The Toilet Paper post

Everybody uses toilet paper. And it’s one of those products that given how often and where it’s used, we want it to be good. Right?

A recent report by the National Resource Defense Council reveals the devastation paper products such as toilet paper have on the environment. The top suppliers of toilet paper use almost exclusively virgin pulp made from boreal forests at a rate that is unsustainable, damaging to the environment, threatens wildlife and indigenous people living in those forests and according to the 2015 Paris Agreement puts at risk a vital component to achieving necessary climate change goals. To read the report, click here. Below are some highlights:

  • Creating products using 100 percent virgin fiber generates three times as much carbon as products made from other types of pulp.
  • The EPA recommends bathroom tissue that contains at least 20 to 60 percent postconsumer recycled content and 20 to 100 percent total recovered fiber.
  • Recycled paper products typically use far less toxic bleaching methods, such as processed chlorine free (PCF).
  • Americans, who make up just over 4 percent of the world’s population, account for about 20 percent of global tissue consumption.
  • Toilet paper, the first of the tissue products, was invented in the United States in 1857. Prior to that we used catalogs, corncobs, moss and snow, according to the article. So I guess if you’re really concerned you now have a new use for your junk mail.
  • Much of the tissue pulp in the United States comes from the boreal forest of Canada. Industrial logging claims more than a million acres of boreal forest every year, equivalent to seven National Hockey League rinks each minute, in part to meet demand for tissue products in the United States.
  • More than 90 percent of this logging was done by clearcutting, which removes nearly all trees from an area. These clearcut forests can take more than a century to return to their pre-logging condition, and some never do.
  • Every year, the Canadian boreal region, including peatlands, removes carbon dioxide equivalent to the annual emissions of 24 million passenger vehicles. Translation: it’s important.
  • The forests of the southeastern United States have also been decimated to make tissue and paper. The region from Appalachia to the Florida Panhandle, which was once blanketed by near-continuous, biodiverse forests, now supplies the pulp to produce about 27 percent of the world’s paper products.

Rather than reviewing a single brand of toilet paper I thought, why not do a little comparison? I’m a Charmin user and other than trying to figure out the game of price comparisons, I’ve never put any thought into my toilet paper purchases. Until now. Charmin gets a big fat F on the Issue with Tissue scorecard.

About the Makers

Like many of our retailing experiences lately, the changing landscape is shifting our purchasing paradigms. I never considered buying toilet paper online, let alone from someone other than Target. I found both Who Gives A Crap and Grove Collaborative on my Facebook feed.

Who Gives A Crap. Photo Credit: Kimberly Offenberg

Who Gives A Crap

Who Gives A Crap sells their product exclusively online. Their products are toilet paper, paper towels and tissues. And within their toilet paper offering they have two options: 100% Recycled Toilet Paper and Premium 100% Bamboo Toilet Paper. I purchased the Recycled TP, which is made from recycled post consumer paper and “brightened” using hydrogen peroxide. The bamboo TP is “brightened” using an elemental free chlorine. While their suppliers have FSC certification, their company does not. When I ordered their toilet paper it might have been the happiest surprise I’ve received. Their toilet paper rolls are individually wrapped in colorful paper, which is a nice change from the plastic wrapping every other company uses. All of their packaging is made from recycled materials. Who Gives A Crap donates 50% of their profits to those in need of toilets, and have donated $2.5 million to-date.

Grove Collaborative

Grove Collaborative is an online company that offers a monthly subscription service. But you can also order from them on a one-off basis by pausing your monthly service. They offer a membership so you can get free shipping, free gifts and other benefits, but you can also pay $2.99 for flat shipping. I struggle with them because I can’t seem to figure out what their game is and I’ll be honest, I haven’t jumped on the subscription service yet for groceries, clothing or any of the new products that work on that business model. I joined as a member with a promotional free 60 day VIP membership. My goal was to buy toilet paper, but I ended up getting paper towels, a bucket which I don’t need, concentrated all purpose cleaner, nose tissues, and walnut scrub sponges, because I needed to fulfill some sort of minimum. It turns out after emailing my personal helper I could’ve just ordered the toilet paper but it wasn’t really clear how to do so. And speaking of personal helpers, they provide you with one and they are awesome and respond right away. However, I need things to be a little more cut and dry and my shopping experience was a bit too confusing for me. I was easily able to pause my membership and they haven’t been emailing me or spamming me, so that’s a plus.

