This post is in partnership with Plant Paper, a toilet paper company focused on creating an everyday product that is both body and eco-conscious. All thoughts and opinions are my own. If you wish to check out Plant Paper in person, they can be found at OtherWild General – a bulk and zero waste store located in Los Angeles, CA.
Environmental change isn’t going to happen overnight placed in a consumer’s hands. At least, not enough of it. Sufficient change required to turn the tide will involve support from large organizations and changes at the macro-level by government bodies. But as a person who believes in the strength of the smallest of action, I also think we, as consumers, have some power. That power is strengthened when our product choices are intentional, especially when buying products required for daily activities whose redundancy magnifies the effect of our actions.
So here we are again, talking about toilet paper.
Toilet paper is a privilege, which I spoke about in my original post featuring Who Gives a Crap. But for most people in the United States, toilet paper is a “necessity”. And when certain household products are viewed as such, it becomes more urgent to source these products mindfully. If we can curb the way we use, purchase, and choose toilet paper, then we can really make an impact.
So after a year of advocating WGAC, which is based in Australia, I was ever so excited to come across a California company also shedding light on creating eco-freindly toilet paper alternatives.
Introducing … PLANT PAPER!
Plant Paper is a company imagined by Lee Reitelman and Joshua Solomon, two individuals who recognized that the ways in which we produce toilet paper does not align with neither our bodies nor our environment. The two then partnered with Scott Barry, creative director of LA’s all day breakfast joint, Sqirl, and on a December morning in 2019, I was able to hop onto a call with Rachel Eubanks, business and life partner of Scott.
The calling to create new toilet paper came after Reitelman and Solomon recognized the amount of energy, formaldehyde and chlorine it takes to convert wood to soft paper. We have a tree-based system of toilet paper-making that was not in effect until the Scott Brothers and Dupont Chemical got into the business. Prior to their invention of the toilet paper that we now see in our minds, toilet paper was made from hemp and sugarcane, both materials that take less chemicals and water to dissolve. The first person to ever invent toilet paper was actually Dr. Gayetty and his T.P. was of hemp!
Interestingly enough, when Gayetty first introduced toilet paper to the public, it did not take. Most consumers at the time could not fathom why one would pay for paper that you throw away. It wasn’t until after the 1880’s that toilet paper began to be seen as a product that signifies upper middle class status – and when you have a product that sells a lifestyle, well, it sells itself.
One thing’s for sure. With the growing attention on climate change, intentional living, and ethical consumer consumption, Reitelman and Solomon are right. “Tree paper should be, and will be, a thing of the past.”
Great for the Environment, Swell for the Bum
The focus of Plant Paper is to create a toilet paper that is good for the body and the environment. The amount of chemicals used in the production of paper used to wipe butts is a long list – the most toxic ingredient included is chlorine which is used as chlorine bleach.
When you think of toilet paper, what color comes to mind? Usually, white. All white toilet paper require a bleaching process that turns the paper from a natural brown tree-color to a color that is deemed “sanitary”. Plant Paper wishes to change consumer perception of what toilet paper looks like. Plant Paper is BROWN, and avoids harsh chemicals such as bleaching agents and formaldehyde. If we can get people to embrace naturally colored toilet paper, then we can eliminate unnecessary chemicals that we are essentially wiping all over our bodies.
In fact, I would wager that not many Americans are aware of the fact that 37 gallons of water go into every roll of tree paper, plus a gallon of chemicals. Chemicals such as bleach and formaldehyde are known to cause UTI’s, hemorrhoids, and fissures in our bodies. But these are things we’ve grown accustomed to because we don’t stop to think that there is another way. 50 to 60% of women will get UTI’s in their lifetime and half of all people will get hemorrhoids by age 50. Something to think about.
Additionally, we must consider the environmental implications. Options on the market for eco-conscious toilet paper include recycled paper such as that of Seventh Generation, which is where most conversations stop. However, the resources required to recycle paper are often more than simply producing from new trees. In a world where resources in general are running scarce, we must consider more than the number of trees we save. We must consider the true cost. Recycled paper is no longer an option that is good enough.
Plant Paper looked at alternatives to both trees and recycled paper. They landed on the notion of using a type of grass to produce their toilet paper. Grasses grow incredibly faster than trees do. They first considered hemp as an option but eventually landed on bamboo, one of the fastest growing grasses in the world. Bamboo can grow up to 36 inches every 24 hours. Because of this choice, they had to turn make their production China-based, which means there is the logistic of still shipping their toilet paper half-way around the world.
When asked how they mitigate that choice, Rachel from Plant Paper explains that they try to reduce the impact by shipping in containers and sending in bulk. This reduces the shipping frequency, and all fulfillment of orders originate from centers in North Carolina. Currently, all orders may only be made via their online site, but the goal is to bring ethical toilet paper to locations near you.
Their dream is to eventually create a dispensary system where people are encouraged to bring their own bag and take as many rolls home as they need. Currently, they have their toilet paper stocked at OtherWild General in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles. You can find Plant Paper in the Zero Waste/Bulk Section of the general store. Hopefully, these babies will start popping up at more folk shops and zero waste stores.
Beyond Environment and Health
To say that the environmental and health benefits are secondary to the real reason behind the creation of Plant Paper is true. This goes beyond current consumer trends and green washing and embracing the new status symbols of upper middle class. The true reason to buy a product like Plant Paper is simply because it is the best product out there.
We are a society trained to be content with unsatisfactory products and to accept that “it is what it is”, so much so that we even have a saying for it. We can no longer settle for mediocrity. We got to the point where we created recycled toilet paper with Seventh Generation, ticked off the box that said we were eco-conscious consumers, and stopped further conversation. But that’s not where it ends.
Plant Paper pushes the envelope to do more. How can we replace trees with a more sustainable material? How can we deconstruct the expectation that toilet paper should be white and thereby get away from all the chemicals? How can we reduce the amount of toilet paper usage all together? Perhaps we raise awareness of the recentness of toilet paper, and tell the story of it’s initial rejection by society. Perhaps we shed light on the fact that it is a monopoly controlled by one company, and that is why change at the macro-level is so difficult to achieve. All of this was discussed in my one hour conversation with Rachel, and it has got me excited about this company.
As Reitelman and Solomon worded it in another interview, we’ve created a hybrid car but the end point is an all electric vehicle.
So now, the question most of you wish to be answered: How is the quality of toilet paper?
Plant Paper is double-sided and 3-ply. One side is soft and silky, what the team jokingly say is for dabbing, whereas the opposite side is textured, you know… for grabbing. With a smile on my face and a giggle in the air, I can see that it is this kind of whimsical thinking and creativity that has the power to change the world.
The branding for Plant Paper is simple, at best. Unlike Who Gives A Crap’s enthusiastic and colorful branding, Plant Paper may appeal more to minimalists who wish not to inundate their bathroom with colorfully wrapped rolls. If I am being honest, I myself prefer a more calm loo environment that reminds me of a zen spa and am relieved to know that such an eco-conscious option exists. Additionally, I prefer the buy-as-you-need approach of Plant Paper over the bulk orders of Who Gives A Crap. I think that what separates Plant Paper from Who Gives A Crap is their vision to be a wellness product in addition to being an environmentally friendly product, but what sells it to me is their hope to change a social norm by getting consumers to question, “Why?”
If you wish to try Plant Paper for yourself, I highly do recommend. I do not receive a commission from Plant Paper for your purchase.