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Toilet Paper’s Environmental Impact Stinks

Written By Jack Budington

March 31, 2022

If I were to ask you to identify the world’s largest undisturbed old growth forest, what would you guess?  Does the mighty Amazon come to mind, or the rainforests of Indonesia? What about the African Congo? All of these are great guesses, but the correct answer is the vast boreal forest of the arctic. This coniferous carbon sink stretches from northern Quebec to the coast of Norway. Together the trans-continental boreal forest stores 30-40% of all land-based carbon. Unfortunately, this forest is slowly, literally being flushed down the toilet.

Americans have a toilet paper problem. 

We use almost twice as much TP per capita as France and a third more than Australia. Even worse is our obsession with luxury “quilted” sheets with a focus on softness. These “quilted” brands require the long fibers that keep the Needleleaf tree standing through arctic gales. Over the past 20 years, excessive demand for virgin pulp toilet paper has deforested an area the size of Pennsylvania. This deforestation has a major impact on the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere because there are fewer plants to absorb the CO2. 

This video from NASA’s Goddard Space Center shows how atmospheric carbon spikes in the winter when boreal and temperate forests are not growing and then dramatically shrinks in the summer.

So what’s an environmentally conscious person to do?

For the past month, More Vang employees have been testing a new toilet paper ironically named Who Gives a Crap. The product is made from bamboo, which might be the perfect plant for bottom cleaning tissue. Technically, bamboo is a fast growing grass, not a tree. It requires little pulp processing, as the fibers have less lignin binding them together, and most importantly, it’s renewable. We asked our testers for their feedback. While it’s tough to compete in softness with the likes of Charmin, our testers found the bamboo toilet paper to be a worthy competitor given its sustainability. 

“Who Gives a Crap toilet paper really gives [my usual brand] a run for its money when considering the environmental impact … I have to say, I am impressed with the quality and durability.”

“I was embarrassed to see how poorly my usual brand ranked on sustainability. This stuff certainly does the trick, and with far less guilt.”

Though people did note the rougher texture …

“Unfortunately, a product like this requires very specific attributes. Mainly being soft because, well you know.”

“The consensus in our house was that it was fine for the bathroom, but we definitely wouldn’t use it to blow our noses. It was too rough for that.”

Bottom line (pun intended)

If you’re looking for a more environmentally friendly toilet paper option, we’d recommend Who Gives a Crap bamboo toilet paper—more for your conscience than your comfort. And considering Who Gives a Crap donates 50% of their profits to help build toilets and improve sanitation in the developing world, that’s nothing to sniff at.