In Pursuit of the Plastic Free Poo

How far are you willing to go to save the planet? How about as far as the bathroom?

I ask because a search for “reusable toilet paper” on Etsy reveals 1,645 results. Yes, you read that right.

Regular toilet paper— at 1.5 pounds of wood and 37 gallons of water per roll— is surprisingly wasteful. Most of us would hear this and say: sure, but what is the alternative? Well, a few months ago I stumbled upon the concept of the “family cloth.” I mean, reusable toilet paper sounds like a horrible idea, but… I was going to keep an open mind. I did some research, read articles both for and against.

The conclusion I came to was this: Nope.

In the interest of environmentalism, recycled toilet paper would seem to be the next best option, right? But my experience has consistently been that recycled brands are harder to find, cost more and— just as a bonus—suck. They were usually too thin, too rough or both. And either way, toilet paper goes down the toilet and disappears, so it didn’t present much of an immediate problem for our Year of No Garbage.

What was a problem: the plastic overwrap.

Lots of TP means LOTS of plastic overwrap

Inexplicably, even the recycled toilet paper at my store comes with plastic overwrap. Seriously- why do companies think we’ll buy recycled paper to save trees but ignore the This-Will-Outlive-Your-Great-Grandchildren-Overwrap? I’m looking at you Seventh Generation.

Yes, you can recycle plastic overwraps of all kinds in the plastic bag recycling at the supermarket, but many people won’t, and more plastic is always bad. Not creating it in the first place is far preferable.

Enter the Australian-based company Who Gives a Crap, which besides having a terrifically easy to remember name, is a solution I’m liking right now. Some things I like about them:

  • They donate 50% of their profits to help build toilets for people who need them. 800 children die every day from poor water and sanitation.


  • Their products are 100% plastic free.


  • They have a sense of humor. To draw attention to their 2012 crowd-funding campaign, co-founder Simon Griffiths sat on a toilet for 50 hours; he wrote contributors thank you notes on pieces of toilet paper.
Who Gives a Crap arrives at my house

As you might expect— when you’re ordering your sustainably sourced toilet tissue— it is expensive. Just how expensive? I ordered 48 bamboo rolls for $52, which means I’m paying just over a dollar a roll. According to the toilet paper math mavens of the Internet, of which there are greater numbers than I imagined, this is nearly twice what I should be paying for an ordinary roll of TP.

A slightly cheaper option is Who Gives a Crap‘s recycled paper line, for which you are paying about a third more.

The expense is one obvious downside. Then there’s a global footprint involved in home shipping, but where is it really coming from? Australia? A production facility in the U.S.? And how does that compare to the shipping of products like Cottonelle or Charmin to my supermarket? As of now, I don’t know.

The upside is that I like their product a lot: it is thick, soft and comfortable to use. And their subscription service means you never have to worry about forgetting to buy toilet paper at the store ever again. Just like supporting local businesses or buying organic food, if you’re willing and able to pay the higher price for things you believe in, then it is worth checking these guys out.

My bottom line (so to speak?)? The plastic packaging overwrap is gone. So I’m pretty happy.

14 thoughts on “In Pursuit of the Plastic Free Poo

  1. We have a bidet attachment on our toilet. This is what makes reusable “toilet paper” possible around here. Wash it off, dry off with a small towel or dry wash cloth, and you’re good to go. Who knew that most of the world outside of North America does this already?!

  2. I am using reel bamboo toilet paper since it is a US based company though the toilet paper is made in China. I am looking for a good source for bamboo tissues. I bought some through Amazon a couple of months ago

    1. I just double checked and Who Gives a Crap tissues are made from 100% bamboo. Maybe worth trying out? If you do let me know how you like them- we’ve gotten a bunch of hankies from the Vermont Country Store but I NEED MORE- they are always in the laundry when I want one

      1. We use rags as hankies. As soon as pajamas or Tshirts wear out, thy get cut up as hankies, and we have an abundant supply. They’re much softer on the nose than paper or bamboo tissues, are within the “reuse” category of reduce, reuse, recycle, and are free.
        A number of years ago, a friend said to me, “Are you still using trees to blow your nose?” That’s when we began using our soft hankies. I do have some nice hankies for in public.

  3. I was just thinking about writing to you to find out if you’ve contacted TP companies about the plastic wrapping! It is absurd. Would a petition to switch to paper wrap be a good idea? I was thinking of starting with some of the recycled TP companies such as Seventh Generation, Green Forest, and Whole Foods.
    Re importing from Australia: it’s much more shipping to go from Australia than from the US northwest (to NY, where I live.) unfortunately, my wife doesn’t like the bamboo TP that we tried. Probably “Who gives a crap” is thicker. We have found Green Forest and Whole Foods 365 brands of recycled paper TP to be acceptable.
    WGAC sounds like a great company. Where does the bamboo come from?

  4. Fabulous solution. Too bad the cost is prohibitive for most folks. My spouse would never go along with spending that much.
    Thanks for the resource.
    And always the amusing story.

  5. I just started using Who Gives A Crap a few months ago, after researching costs and benefits of quite a few brands. Here’s a couple of side bonuses I like, too: Stacked on a laundry/bathroom area shelf it’s very colorful and aesthetically pleasing, and I save the paper packaging as wrapping paper! (and put a tag over the logo)

  6. Hi, a friend just told me about your blog so I’m a first time commenter. Regarding family cloth- have you ever considered not going with the all or none approach? You can significantly reduce your TP use by using family cloth for #1 and leave it at that. That’s been the best solution for my family.

    I’m now motivated to check out WGAC for the little bit of TP we do buy. Thanks!

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