The world uses over 40 million tons of toilet paper every year, with the United States taking the lead. Most toilet paper is made from virgin softwood pulp. This means the wood hasn’t been used for anything else before. Less than 2% of the US’ toilet paper market uses recycled paper. Why is this a problem? Using so much virgin fiber isn’t good for the environment. Making the toilet paper requires deforestation, which destroys habitats and releases carbon that’s been stored inside trees for years. To combat this problem, consumers can look for recycled toilet paper or toilet paper with alternative fibers like bamboo. Here are five ethically-made options:
This brand comes from Essential Trading, one of the UK’s largest workers’ co-ops. Since 1971, it’s been offering ethically-produced, organic, and Fairtrade foods. Essential Recycled, their 2-ply toilet paper, uses 100% washed recycled paper from office waste. The ink is removed using an oxygen-bleaching process with soap and air. Because it’s recycled, it takes 40-60% less energy to make than regular toilet paper made from trees. The toilet paper is also free from chlorine, inks, dyes, chemicals, and BPA. What about its supply chain? Essential Trading has a policy to trade with ethical producers and co-operatives. It has practices in place to protect worker rights.
First launched in 2012 through an IndieGoGo campaign, Who Gives A Crap is now a certified B corporation. They sell recycled and bamboo toilet paper free from inks, dyes, or scents. The recycled toilet paper uses 100% post-consumer waste. The bamboo paper uses a plant species that pandas don’t eat, so you don’t need to worry about the animal’s food supply. The benefit of bamboo as a toilet paper material is that it’s more sustainable than trees. Who Gives A Crap also donates 50% of its profits to help provide sanitation for people around the world. As for human impact, the company visits production facilities several times a month to make sure the process is ethical. Their recycled paper producer is audited and certified by the Business Social Compliance Initiative and Forest Stewardship Council.
This brand comes from Suma Wholefoods, a co-operative where all the employees have an equal say and get paid the same wage. In 1986, they launched the UK’s first 100% recycled toilet paper. Sourced from the UK, the ecoleaf toilet paper is made from at least 60% post-consumer waste. The rest comes from UK manufacturer waste like printers’ trim and greeting card manufacturers. There’s no chlorine in the production process. The tissue is also bleach-free.
This certified B corporation prioritizes the environment by using bamboo (not the kind that pandas eat) for its toilet paper. It doesn’t use chemicals, fragrances, or de-inking agents. The bamboo harvest is also pesticide and fertilizer-free. Cheeky Panda is vegan, cruelty-free and carbon balanced with the World Land trust. Cheeky Panda is also involved in conservation work, sponsoring work that protects lowland rainforests. As for its stances on workers, the company has its supply audited by the Forest Stewardship Council, which follows the International Labour Organization’s conventions. The lowest-paid worker in the chain makes about 5x more than the national minimum wage in China.
From the Sodifel brand, Nicky toilet tissue is made of certified raw materials from controlled sources and responsibly managed forests. It has the Forest Stewardship Council certification. The brand also partners with Woodland Trust to plant at least 20,000 native trees in the UK every year. The toilet paper is 3-ply and enriched with a light talc fragrance and lotion. The Kraft-paper packaging is biodegradable and recyclable. This is the only brand on our list that isn’t made from recycled paper or an alternative fiber.