Toilet paper, cotton pads, Q tips…
The plastic that wraps toilet paper is not the only issue with this product. Shockingly, most toilet paper is still made from trees – about 27000 trees worldwide per day! It’s incredibly important to buy TP made from sustainable sources (recycled paper, or bamboo/sugarcane), in addition to being chlorine-free and packed in something biodegradable.
- A few brands that address these issues:
- Who Gives a Crap (Oz and now UK): Super soft, 100% recycled paper fibres, bamboo and sugarcane, chemicals-free. Packed in paper and card, 50% of profits donated to build toilets for those in need.
- Pure Planet (Oz): 100% renewable, recycled bamboo and sugarcane waste, biodegradable, chlorine-free and wrapped in pretty paper, with the encouragement to reuse it in craft projects.
- Greencane (NZ): Made from sugarcane biproduct, with compostable packaging.
- Edet (Norw): Made of 100% recycled fiber, packed in biodegradable plastic with compostable paper packaging. Other measures also taken to cut production, packaging, and transportation cost and emissions.
- Maxima Green (UK): TP intended for public bathrooms, available in bulk from Staples and Ryman‘s among others, is made from managed forests and packed in paper and card. Sheets don’t come in rolls but piles, which can sit in a little basket by the loo.
- Nouvelle (UK): Super soft, made in the UK from a mix of recycled & ethically sourced sustainable paper. Their wrapper is plastic unfortunately; I emailed them and they responded that it was recyclable (that’s not good enough in my book). Available in some retailers and via Abel & Cole.
- Ecoleaf (UK) (made for Suma) is much more satisfactory, being 100% recycled and wrapped in 100% compostable wrapper, and they also make kitchen towels and other products. The tricky part is locating a retailer; check your usual eco/organic store, they may just carry them (I get mine from Earth Natural Foods)
- Reduce your TP usage. Fear not, I’m not going to suggest reusable toilet paper. At least, not quite.
I grew up in a household where each bathroom had a bidet and a pile of tiny towels designated for that use only. Most of the cleaning up is done with water, and the towels are for finishing and drying. So toilet paper is only used by the women in the house after a pee, rather than by everyone for either business: it makes a big difference in terms of consumption! In the West, bidets are very uncommon, BUT it is quite easy to buy and install a toilet-mounted bidet, that does the job and takes up less space. Some are very cheap, but double-check your toilet allows this before buying. All you then need are a few tiny towels, which can just as well be small squares cut out of an old towel, to see your TP usage (and expenses) drop immensely. The towels, being minimally soiled (comparable to underwear), can be washed with the rest of the laundry, so they don’t add to your water and energy consumption.
Cotton ear buds
(aka cotton swabs or Q tips)
You shouldn’t be using ear buds in the first place. Ear specialists keep telling people not to use them, so it’s baffling they still exist. The safe way to clean your ears is with water unde the shower, and leave the ear canal alone, its self-cleaning provided we don’t keep pushing ear wax in with silly little sticks. There are some plastic-free, organic cotton options around, but it takes 21,000 liters of water to grow 1kg of cotton. This is not a material we want to waste on a single-use, disposable product.
If you need cotton buds for some other purpose where they’re indispensable, use them sparingly and make a box last. Here are plastic-free brands packaged in card:
- Organic cotton buds from Simply Gentle (UK): Organic cotton on paper stalks, 100% biodegradable BUT the box has a plastic window 😦
See previous entry for the cost of cotton and the unconsciousness of using it for single use. This is in addition to the plastic wrapper. Cotton pads are another unnecessary item you can cross off the shopping list: a soft cloth is a durable replacement for makeup removal, and can be used repeatedly on both sides before having to be washed. Or you can trawl Etsy for handmade, reusable cotton rounds…