the way in toilet paper solutions that help the planet, and deliver organic and renewable products that don’t help contribute to deforestation.
1Who Gives A Crap: Products and Review
Why We Love This Organic Bamboo Toilet Paper:
Who Gives A Crap has become one of the most influential brands in sustainable toilet paper. The company started back in 2012, when friends, Danny, Simon, and Jehan learned about global inequities in access to bathroom hygiene.
Their inspiration centers on the fact that “289,000 children under five die every year from diarrhea diseases caused by poor water and sanitation,” according to Who Gives A Crap. This equates to 800 children lost daily, or one child every two minutes.2
In efforts to improve health and sanitation standards worldwide, the founders launched an IndieGoGo campaign and delivered their first product in March 2013. Now, they donate about half their profits to improve bathroom sanitation and hygiene worldwide. So far, they’ve given away about AUD10,800,000 (USD7,944,290).2
Who Gives A Crap offers several options for shrinking your carbon footprint in the bathroom, primarily bamboo tissue products and 100 percent recycled items. (Measure your personal emissions using an ecological footprint calculator first.)
However, the company’s manufacturing centers are located in China, which significantly contributes to global emissions when considering shipping and transporting goods worldwide, especially to the States. Fortunately, Who Gives A Crap now offers carbon-neutral shipping to offset the emissions.3
Many believe that the company’s manufacturing center locations reduce its sustainability. With that element considered, determining if the bamboo toilet paper itself is “actually eco-friendly” or not depends on whether you consider it in the context of carbon-neutral shipping. Without this perk, there may be better alternatives. However, you can also ensure full neutrality by boosting the benefits with tree planting offsets offered by the best carbon offset providers.
2Reel Toilet Paper: Products and Review
Why We Love This Organic Bamboo Toilet Paper:
Reel doesn’t consider itself a mere toilet paper provider. Instead, the company regards itself as a “more than just a paper company.”4
The team is driven by a shared desire to help global populations stand up to the challenges of climate change and provide support for those lacking sufficient resources and food. Toward this goal, Reel Toilet Paper strives toward the following efforts with their products:4
- Reducing waste
- Encouraging “conscious consumerism”
- Improving disadvantaged populations’ quality of life
In all, Reel Toilet Paper aims to be the “most sustainable, eco-friendly toilet paper on the market” by providing 100 percent bamboo rolls, led by co-founders Livio Bisterzo and Derin Oyekan.4
The central purpose underlying all Reel Toilet Paper’s goals is eliminating the “threat of illness” for the 2.4 billion people who must use the restroom outdoors. They note that such conditions increase water contamination risk and exposure to deadly pathogens.5
In addition to producing bamboo toilet paper, Reel partnered with SOIL in 2006. SOIL is an organization fighting the spread of waterborne disease in Haiti. Together, the companies help increase health, safety, and security of both the human and aquatic wildlife communities.5
To bring these aspirations to fruition, Reel recognized bamboo as the best material, due to the following characteristics:6
- Bamboo can grow up to 3 ft in only 24 hours
- Uses 30 percent less water than hardwood trees
- Produces 35 percent more oxygen than trees
- An acre of bamboo stores about 25 metric tons of atmospheric CO₂ yearly
These traits considered, Reel bamboo toilet paper is a reliably sustainable option for toiletries.
3Seedling By Grove: Products and Review
Why We Love This Organic Bamboo Toilet Paper:
Another leader in the sustainable tissue product industry, Grove, offers a line of sustainable toiletries called “Seedling.” Every one of their toilet paper and paper towel rolls is made entirely of bamboo. Even better, each purchase supports reforestation initiatives across the United States.8
To improve sustainability and avoid contributing to the harms of clear-cutting for bamboo plantations, Grove relies only on family farms in China for their supply. The farmers do not use any fertilizers or pesticides, preventing damage from chemical runoff to local ecosystems.8
Plus, Grove’s partner farms do not rely on bamboo that pandas use as food, mitigating their environmental impact even further. This is a critical advantage, as unsustainable bamboo logging is just one of the many harms reducing wild pandas’ safety and food security.
Not only are Grove’s products made of greener materials, but they also last twice as long as traditional toilet paper and paper towels. They’re also packaged in recycled, recyclable paper, as a cherry on top.
Thanks to the company’s afforestation work in partnership with the Arbor Day Foundation, Grove estimates they’ll have planted one million trees across U.S. areas affected by deforestation by 2022.
Best of all, Seedling toilet paper is thoroughly biodegradable. According to Grove tests, the company’s toilet paper reaches “full biodegradability” within 20-28 days – much faster than traditional alternatives.
All this considered, it would seem that Seedling by Grove is definitely eco-friendly, perhaps more so than many other bamboo tissue products. The company makes it clear that, in order to produce bamboo sustainably, it’s important that they collaborate with Chinese family farms that grow the plant naturally in its native habitat.
This should help ease your mind about why so many bamboo paper products are shipped from China, and help you look for the best options to offset the inevitable shipping emissions.
