This week we’re talking about Earth Day, which falls on 22 April and has been celebrated for five decades now, aiming to raise awareness of the need to protect the environment.
But did you know that every day an estimated 27,000 trees are cut down, just to make toilet paper? Enabling deforestation just to softly wipe our bums makes no sense whatsoever.
That’s right – trees are cut down for the luxury of us to use paper once before flushing it down the loo and never seeing it again.
As a nation, we have become obsessed with using the luxury stuff to wipe our bums, with four-ply quilted (of course darling), being the optimum wiper. But this means more virgin pulp is used in making it, rather than recycled materials.
To put this into context, in the UK alone we use a staggering 1.3 million tonnes of tissue a year, according to the Confederation of Paper Industries. That’s estimated to be around 127 rolls per consumer every year.
Of course, some brands do use recycled materials, but incredibly this has decreased over the past few years, despite a strong rise in interest in environmentalism, recycling and finding alternatives to single-use plastics.
According to Ethical Consumer, some major brands were using less recycled paper in their toilet roll in 2019 than in 2011. Andrex even discontinued its recycled paper and bamboo line back in 2015.
There are some brands changing the status quo, though, such as Who Gives a Crap. For those that are not familiar with it, essentially it’s an Australian start-up (available in the UK) that has completely revolutionised how this everyday commodity is made, bought and used.
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Who Gives a Crap 100% recycled toilet paper: 24 rolls for £24, or 48 for £36 when you subscribe, Whogivesacrap.org
Writing an ode to toilet paper is not something I ever imagined doing, but here we are. For me, it’s been a real game changer in many ways, and not only because of its sustainability credentials. I first came across it while setting myself the Plastic Free July challenge in 2018. It is as it sounds, where you avoid single-use plastic for an entire month.
Sounds easy, but it ain’t. Single-use plastic is everywhere – just look around you and you’ll inevitably notice it: wrapping your bananas, onions, flowers, kitchen roll, meat, milk cartons – and that’s just the kitchen. Its downfall is that it was made to last forever. Whoever thought that was a good idea clearly had little foresight into the havoc it would wreak when crossed with capitalism and ever-growing populations.
For me, I was obsessed with the idea of no longer buying rolls of toilet paper that came in that annoyingly thin clear plastic that’s so hard for consumers to recycle. And the onus falls on to us to deal with it, not the huge companies producing it.
Who Gives A Crap (WGAC) recognises there is no need to cut down trees just to make toilet paper. Instead, it uses recycled paper from used textbooks and old office supplies to make rolls with 400 sheets of three-ply paper. Unlike packs you buy from the supermarket, each roll is individually wrapped in more recycled paper. Bingo. No plastic. This may sound excessive, but the brand says if it were to package six rolls together (which is the max allowed), it would need far thicker paper, and by net weight, wrapping individually is the same. Its shipping is also carbon-neutral.
I buy the 24 pack, as finding where to store that amount is enough, let alone 48. But for bigger households or families, the 48 pack makes it even cheaper to buy. There’s also a bamboo paper option, which is also eco-friendly as bamboo grows incredibly quickly. And if you want tissues and kitchen roll, you can do a one-stop-shop order as well.
WGAC is also a B Corp brand. It has met incredibly high standards to be able to have the certification – only around a third of all companies that apply actually get it. The idea is that the brand follows sustainable and ethical practices. In order to pass, companies need to take an exam that scrutinises how the business works and attain 80 points in five categories: governance, workers, customers, community and the environment.
Aside from the packaging, the second great thing about this brand is that it’s a subscription, so there’s no more waddling home with a huge multipack under your arm. And you’ll never run out again. Phew.
These are the benefits for consumers and the environment, but it doesn’t stop there. The brand is doing big and impressive things with its business model to help the people who most need it.
More people in the world have access to mobile phones than they do clean and safe toilets. Currently, there are around 2 billion people who still need access to clean water – that’s one third of the world’s population. Not having access to sanitary drinking water can led to serious illnesses and death – all of which is avoidable if you have clean toilets. So half of WGAC’s profits are donated to its charity partners who work in water, hygiene and sanitation, including WaterAid, WaterSHED and Shining Hope for Communities.
Read about the Smol washing capsules that inspired one writer to make the green switch