On the plus side, they are a B Corp, which means they are independently certified to be good for the planet, animals and people. I love that and it makes me want to give them another try. And if that wasn’t enough, they have partnered with the Arbor Day Foundation to plant trees for every purchase.

Grove Collaborative sells their own brands as well as other brands most of us are familiar with and might currently buy at Target like Mrs. Meyers, Babyganics, method, Aunt Fannie’s, and more.

Side note: when I took comparison photos I mistakenly referred to them as “Grove Collective.” Sorry!

Trader Joes

I pretty much buy all of our groceries at Trader Joes but never even glanced at the section with soaps, napkins and toilet paper. I’ve always purchased all of our household items at Target. The thing to pay attention to is that Trader Joes carries TWO different toilet papers. One is the Super Soft Bath Tissue that is just as it’s name says, soft and amazing. I started with that one and thought Wow! This is just like Charmin! Bam, that’s an easy switch. But then I noticed my mistake. Bummer because the Super Soft Bath Tissue in the pink package gets a D from the NRDC. The other one that I am comparing here is the 100% Recycled Toilet Paper. This one gets an A from the NRDC. It’s FSC certified. And although it’s wrapped with plastic they say it is “environmentally responsible plastic” and will “expire in 18 months.”

Charmin

I must add a note here about Charmin because although the National Resource Defense Council has given them an F rating, if you go on their website they claim to have FSC and Rainforest Alliance certifications. However, as you read through the NRDC study, they state that the FSC certificates that Charmin and other makers have are not enough. They also have a lot of promises and plans in place to help reduce their environmental impact over the next decade or so.

About the Potty Paper

Here’s a breakdown by some of the important elements of toilet paper: cost, (and for comparison purposes pack out), materials and packaging.

COST

  • Charmin: $.0035
  • Who Gives a Crap: $.0031
  • Grove Collaborative:$.0025
  • Trader Joes: $.0017

PACK OUT

  • Charmin: Mega, 284 sheets per roll, 16 rolls total
  • Who Gives a Crap: 400 sheets per roll, 24 rolls total
  • Grove Collaborative: 500 sheets per roll, 4 rolls
  • Trader Joes: 250 sheets per roll, 12 rolls total

MATERIALS

  • Charmin: virgin forest fiber
  • Who Gives a Crap: post-consumer waste, bamboo, uses bleaching
  • Grove Collaborative: Proprietary blend of bamboo and sugarcane
  • Trader Joes: 80% post-consumer recycled materials, no bleach

PACKAGING

  • Charmin: Wrapped in plastic
  • Who Gives a Crap: Rolls come individually wrapped in 100% post-consumer recycled paper and cardboard
  • Grove Collaborative: Wrapped in plastic
  • Trader Joes: Plastic (but per above, they claim it will “expire” within 18 months)

Summary

After spending several weeks evaluating various toilet paper products, I went back using my left over Charmin toilet paper. Have you ever used those trifold super thick paper napkins? It was like that. Like I went from using regular napkins to all of the sudden using these super thick napkins. My point being that after using less soft toilet paper and going back, the Charmin felt unnecessarily thick and overindulgent.

The Grove Collaborative toilet paper didn’t pass the test with others in our household. It was too thin and the two sheets would separate easily. It reminded me of toilet paper you’d find in low-funded public places.

Trader Joe’s is good. It’s convenient, I feel okay about my purchase although the plastic still gives me pause, and the TP is fine.

My preferred vendor after all of this is Who Gives A Crap, and when I get around to buying online I buy from them. There is a better deal you can get if you buy in bulk so it can also bring the cost down a bit to $.0025 per sheet, closer to the price of Grove Collaborative. They have a premium bamboo TP which I might try as well someday. Happy bum shopping!

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