Top 5 Zero Waste Toilet Paper Options

Are we literally flushing our forests down the toilet?  

Woman with Toilet Paper

Living a zero-waste or low-waste lifestyle means you probably think about questions like this, and wonder, is there such a thing as zero waste toilet paper?

The simple answer is yes, but there are many options to consider and as a busy mom you may not have time to do all the research on your own. 

So, I’ve put together this ultimate guide to help you learn all you need to know about zero waste toilet paper and how to make the best choice for your family. 

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THE ISSUE WITH TISSUE: TOILET PAPER IS UNSUSTAINABLE

According to National Geographic, 270,000 trees a day are “dumped into facilities or flushed,” toilet paper alone accounting for more than 27,000 trees a day. 

That’s a lot of waste, but when you think about it, toilet paper is created solely as a waste product.  There is no way to reuse toilet paper (thankfully!), and as a result, we flush it down the toilet.  

In fact, the average American uses – and flushes – 141 toilet-paper rolls in a year, according to Market Watch

On top of the paper waste, most store-bought toilet paper is wrapped in unnecessary amounts of plastic packaging. If you buy it in bulk packages, it is sometimes wrapped in plastic TWICE! 

Most of that plastic packaging is not recyclable or people don’t know that they can recycle it.  So it ends up in landfills, or even worse, the oceans. 

Want to save time and money finding the zero waste swaps for your family? Download the FREE guide to 9 Zero Waste Swaps Every Family Can Make!

WHAT CAN I USE INSTEAD OF TOILET PAPER? (Zero Waste Toilet Paper Options)

The good news is that you can find low waste and zero waste toilet paper options.  There are a variety of alternatives. Using the guide below, you can find the option that works best for you and your family.  

To be honest, some of the alternatives listed below are still outside of my family’s comfort zone.  

Remember, a zero waste or low waste lifestyle is a journey, not a destination. Many of the inspirational people involved in the zero waste movement remind me of that daily.  

So even if you can’t jump in 100% to some of these alternatives, start with the one that works best for you and is the easiest to accomplish. It’s all about taking baby steps and making progress.  

BIDET ATTACHMENT

Tushy Bidet
Photo Credit: Tushy

If you are looking for a true zero waste toilet paper option, the bidet attachment for your toilet is probably your best bet! 

As I mentioned, this is one of those options that our family is not quite ready to try. I would be open to trying a bidet but I haven’t gotten my husband or children on board with this (yet).  

If a bidet is something you are interested in trying there are several options.   

  • Tushy Classic: The Tushy Classic is affordable, fits on most standard two-piece toilets, installs in just 10 minutes, requires no electricity, and drastically (or completely) reduces your need for toilet paper. Plus, I find their marketing funny and entertaining.  It makes the poop topic a little easier to discuss. 
  • Brondell SimpleSpa Thinline: The Brondell Thinline is very similar to the Tushy Classic and claims to be one of the thinnest bidet attachments on the market.  It also has a self-cleaning nozzle and the thin profile keeps your toilet seat level.  

How Do I Dry Off After I Use the Bidet?

This is a common question that often comes up, but the solution is simple! If you don’t have time to air dry, then you can pat dry with a reusable towel (similar to our next option – the Family Cloth) or you could use one of the sustainable toilet paper options also listed below.  

THE FAMILY CLOTH

Photo Credit: Julie of Rag Pads

I’ll admit that the name of this zero waste toilet paper option is a little unappealing.  However, it really is just a reusable, washable alternative to conventional toilet paper.  

It is made from reusable cloths of any kind – from rags, old t-shirts, DIY fabric squares sewen together or purchased cloth wipes. 

If you used cloth diapers for your babies, this isn’t much different!  Although our family has not tried this option yet either, I’ve read a lot about it and think it’s a great alternative.  I plan to move towards this option soon.  

Premade Cloths on Etsy:

Searching Etsy brought up several options for Family Cloth or reusable toilet wipes.  I’ve listed a few of my favorite options here so you don’t have to search!

DIY Family Cloth:

If you sew, you can make your own from scraps, old t-shirts, other fabric you may have on hand, or flannel.  If you don’t sew, you can also cut up old towels, old washcloths, or use thin washcloths that you can purchase. 

How Do I Store and Clean the Family Cloth?

Caring for the family cloth is similar to cloth diapers and many people prefer to use it only after urinating.  However, some people use it for poop and periods too. Do what works best for you!

Store the clean cloth wipes in a basket on top of your toilet. OrganicCraftStore on Etsy offers an option where they are snapped together and rolled up like a regular roll of toilet paper. So you can put it right on your normal toilet paper roll holder. Plus, she’s offering 25% off to all Simply Living Green customers!

Family Cloth reusable toilet paper rolls
Photo Credit: Lilind of OrganicCraftStore

Dirty cloth wipes can be stored in a wet bag or even a covered trash bin until it’s time to launder them.  When it’s time to wash them, be sure to pre-rinse any cloths that are extra soiled. A handheld sprayer attachment for your toilet is great for this (see below for more details). 

