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Toilet Paper Should Not Grow on Trees

Updated: Oct 1, 2022

I have a thing for toilet paper.

Longtime fans will remember that in my first Tilting at Windmills column, I admitted I was hoarding toilet paper. This was a full year before amassing bathroom tissue was all the covidian rage.

In the column, I described how I was squirreling tp away because it was tube free and I thought that when Stop & Shop acquired King Kullen, they would no longer sell it. Back then, I believed that the absence of a cardboard tube was going to save the planet, one loo-roll at a time. And I felt pretty good about that.

I’m still amazed I churned out a 900-word column on a topic that I was able to explain in the preceding paragraph in a succinct 60 words – but(t) I digress.

Let me unroll this story further.

Last January, a friend sent me a New York Times op-ed lamenting that Scott, the tube free manufacturer, was ending its production. After going through the five stages of grief, I knew I was going to have to come up with a new way to make our waste more planet friendly.

Luckily, I still had four packs, or 48 tube free mega-rolls left. I had loads of time to come up with a sustainable solution. Some would say I had poop-loads of time, although I prefer the saucier version of that expression.

When I started researching ecologically sound alternatives, I learned that I had been naïve in thinking tube free was good for the planet. My brand wasn’t made from recycled or sustainable products, so there was nothing green about it. Sure, we were using slightly less cardboard than most people, but the paper itself had no environmental upside. I was mistakenly being Prius smug when in reality, I was using the Hummer of toilet paper.

Most regular toilet paper comes from boreal (old) forests, which, when cut down, don’t recover quickly. Plus, it takes a large amount of water and energy to make it. And chemicals like bleach and formaldehyde are used to help fabricate softer, stronger and whiter loo rolls.

It’s more sustainable to use either chemical-free recycled toilet paper or bathroom tissue made from fast growing plants such as bamboo.

Yet, you may ask, which one is better for the loo, recycled or bamboo?

A Dr. Seussian question deserves a Dr. Seussian answer: either is likable, bamboo or recycled.

I know. You’re wincing. Me too.

However, my research showed that both bamboo and recycled toilet paper are environmentally better alternatives. But(t) are these sustainable products just as effective for our bathroom needs as the quilted, four-ply, ultra-soft, forest-destroying brands?

I had to see for myself and I set about obtaining both bamboo and recycled tp. Perfect timing, because we were down to two packs of tube free mega-rolls – still plenty of time to choose a new eco-friendly brand. Or was it?

You see, at this point in my saga, it was March. And as we all know, in March, the poop hit the covidian fan (although I prefer the saucier version of that expression).

I could not find any kind of toilet paper anywhere. I was bummed.

Eventually, I acquired some bamboo tp called Caboo. FYI, bamboo toilet tissue manufacturers are the disrupters in the industry, and they all like to use pun-names such as Bippy, Reel Trees, Nootrees, No. 2, or Who Gives A Crap. You can also buy the brands Cheeky Panda and Enviropanda, which are made from bamboo, not pandas as their names suggest. Toilet paper made from pandas would not be environmentally sustainable.

I immediately put the Caboo rolls into the rotation and it did the job perfectly. There were no complaints from anyone in the household, which is really all we can ask from toilet paper.

The wonderful thing about bamboo loo rolls is that it is made from fast growing bamboo; it grows six time faster than old boreal trees. And bamboo produces more oxygen than those creaky trees. The downside is that it is grown and manufactured in Asia and shipping it here increases its carbon footprint and cost.

Too bad there are laws against planting invasive bamboo here in Suffolk county. I was thinking of starting a toilet paper company called Looboo. It’s tagline will be “toilet paper should not grow on trees.”

Cheeky slogan, right? I’m picturing it on t-shirts, bumper stickers and needlepoint samplers.

I had more difficulty finding toilet paper made from recycled products. Luckily one of the hockey pucks recently scored a four-pack of Seventh Generation at Provisions in Water Mill.

Recycled tp is slightly cheaper than its bamboo counterpart. And some say it’s softer. We took the Seventh Generation for a spin straightaway. But(t) I can’t comment on its relative suppleness. My tushy isn’t sophisticated enough to make such distinctions.

This week, we finished our last tube free mega-roll. We’ve switched to Who Gives A Crap’s 100% recycled 3-ply toilet paper – partly because it’s a better value than their bamboo rolls, and partly because they donate 50% of their profits to help build toilets for those in need.

But(t) the real reason I chose Who Gives A Crap is they ship it in cases of 48 rolls, an amount that satisfies my hoarding impulses.

I’ve ordered a lot. You can bet your sweet bippy I’ll be prepared for the next time the saucier version of poop hits the fan.

Published in The East Hampton Press, June 9, 2020.

Photo by ME!!!

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