Let's get Serious about Toilet Paper

Tom Szekeres One Small Step Toilet Paper

Welcome to the first in a series of blog posts we’ve created in association with One Small Step, a weekly change anyone can make in less than five minutes to help planet, people, and place.

Something we’re really keen on is replacing everyday products with less harmful alternatives.

Subscribe to Serious Tissues to save trees, and support rainforest conservation:

🧻 It started with a question

One of our earliest supporters, Helen, asked us the following question back in late 2019 (predating the brief pandemic stockpiling mania).

”I’d love to know more about the impact of toilet paper. There’s recycled, bamboo, etc., but overall which has the least impact?”

This was a great question, and led us on a mission to find out the answer, specific to the UK.

🌲 Why is this important?

Most toilet paper is made with virgin pulp from primary forest, wild trees that haven’t been grown in plantations.

You might think this only happens in poorly regulated parts of the planet, but virgin forest in Sweden and Canada is routinely felled, as nearby consumers switch to luxury four-ply and quilted paper.

Forests are the greatest repositories of biodiversity on Earth, containing 300bn tonnes of CO2. And yet we’re sacrificing millions of trees a year for a marginally more comfortable wipe.

The solution is recycled paper. The chemicals used are far less toxic than those that bleach virgin pulp, less water and energy is consumed, and there’s no impact on existing forests.

Bamboo isn’t a terrible option, and scores better on softness, but there are still issues with chemicals and water usage.

NB Be wary of thinking an FSC label on your loo roll is enough. They allow a percentage of primary wood on some of their labels.

 

💩 Why did we choose Serious Tissues

Considering they are right on our doorstep, there was no competition: Serious Tissues are part of the Change Please movement, building a strong brand to compete with the likes of Andrex or Kleenex (who refuse to quit virgin pulp).

During the pandemic, 100% of their profits will go towards NHS Together Charities. Longer-term, they are committed to plant a tree for every roll sold.

They eschew plastic, delivering the rolls to our warehouse in cardboard boxes.

(To keep things hygienic, for smaller orders we wrap each roll in tissue paper, which can be recycled with ease or reused as packing material)

And their toilet tissue is recycled and manufactured here in the UK, reducing the energy usage of transport.

 

🔨 Supporting Actions

1. Get your business to subscribe too

You’re probably wiping at work, right? Small teams can subscribe with larger quantities, larger organisations should use this contact form.

 

2. Switch to an eco-nappy subscription

Kit & Kin are super cute and offer high-performance nappies and plastic-free wipes (WaterWipes are made of polyester, FYI). And they donate a percentage of profits to the World Land Trust.

3. Consider donating direct

Buy an acre of forest through the World Land Trust.

 

4. Have a planet-friendly period

TOTM use ethical materials, unlike bigger brands, and offer subscriptions. Or go one better. Replace disposable sanitary products with washable, period-proof underwear from Thinx.

📖 Further reading

📕 Book

Collapse: How societies choose to fail or survive

Looking for something to read on the John? Jared Diamond’s 2011 work includes a haunting chapter on the fate of Easter Island, whose society collapsed due to deforestation.

🗞 Article

Toilet paper is getting less sustainable, researchers warn (3 mins)

“It’s important we consider what we’re using to wipe our behinds with. At the moment our precious planet is getting a bum deal.”

 

🔚 Endnote

“I have often asked myself, ‘What did the Easter Islander who cut down the last palm tree say while he was doing it?’ Like modern loggers, did he shout ‘Jobs, not trees!’ or ‘Technology will solve our problems, never fear, we’ll find a substitute for wood’?”

― Jared Diamond

In the UK, we each consume 110 toilet rolls a year—over twice the European average. That adds up to 1.3 million tonnes per annum. A lot of trees.

Buying recycled toilet paper often means buying in bulk (taking up valuable space in your cupboard), and having to make the same decision over and over each time you visit the supermarket or shop online.

With Subship, you can 2 or 4 rolls delivered each week as part of your regular, electric van delivery, alongside coffee, bread, beer, nappies and wipes, and other staples.

All the while, safe in the knowledge that you’re helping to fight deforestation, not contribute to it.

Until the next step,

Tom



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