Follow the manufacturer’s recommendation for washing to be sure to properly disinfect the cloths.  Also, do not wash with fabric softener since it will decrease the absorbency of the cloth wipe over time.

What do I use for guests?

Many of your house guests may not be accustomed to using family cloth wipes. So you will probably want to have a sustainable toilet paper option available for them (such as 100% recycled toilet paper or tree-free toilet paper discussed next).

This TP Holder by Julie at Rag Pads will hold your reusable cloths plus you can stash a roll of recycled toilet paper on top for your guests!

100% RECYCLED TOILET PAPER 

Who Gives a Crap toilet paper

Recycled toilet paper is where a lot of people start on their low waste or zero waste journey.  

It’s the most similar to conventional toilet paper but is made from recycled paper – sometimes up to 100% recycled paper.  This means that no virgin trees were used to manufacture the toilet paper, which greatly minimizes the number of trees that are cut down each day to support our toilet paper flushing habits. 

More of these options are becoming available both in the store and through mail order services.  

Who Gives A Crap:

  • 48 Jumbo rolls for $48 (save $10 on your order by clicking HERE.)
  • This is the toilet paper that our family currently uses. (I wrote a detailed Who Gives A Crap review of my honest, unsponsored opinion to help you make the best decision for your family. Check it out HERE. )
  • It’s made from 100% recycled paper that comes from books and office paper, yet is soft enough to pass the test for our family, and has no inks, dyes or scents.  
  • It ships in a cardboard box and each roll is wrapped in reusable/recyclable paper – no plastic packaging at all!
  • Another huge reason I love and recommend Who Gives a Crap toilet paper is that they donate 50% of their profits to help build toilets for those people in need. 

Did you know that, according to the makers of Who Gives a Crap, that more people in the world have mobile phones than toilets? 

That fact surprised me, but I’m thrilled to support a company that has donated $2.5 million Aussie dollars (or about $1.9 million US dollars) to help tens of thousands of people in need so far! Plus Who Gives a Crap is a Certified B Corp, which means that they meet the highest standards for social and environmental impact. 

Seventh Generation:

  • 60 rolls for $99.60 (or buy single rolls in-store)
  • Seventh Generation toilet paper is also made from 100% recycled paper (minimum 50% post-consumer fiber), is whitened without chlorine bleach, and has no dyes or fragrances. It can be found in many grocery stores or health food stores, such as Whole Foods, and on Amazon in bulk.  Look for singe rolls wrapped in paper vs. plastic-wrapped multi-packs. 

Marcal:

  • 48 rolls for $26.52 
  • Marcal toilet paper is made from 100% recycled paper, Green Seal Certified, whitened without chlorine bleach, no dyes or fragrances, is wrapped in recycled paper wrappers and is available by the case on Amazon. I haven’t ordered this personally, but it looks like it ships in a cardboard box, which hopefully does not include any plastic packaging. 

Want to save time and money finding the zero waste swaps for your family? Download the FREE guide to 9 Zero Waste Swaps Every Family Can Make!

TREE FREE TOILET PAPER 

So what’s the difference between tree-free toilet paper and recycled toilet paper?

Recycled toilet paper is made from other paper products (usually post-consumer paper). However, the paper did initially come from virgin trees.

Tree free toilet paper is typically made of bamboo, which is a sustainable resource.  Bamboo grows very quickly, up to 39 inches in just one day, and is, therefore, ultra replenishable.  

Bamboo also absorbs more carbon dioxide than other plants, which means you are reducing your carbon footprint when using bamboo or tree-free toilet paper. 

Finally, bamboo toilet paper is ultra-soft; typically more so than recycled toilet paper.

Who Gives A Crap Bamboo TP:

  • 48 rolls for $52 (save $10 on your order by clicking HERE.)
  • Who Gives a Crap offers a premium bamboo toilet paper too and claims to be “like wiping with clouds.” Like their 100% recycled toilet paper, it has no inks, dyes, or scents, and they donate 50% of their profits to provide toilets for those in need.  

Tushy Premium Soft Bamboo TP

  • 36 rolls for $69, or save with a subscription (36 rolls for $49) 
  • Made from 100% unbleached, bamboo fibers and also claims to be very soft (as they put it… soft af).  Additionally, one roll of their bamboo toilet paper takes only 0.59 gallons of water. Yet, one roll of conventional toilet paper takes 37 gallons of water,  according to Tushy. 
  • This makes bamboo toilet paper a very sustainable option!

PAPER-WRAPPED TOILET PAPER

There are other recycled and tree-free toilet paper options such as Green2, Emerald, and others that you can find online.  

However, research each to make sure that they are 100% tree-free, while also being free from dyes, chlorine, fragrances and plastic-free.  I noticed that many were still wrapped in plastic packaging, which is why I prefer to use Who Gives a Crap, Tushy, or other paper-wrapped toilet paper. 

Sometimes, you can also find hotel suppliers that provided individually wrapped toilet paper and ship in cardboard boxes (email them to be sure it’s plastic-free).

Buying individual toilet paper rolls wrapped in paper at the grocery store is another option if you don’t want to buy in bulk, such as Seventh Generation. 

