27,000 Trees A Day to Wipe Bottoms – What’s Your Wipe of Choice?

Toilet paper. We don’t talk about this much, but I reckon we should. We all need it and use it – well a great proportion of people in developed countries anyway, and global consumption is rising.  What’s your wipe of choice? I’m shifting from recycled paper to tree-free.  



27,000 trees a day to wipe bottoms.

Worldwide, around 270,000 trees are either flushed or dumped in landfills every day. About 10 percent of this is toilet paper.  Also the production of each toilet paper roll uses about 140 litres of water.

Only 5% recycled toilet paper used.

Most toilet paper is made from virgin paper. In Australia, only 5% of our toilet paper comes from recycled paper. 

According to the Australian Conservation Foundation every tonne of paper recycled saves:
  • 13 trees
  • 2.5 barrels of oil (average car would use this in 2-3 months)
  • 4100 kilowatts of electricity (average household use per year)
  • four cubic metres of landfill
  • 31,380 litres of water  (roughly a household’s annual water use)

That’s significant.

But if you are choosing recycled loo paper, be sure to pick one that doesn’t use chlorine bleach. Before being pulped and processed, recycled paper is de-inked. Chlorine can be used for this. Chlorine-based chemicals however can react with paper fibres and create toxic compounds such as dioxin and organochlorines.

What toilet paper should I use then?

More and more sources of eco-loo paper are becoming available. New small ethical subscriber-based companies are starting up supplying homes with bulk orders of toilet paper made from non-chlorine bleached recycled paper or bamboo and sugarcane paper (the softer option for sensitive bottoms). Bamboo grows so much faster than trees!

There’s also people exploring fibre crops, such as hemp, and abundant agricultural and industrial byproducts ranging from wheat straw to garment scraps, sunflower stalks, and rags – all logical sources of tree-free pulp. 



How many trees are there in the world?

As an aside, while I was writing this, I came across a research paper that showed the planet has 3.04 trillion trees – or approximately 422 trees per person. This information was published last year in the journal Nature and based on research conducted at Yale. The research also says that 15.3 billion trees are chopped down every year – with the highest losses in the tropics where some of the oldest and biggest trees live. It also estimates that almost half of the world’s trees have been cleared already. This has significant implications for the planet in terms of climate change, biodiversity, and therefore also human well-being.
Let’s think before we wipe and go tree-free! If you don’t already use it why not give the paper made from sustainable, renewable resources a go.

Here’s some of the sites I visited while writing this tonight.

17 Responses

  1. Fiona Chain
    Fiona Chain at |

    Hi Morag, I am in the process of sourcing our loo paper from "who gives a crap" as I wanted to reduce the amount of single use plastic wrapper coming in the home, however I really didn't think about the sustainability of this every day product. Thanks for all the info, it is enlightening.
    Have a wonderful weekend.

  2. Lola
    Lola at |

    Thanks for the info! TP is another product I want to switch to a more eco-friendly version of once I finish what I've already got 🙂

  3. Unknown
    Unknown at |

    Years ago, when I was in India we had a cup and bucket of water, no loo paper, just a quick splash of water. It worked well with a squatting style position.

  4. Morag Gamble : Our Permaculture Life
    Morag Gamble : Our Permaculture Life at |

    Yes I remember that too – but as you say, it really works best with the squat toilet.

  5. Mr Home Maker
    Mr Home Maker at |

    Bring back the bidet….or for Australian, introduce the bidet!
    Cheap style bidet….spray bottle and one square of loo paper to dry off.

  6. Selina B
    Selina B at |

    my daughters & i went over to 'who gives a crap' from a previous post you wrote on; not having the extra plastic is a small relief.
    thanx for sharing

  7. Suella
    Suella at |

    Or, in Vietnam, a spray hose. But I still needed a tissue!

  8. bldyman
    bldyman at |

    in italy everybody has bidet…but before uses a lot of paper! lol

  9. Karin
    Karin at |

    Hemp is the answer to many if not most of our needs — fiber, food, medicine, fuel, building materials, as well basic ingredients used throughout industry (now provided by synthetic petroleum based products). see

  10. Patricia
    Patricia at |

    And hemp?

  11. Unknown
    Unknown at |

    If you ever scratch your butt or find "rust spots" in your underwear, you did not complete the paperwork correctly. That never happens to me since I changed to washing my butt with a 12 oz bottle of water and wipe it dry with a wash clothe I carry, easily.

  12. therese Delfel
    therese Delfel at |

    Thank you indeed for this very useful piece of info about an everyday product ! All alternative sources are to be explored but let's keep in mind that "less is more" and of the 6 "R"s in ecology, the three first are : Reduce, Reduce, Reduce (and then only come Reuse (what is possible), Repair and last of the 6 "R"s, Recycle where applicable).

  13. Susan Risk
    Susan Risk at |

    We have adopted a partial paper use. We have a basket of 'pee cloths' nearby – which are towels cut up into 5-6" squares. They are laundered on washday and reused. This saves a tremendous amount of paper and isn't much of a shift. Good for squat or western style toilets. For the other function, TP as usual.

  14. Anonymous
    Anonymous at |

    I can confirm this version…
    bidet could be used alone as well actually… It would be interesting maybe to know how much water is used per bidet-wash and how much water (and energy and trees and…) is used per PT-cleaning, to compare which would be the most effective and resource saving!
    Other solution comes from the past: ancient romans used to wash themselves with a piece of natural sponge previously wetted and inserted on a stick and then wash the sponge (smtng similar to Susan Risk's comment). By re-doing so, the use of water would be much less than using bidet. For hygene porpouses, the sponge could be lefted in a little cup with some sanitizing 🙂 What do you all think?

  15. Lisa Michelle
    Lisa Michelle at |

    Do you have a brand recommend for bamboo loo paper? I was overjoyed to see a new rangne in paper towels made of bamboo….. But they are absolute crap, rip and dissolve at the drop of a hat. As such I removed their tp from my "new products to try" . I was very dissapointed. Am using them as serviettes before composting. They defs can't be rinsed and reused before their end of life. 🙁

  16. Anonymous
    Anonymous at |

    Back in the 1960's I heard from a friend who had traveled in Europe that they had "butt baths" in their bathrooms to wash up rather than using TP. Now I've never been to Europe or seen such an item in a US bathroom but I wonder why it hasn't caught on. It seems like a sensible alternative.

  17. BlackDiamond
    BlackDiamond at |

    🙂 If you go ONLY before you shower each day you needn't use anything, you're going to wash ANYWAY right?
    This is what I do and haven't used paper (at home) in years…. use soap to wash "the area" then hands are washed quickly after your butt so no icky thoughts, and NO extra water is used to wash hands and apart from a normal toilet flush (which uses a tank from the roof) this saves trees AND water!