Finding Truly Organic Bamboo Toilet Paper Solutions to Reduce Ecological Impact
As more people learn of the climate impacts associated with toilet tissue production, the demand for sustainable alternatives grows. Recently, bamboo toilet paper has arisen as a primary option to reduce individual carbon footprints in the bathroom. But why?
Well, the Sierra Club says that, although bamboo is not the most sustainable option for bathroom hygiene, it does impose a lower environmental impact than tree-based tissue.9
(For instance, Jessian Choy, Sierra Club magazine writer, reports that this option is still not as low-impact as post-consumer recycled tissue products.)9
Still, the NRDC names bamboo as one of the most promising eco-friendly alternatives for this household essential, along with wheat straw.1
Bamboo causes only a fraction of forest and climate damage that virgin fiber does. It doesn’t inflict nearly the same severity of land degradation as virgin wood pulp, and it can grow 20 times faster than northern forests’ trees, such as those in the boreal habitats.1
Plus, tissue products made from bamboo release 30 percent fewer greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than those composed of virgin wood pulp.1
But consider a few drawbacks: First, bamboo tissue’s land-use risks slightly undercut its sustainability. For instance, there’s a lack of supply chain monitoring in producing this alternative, which means bamboo plantations grown on previously deforested lands go unnoticed and unregulated.
To avoid contributing to such harmful practices when shopping for sustainable bamboo toilet tissue, it’s best to stick to buying from companies certified by the FSC. Some of these are listed below.
Still, you must be vigilant, as not all brands are equally eco-friendly. A thorough understanding of tree-based toilet paper’s ecological impacts will help you understand how beneficial a bamboo toilet paper brand can be, and what makes it so comparatively green.
Understanding the Environmental Cost of Tissue Paper
Because of the recent explosive demand for toilet tissue during the COVID-19 pandemic, NRDC felt it necessary to shed light on the deforestation caused by toilet paper production, particularly the immense tree loss in Canada’s boreal forest.
NRDC’s 2020 report, titled “The Issue with Tissue,” highlights the unprecedented devastation wrought by tissue production in the United States alone.
The American tissue market accounts for 20 percent of global tissue consumption, despite making up a mere four percent of the population. The vast majority of it comes from tissue pulp extracted from the boreal forest, where more than one million acres disappear each year to meet the growing demand.1
In 2017, Canada exported 59 percent of its pulp and paper to the United States, as they are one of the primary providers of the materials driving the U.S. toilet tissue industry, which consumes 9.2 billion pounds of the product annually. That amounts to 28 pounds of tissue per person every year. The problem shows no signs of slowing. The NRDC regards the tissue industry as the “fastest-growing sector in the paper industry.” It’s expected to grow by six percent each year from 2018-2022.1
The world is running out of time to address the harm caused by excessive toilet paper consumption. Fortunately, you don’t have to do much besides reading the overview below to learn how this home essential hurts global ecosystems exactly.
With this knowledge, you can help curb the “tissue issue” by measuring your emissions with an ecological footprint calculator, then with tree planting offsets from one of the best carbon offset providers, neutralize your total emissions and switch to a sustainable toilet paper brand.
How Traditional Toilet Paper Production Harms Global Ecosystems
The NRDC reports that every year, over 26 million metric tons (about 28.7 million tons) of carbon dioxide are released into the atmosphere as a result of clearcutting across Canada’s boreal forests. The continued destruction of these forests could lead to even more atmospheric degradation.10
To make matters worse, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) states that about one-third of the carbon stored in boreal, tropical, and temperate forests is kept in the plants’ biomass, meaning the plant material. Sixty-nine percent of it is in the soil.
If toilet paper production continues, not only would the world be losing a major carbon sink, a habitat that can absorb and store atmospheric carbon, but it would be effectively unleashing a “carbon bomb.”10
This presents immediate dangers to wildlife, North American ecosystems, and over 600 Indigenous communities living in the area. The NRDC outlined key ecological problems caused by toilet paper production and noted the following:1
- Indigenous communities: Sadly, most of the logging for the U.S. toilet paper market happens in Indigenous People’s traditional territories, often against their will. The Canadian government has done little to rectify the violation of their sovereignty over the land.
- Wildlife: Scientists consider the boreal caribou an “indicator species,” as these animals need a vast amount of forested landscape to thrive. At the same time, they’re highly sensitive to human disturbance. Today, only 50 percent of their North American habitat remains, compromising the caribou, Canada lynx, American marten, and numerous other species’ survival.
- Climate: The NRDC calls toilet paper’s climate impact is “potentially devastating” to global environmental health. Deforestation substantially lowers the forest’s carbon-sequestering capacity and releases 12 percent of the total carbon that Canada committed to cut yearly by 2030 under the Paris Agreement.
The problem extends far beyond the bounds of Canada’s forests. For instance, the United States’ southeastern forest that once spanned continuously from Appalachia to the Florida Panhandle has been effectively maimed by logging for tissue products. More than half of all the trees here are less than 40 years old.1
Without a significant change of pace in toilet paper production and consumption, North American forests could soon be beyond rescue.