No matter what, you’ll want to avoid bulk toilet paper options that are wrapped in tow layers of plastic packaging. 

OTHER ZERO WASTE TOILET PAPER ALTERNATIVES

  • Tushy Travel: This portable bidet is essentially a travel squirt bottle.  Just fill it with clean water and spray away! It’s compact and comes with a travel bag, which helps keep your potty business discrete. 
  • Squirt Bottle: You can really use any squirt bottle when at home or on the go! 
  • Handheld sprayer: Handheld sprayer attachments are also available for your toilet.  Many parents use these when cloth diapering their babies. It’s a great tool to have to not only wash your bottom but to also rinse off cloth diapers and reusable family cloths.

WHAT IS THE MOST ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY TOILET PAPER? 

All of the above options are good environmentally friendly choices.  Each has its own pros and cons and the one you choose depends on your preferences, budget and family’s needs. 

Just remember that using a bidet, family cloth, recycled toilet paper, or tree-free toilet paper are all great ecofriendly alternatives to conventional toilet paper.  

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TOILET PAPER TO DECOMPOSE?

While all toilet paper is biodegradable, the type of toilet paper impacts how quickly it will decompose.  

According to an article in Backpacker, studies show that it may take conventional toilet paper 1-3 years to decompose in areas such as alpine areas, wetlands, and deserts.

On the other hand, there are some biodegradable toilet paper options, including bamboo toilet paper, that break down up to four times quicker than conventional toilet paper made from virgin trees, according to ecofreek.com.

COMPOST OR RECYCLE YOUR TOILET ROLL TUBE AND PAPER WRAPPER

Don’t forget that when you are done with your toilet paper roll and paper wrapper that you should compost them if at all possible.  

If you don’t have that option yet, then at least recycle or reuse your paper tubes and wrappers and keep them out of landfills where they cannot properly decompose. 

upcycled toilet paper tubes with planter

UPCYCLE YOUR TOILET ROLL TUBE AND PAPER WRAPPER

I prefer to save our toilet roll tubes and paper wrappers to upcycle them.  We have turned ours into butterflies and Thanksgiving turkey crafts, and even to wrap small gifts inside, but the options are limitless. 

There are so many upcycled craft projects for kids on Pinterest using toilet paper roll tubes. You can follow my Upcycling for Kids Pinterest board for tons of inspiration and ideas.

Additionally, I save the paper wrappers and reuse them as wrapping paper for small gifts. (Did you notice this paper wrapper in the Who Gives A Crap photo above?)  This cuts down on the need to buy conventional wrapping paper that isn’t always recyclable.  

Who Gives a Crap upcycled wrapping paper

Who Gives A Crap also has a host of ideas on its blog called, Talking Crap, including this step by step guide to their Top 5 Gift Edition Crafts.  I can’t wait to make the plastic-free confetti!

Are Toilet Paper Rolls Unhygienic?

This is a question I hear a lot, and there are reports of toilet paper rolls being unhygienic. The theory is that since they are next to the toilet, they can potentially have toilet germs sprayed on them when flushing with the toilet seat open.  

However, some simple steps can be taken to limit that potential.  Always flush with the toilet seat down. 

Additionally, Natasha, at The Artisan Life, has a quick tutorial for how she sanitizes her toilet paper rolls before using them for upcycled craft projects. 

FINAL THOUGHTS ON ZERO WASTE TOILET PAPER

“If every household in the United States replaced just one roll of virgin fiber toilet paper (500 sheets) with 100 percent recycled ones, we could save 423,900 trees,” according to drgreene.com

Just imagine if every household replaced a whole case of virgin fiber toilet paper?  Or replaced toilet paper altogether? 

No matter which zero waste toilet paper option you choose, you will be making great positive changes for our environment.  

Start slow if you think you’ll need time to adjust, and if nothing else, be conscious about the number of squares you use each time.  Cutting down on the amount of toilet paper you use helps too! 

Do you have any other ideas to share?  We are always learning from each other.  Please share below in the comments! 

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zero waste toilet paper options

Want to save time and money finding the zero waste swaps for your family? Download the FREE guide to 9 Zero Waste Swaps Every Family Can Make!

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4 Comments

  1. May 8 / 8:23 AM

    Great post! So many good options available nowadays for families trying to go zero-waste. And a lot of these options are more comfortable than the historical alternatives to toilet paper – leaves that could give you a rash and newspaper that could leave ink all over your butt!

    • Rebekah
      May 8 / 2:40 PM

      So true, Sarita! I’m glad we have more comfortable options these days!

  2. July 23 / 3:05 PM

    I tried Who Gives a Crap and actually really love the rolls they put it on! They’re much thicker and sturdier than regular rolls making them great for upcycled crafts. Also, I did a bunch of research on the sanitization question and here’s what I found, https://prettydelightful.com/sanitize-cardboard/

    • Rebekah
      Author
      July 23 / 6:56 PM

      Thanks for sharing that resource, Melissa! So helpful! I also love the rolls from Who Gives a Crap. They are definitely better quality!

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