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Which is the most eco-friendly toilet paper?

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and recently released a report that deep-dived into the impact of toilet paper usage on the environment. The report also shed light on which toilet paper brands were eco-friendly and how some toilet paper brands were nowhere close. According to the report, the most eco-friendly toilet paper brand is Green Forest. Green Forest makes toilet paper from 100% recycled paper. In fact, over 90% of it is post-consumer recycled content, one of the highest post-consumer recycled content any brand uses. Additionally, they follow bleaching practices that produce a reduced amount of harmful waste products. Way to go, Green Forest! You’re officially our favorite.

The NRDC graded popular toilet paper brands from A to F based on a score that looked at whether these brands used sustainable raw material and eco-friendly processes to make the toilet paper. Naturally, Green Forest received the highest score of 285 and an A grade. The second most sustainable toilet paper brands in the list were 365 Everyday Value (100% Recycled), Earth First, Natural Value, Seventh Generation, and Trader Joe’s Bath Tissue. These brands received a score of 270 and an A grade as well.

The least eco-friendly toilet paper brands in the list were Up & Up Soft & Strong by Target, Angel Soft by Georgia-Pacific, and Quilted Northern by Georgia-Pacific. They use 0% recycled content and instead get their paper from trees at the Canadian boreal forest. Moreover, the virgin fiber used by these companies is not FSC certified. Unsurprisingly, they received a 0 score and an F grade.

Factors that make a toiler paper roll environmentally friendly

The NRDC looked at the 18 most popular toilet paper brands. They evaluated these brands for sustainability based on the following factors:

NRDC used a formula to calculate the sustainability score based on the above factors. You can find the formula in NRDC’s report. 

Pre-consumer vs. post-consumer recycled content:

Many toilet paper brands use recycled content and advertise it prominently on the packaging. However, there are two types of recycled content: post-consumer recycled content and pre-consumer recycled content. Pre-consumer content helps alleviate pressure on the environment but provides fewer benefits in terms of conserving resources or reducing waste. Using post-consumer recycled content creates a smaller environmental footprint than using pre-consumer recycled content.

Post-consumer recycled content mainly includes finished material that has reached its intended end-use and completed its life cycle as a consumer item. Recycled mail is a good example of post-consumer recycled content. Pre-consumer recycled content, on the other hand, includes recovered trimming scraps from manufacturing operations. It also includes any previously manufactured but unused paper products, such as printers’ over-runs or obsolete stocks. Hence, looking at the type of recycled content used to produce toilet paper is important.

FSC certified and FSC-mix certified virgin fiber:

Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is the world’s most creditable independent certifier of responsibly managed forests. An FSC logo on a product means that the wood used for manufacturing the product is sourced from FSC certified forests. Products can either be FSC certified or FSC-mix certified. FSC-mix certification is a level down and has relaxed standards than FSC certified fiber. For example, FSC-mix certification guarantees that the sourced fiber doesn’t come from illegal forests or forests harvest in violation of civil rights. However, it doesn’t guarantee other things such as protection of intact forests. As paper is a key ingredient in making toilet paper, it’s important to know whether the paper used is recycled or made from sustainably sourced wood.

Non-chlorine bleaching processes:

Bleach is used to whiten, soften, and strengthen tissue products. Toilet paper companies either use an ECF or a PCF bleach process. ECF stands for “Elemental Chlorine Free” and PCF stands for “Processed Chlorine Free”. ECF uses chlorine dioxide whereas PCF uses ozone, oxygen, and/or peroxide to bleach the paper. Brands that use 100% recycled content typically use the “PCF” process because recycled paper requires less bleach. ECF is a commonly used process amongst brands that don’t use 100% recycle content.

Between the two, PCF is more environmentally friendly because it reduces the amount of harmful waste produced during bleaching. Despite its name, ECF releases elemental chlorine gas as a by-product into air and water, affecting people, fish, and other animals.

Where does your toilet paper brand stack up on the list?

So where does your toilet paper stacks up on the list? Here’s a list of brands evaluated by NRDC:

Brand NameScoreGrade
Green Forest285A
365 Everyday Value,
100% Recycled
Earth First270A
Natural Value270A
Seventh Generation270A
Trader Joe’s Bath Tissue270A
Marcal 1000c240B
Marcal Small Steps240B
365 Everyday Value, Sustainably Soft100D
Cottonelle Ultra100D
Scott 1000100D
Scott ComfortPlus100D
Trader Joe’s Super Soft Bath Tissue100D
Charmin Ultra50F
Angel Soft0F
Quilted Northern0F
Up & Up Soft & Strong0F
Data Courtesy: NRDC Report

Toilet paper is very popular here in the west. Americans, who make up just over 4 percent of the world’s population, account for over 20 percent of global tissue consumption. Moreover, an average American uses 141 rolls of toilet paper every year, the highest per capita consumption across the globe.

In the past, the usage of toilet paper may have been justified. However, as we put more strain on Mother Earth and its resources, it’s time to rethink our old habits. It’s important to think about ways to lead a more sustainable life. As it relates to the usage of toilet paper, those ways may include buying a more sustainably sourced toilet paper roll or installing bidets in your toilet that will save over 90% of the toiler paper you use today. Let’s take small steps and make a difference.

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