Toilet Paper and the zero waste movement

a compost bin painted in bright colours

The sustainability crisis is fuelled by a simple fact; too much stuff is being made. So it’s important to take time to consider how necessary the things around us really are, and for companies to really understand the value and impact of the products they’re making. 

Today we’re delving into the principles of the zero waste movement, provide examples of everyday zero waste practices, and discuss the strengths and weaknesses of more environmentally friendly alternatives. 

Alternatives to what, you ask? Toilet paper of course! Let’s dive in.

colourful paper wrapping

Understanding the zero waste movement

The zero waste approach is centred on the idea of minimising waste sent to landfills and incinerators by encouraging better design and more mindful habits. The ultimate goal is to reduce the demand for virgin materials and the demand for waste disposal and landfill.

The core principles of the zero waste movement can be summarised by the five R’s: 

Refuse: This is where zero waste starts. We can get in the habit of saying no to unnecessary items and packaging. This means rejecting single-use plastics, disposable items, and products with excessive packaging.

Reduce: Most of us could probably stand to cut down on the amount of stuff in our lives. Buying less, and going for more durable items when you can will cut down on waste in the long term.

Reuse: Wherever possible, find new uses for things instead of throwing them away. Old clothes and bedding can make cleaning rags, glass jars can be refilled. 

Recycle: We all love a bit of recycling but there’s a reason it’s number four on the list. From the zero waste perspective recycling is the last resort for material that can’t be refused, reduced, or reused.

Rot: Food and other forms of organic waste are a huge category of pollution. Composting can return valuable nutrients to the soil and cut down on waste going to landfill 

a compost heap

What do zero waste people do about toilet paper? 

Traditional toilet paper has a significant environmental impact due to deforestation, the use of bleach and other chemicals, and the fossil fuels  used in its production. All of this environmental burden, for the sake of something that’s literally flushed away, clearly goes against the spirit of the zero waste movement.

Zero waste champion Robin Greenfield uploaded a video of his low-impact tiny home in the woods, in which he shows off the leafy plants he cultivates near his composting toilet, which serve as his own natural toilet paper! But most of us don’t live in the woods! So what are our options?  

a bidet in a fancy bathroom

Bidets and bidet attachments

This one comes up a lot in our comments on Facebook! Bidets come in two forms; a freestanding unit, or a hose-type attachment that you can install on your toilet. Either way the principle is the same, water is used to clean after going to the toilet. You might still want a bit of toilet paper for drying, but not as much. 

By reducing the amount of toilet paper needed, bidets can reduce the environmental impact  associated with traditional toilet paper manufacture. Of course there are still some costs to be considered. Bidets require a water supply, and installing them can require plumbing adjustments and some maintenance as well. They can also take a bit of getting used to for those of us who didn’t grow up with them! 

small cleaning cloths

Family cloths

Family cloths are a set of small squares of soft cloth that you don’t flush but throw into a laundry bin to be washed after using. Before you recoil in horror, many households with family cloths use them for pee only, and most will combine using the cloths with water in some way (like with a bidet), so the cloth itself is really more for the drying side of things. 

As a zero-waste solution, these cloths are a good shout, toilet paper is no longer needed at all and once you have your cloths you don’t need to replace them. Hygiene concerns might be an issue though, they do require diligent washing and proper storage to stay clean. As well as this, using family cloths adds an extra step to your bathroom routine, as you need to handle, store, and wash the cloths regularly.

That’s before we get into the issue of getting houseguests on board! All in all, you probably still want a roll of toilet paper around just in case. And that brings us to the last option. 

unbleached bamboo toilet roll

Eco friendly toilet Paper

Even with other options in play, most of us in the UK will probably want a few toilet rolls kicking around the house; for drying, guests, or other contingencies! 

When we talk about the environmental strain associated with toilet paper, we generally say “traditional toilet paper” or “toilet paper that is made in the traditional way”. Partly, this is because the standard material used for toilet paper, virgin wood pulp, is a cause of deforestation. Nowadays you will find more environmentally-friendly toilet roll brands using bamboo fibre, or recycled fibre, to make their toilet rolls instead of virgin wood pulp, like we do at Naked Sprout. We even use old delivery packaging to make our recycled toilet rolls, so these bits of cardboard and paper get a new lease of life! 

But we like to go further than that. Traditional toilet roll manufacture also uses fossil fuels to provide the heat for drying their rolls - and this is the main source of CO2e emissions associated with toilet rolls. So we use renewable energy instead, and we also use renewable energy to power the machines that make our rolls and the electricity needs of our factory. As far as we know we’re the only eco toilet roll brand in the UK that does this, and this is why our total emissions are lower than others on the market. 

And while we’re on the topic of waste, we can’t forget the bleach that most toilet rolls, even some “naturally coloured” rolls, use to change the colour of their pulp. We don’t use any kind of bleaching process at Naked Sprout, so there’s no bleach being manufactured, packaged, transported, or needing safe disposal. We test the water we use at our factory to make sure there’s no environmental degradation, and then we return it to the river.

So whether you’re looking for a toilet roll to combine with other zero-waste toilet strategies, or you just want a more sustainable alternative to traditional toilet paper, Naked Sprout is a good bet. 

a sign reading "composting toilet"


The zero waste movement invites us all to think twice about our consumption habits and find ways to cut the amount of stuff in our lives. Adopting new bathroom habits can help reduce the footprint of waste and emissions associated with going to the loo. 

Advocates of zero waste living are quick to point out that there’s no perfect solutions, and aiming for small improvements that build up over time is always going to be better than trying for perfection. It’s useful to see the principles of the movement as a challenge, and use them to bring more mindfulness to our everyday lives. There’s never going to be a one-size fits all solution to living with less impact, but hopefully this round-up has provided some food for thought! 

Fancy trying some unbleached, no plastic, environmentally-friendly toilet rolls? 

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