The Need for Sustainable Tissue Paper and Bamboo Toilet Paper
Now that you know just how environmentally devastating tissue paper production is, you’re likely going to look to alternatives to reduce your carbon footprint and minimize ecosystem harm. That’s tough to do when so many of the top manufacturers are actively ignoring the industry’s climate consequences.
The top three U.S. tissue producers are Procter & Gamble, Georgia-Pacific, Kimberly-Clark. These companies own some of the most popular brands in the country, including:1
- Angel Soft
- Quilted Northern
Unfortunately, the NRDC states that these brands have “significant room to grow” in their products’ sustainability. All their tissue products are made entirely of virgin fiber, what the NRDC called the “most environmentally destructive” source of tissue pulp. Though many of their “away from home” items contain recycled materials, those available to Americans do not.1
So, if the industry’s biggest brands are consistently ignoring their duty to improve their products’ and practices’ sustainability, how can you ensure your tissue is eco-friendly? It’ll take a bit of research, but luckily, green toilet paper companies are relatively easy to come by as green hygiene products become more popular worldwide.
How to Buy Eco-Friendly Toilet Paper
Although each of the above organizations focus on improving the sustainability of toilet paper production, they differ in their secondary goals.
For example, Who Gives A Crap and Reel Toilet Paper aim to increase hygiene and improve the health and safety standards associated with bathroom use worldwide. At the same time, Reel Toilet Paper and Seedling by Grove are also cognizant of toilet paper’s impact on wildlife, as they work to protect aquatic species and pandas, respectively.
This is only one aspect to assess as you shop for eco-friendly tissue products. Apart from this, you should consider:
- Material: Look up the product specs and check if it’s 100 percent bamboo, another sustainable option like wheat straw, or if it’s at least made of recycled and/or recyclable materials.
- Shipping: Many bamboo toilet paper alternatives come from China. Though it is a drawback in terms of shipping emissions, it’s often the most sustainable option, considering bamboo naturally grows in China. That said, it’s best that your chosen company has options to offset the emissions.*
- Wildlife health: Bamboo makes up nearly all of a panda’s diet. Because of this, you’ll need to verify whether your chosen company contributes to clear-cutting for bamboo growth, or if they’re operating responsibly by working with sustainable farms. Organizations that support tree planting projects are ideal, too.
- Human health: Buying from a company that supports human health is best when shopping for sustainable tissue. This way, you can directly contribute to causes that reduce negative impacts on Indigenous populations in the boreal forests, where most Americans get their tissue products, and improve hygiene for vulnerable communities.
*When the company lacks offsetting options, you’ll need to mitigate your footprint independently. Supporting reforestation projects by purchasing carbon offsets is an effective way to do this.
Which Bamboo Toilet Paper Brand Will You Choose?
It’s time to re-evaluate the environmental impact of your lifestyle, starting in the bathroom. It’s easy to dismiss the significance of your toiletry choices, but they’re more important to your carbon footprint than you might have realized.
A simple switch to more sustainable options, such as bamboo-based tissue products instead of those harvested from trees, is best for substantially reducing your environmental impact.
Finding an eco-friendly bamboo toilet paper that is truly organic and actually helps reduce emissions isn’t impossible, it just requires a little research.
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1National Resources Defense Council. The Issue With Tissue: How Americans Are Flushing Forests Down the Toilet. 2019 February. Retrieved 13 September 2021 from https://www.nrdc.org/sites/default/files/issue-tissue-how-americans-are-flushing-forests-down-toilet-report.pdf
2Who Gives A Crap. (n.d.). About us. https://us.whogivesacrap.org/pages/about-us
3Who Gives A Crap. (2019, September 10). Where is all of this made? https://support.whogivesacrap.org/hc/en-au/articles/360035646513-Where-is-all-of-this-made-
4Reel. (n.d.). Our story is your story. Retrieved September 13, 2021, from https://reelpaper.com/pages/our-story-is-your-story
5Reel. (n.d.). Our mission at Reel®: Provide access to toilets for those in need. Retrieved September 13, 2021, from https://reelpaper.com/pages/mission
6Reel. (n.d.). Switch to bamboo toilet paper. Retrieved September 13, 2021, from https://reelpaper.com/pages/why-bamboo
7Certified B Corporation. (n.d.). About B Corps. Retrieved September 13, 2021, from https://bcorporation.net/about-b-corpshttps://www.nrdc.org/stories/canadas-boreal-forest-carbon-bomb-unless-we-keep-it-intact
8Grove Collaborative. (n.d.). Seedling by Grove. Retrieved September 13, 2021, from https://www.grove.co/paper
9Choy, J. (2020, June 2). What’s the most eco-friendly toilet paper? Sierra Club. https://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/ask-ms-green/whats-most-eco-friendly-toilet-paper
10Ireland, P. (2018, October 12). Canada’s boreal forest is a carbon bomb unless we keep it intact. National Resources Defense Council.
11Image source: Who Gives A Crap, https://au.whogivesacrap.org/products/premium-100-bamboo-toilet-paper-48-double-length-rolls
12Image source: Reel, https://reelpaper.com/products/box
13Image source: Seedling by Grove, https://www.grove.co/catalog/product/seedling-toilet-paper/