Why I Spend Extra On Recycled Toilet Paper

by heather

You know, I’ve been trying to live a greener, more frugal lifestyle for a while now. I’m an avid recycler, I carry reusable shopping bags religiously, and I buy used far more often than I buy new. I’ve stopped buying stuff that I don’t need, and pay careful attention to the packaging used in the stuff I do buy new. All good things.

But for some reason, however, I never gave much thought to the toilet paper I was using everyday. I never gave any thought to the trees were being killed just so I could wipe my bum and pick up dustbunnies. Toilet paper was just there, you know? I bought whatever was on sale at Target, and never gave it a second thought.

All this changed a couple of months ago when I saw a special on the Discovery Channel. It was a show that took viewers on a “behind the scenes” tour of the Green Forest Factory, to show how recycled toilet paper was made.

It was fascinating, and really opened my eyes to just how damaging our use of toilet paper is on the environment.

For instance, The National Resources Defense Council reports that if every household in the United States replaced just one roll of their regular toilet paper with a recycled roll, we could save 423,900 trees.

And, the packaging on Seventh Generation’s TP says that if every household replaced just one 12-pack of 352 sheet of virgin fiber toilet paper with their recycled version we’d save 3,802,000 trees, 1.3 billion gallons of water, and 9.8 million cubic feet of landfill space (which is equal to 14,500 full garbage trucks). Wow.

They reported a similar statistic on the show I saw, and I admit I was completely floored. Here was something I could do and instantly start making a difference. It was amazing.

The Drawbacks to Recycled Toilet Paper

Now, many people don’t buy recycled toilet paper because they think it’s too rough. And I’ll be the first to admit: when it comes to softness, Charmin definitely has an edge over Seventh Generation.

The softness comes from virgin fiber. Those young supple trees are what makes our traditional toilet paper so soft and fluffy.

But, do we really need our toilet paper to feel like a billowing cloud of softness? I mean, there’s still a large number of people in the world who’d feel lucky to have any toilet paper. Will it kill us to have a little roughness in our lives? Hardly.

I’ve made the switch myself and can honestly say I don’t miss the super-softness of traditional paper. Yes, it’s great to have it, but green toilet paper feels almost exactly like off-brand regular toilet paper. And I’m not willing to keep killing trees just so I can have a super-soft TP. It’s just not worth it to me.

Let’s Price Compare…

Another drawback to buying recycled toilet paper is the price. Yes, it’s more expensive than regular. Or, is it? Let’s take a look.

I just bought a 12 Double Roll package (352 sheets per roll) of 7th Generation, and paid around $7 for it at the grocery store. This comes out to $1.71 per roll, or .004 cents per sheet.

Amazon.com is currently selling Seventh Generation toilet paper, and they’re offering a much better price. They’re offering a 48 pack of 500 sheet rolls for $56.23. This comes out to $1.17 per roll, and you get an additional 148 sheets per roll, which means you get 30% more sheets. This comes out to .002 cents per sheet.

Now, let’s break down what you’d pay for a package of Kleenex Cottonelle Aloe and Vit. E toilet paper, which is the Rolls Royce of TP as far as I’m concerned.

Amazon.com is offering 4 12-count packs for $42.45. They’re claiming that these are “double rolls”, but if you look closely you’ll see that they’re only 260 sheets per roll.

So, this is 48 rolls, which breaks down to .88 cents per roll, or .003 cents per sheet. In this case, the gigantic pack of Seventh Generation is actually the better deal.

Let’s look at another brand, Charmin Ultra Strong. Amazon’s selling this in packs of 5, and each package has 8 rolls. So, you’re getting 40 rolls, 250 sheets per roll, for $41.49. This breaks down to $1.03 per roll, or .004 cents per sheet.

Wow, isn’t that the same price per sheet as the Seventh Generation I bought at the grocery store? By jove, I think it is.

Now, other than the roll I bought for my own use at the local grocery store, all these prices are from Amazon.com. I didn’t factor in the cost of shipping for any of these, which would be about the same for them all anyway. I’ve done my very best to do the math accurately and compare apples to apples here, so if you spot a mistake please let me know!

Coupons Anyone?

Here’s the good news: Seventh Generation frequently puts out $1 off coupons for their products. You have to sign up for their newsletter to get them, but it’s worth it. Their newsletter has great articles on green living tips, and is definitely worth your time to read. Click here to sign up and start saving.

Green Forest and Seventh Generation

By now I’ve tried both brands: Seventh Generation and Green Forest. Those are the two that are widely available in my area.

For my own part, I prefer Seventh Generation. The reason is because Green Forest comes very loosely rolled. Many times I’d tear off some and it would keep unrolling, which is annoying when you’re reaching from the pot and trying franticly to keep it off the floor. I know you know what I mean.

But, that’s the only issue I had with Green Forest. The paper itself seemed to have about the same consistency as Seventh Generation.

Again, there are other brands out there, but these are the two that you’ll find easiest, since they’re the ones most widely available.

Last Word…

So, if buying green toilet paper cost me more than regular toilet paper, would I still do it?


Now that I’ve realized how harmful regular toilet paper is on the environment, I can’t in good conscious go back to buying regular. And as I’ve proven, green toilet paper is often the same price as the good stuff, so it’s not like a big investment or anything.

Another perk to this is that I use far less toilet paper now. I think twice before I tear off a wad to pick up a dust bunny, and I don’t use as much when I wipe. I’m conscious about how much I’m using, and I think this makes a huge difference.

So here’s my challenge: give recycled toilet paper a try. You’re literally saving trees with every roll you use. For me, sacrificing billowy softness is a small price to pay for that.

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Heidi January 19, 2009 at 10:30 am

There is a growing family cloth movement – would you be able to go that far?

heather January 19, 2009 at 10:46 am

Hi Heidi,

Yes, I’ve read about people that are moving to cloth wipes instead of TP, and have often thought about it myself.

Some of their strategies for this are actually pretty clever. One person I read kept a cloth bag of double-stitched t-shirt cloths on a hook by the toilet, and then another cloth bag on a hook that goes straight to laundry when it’s full. She said she never has a problem with odor or cleanliness with cloth wipes.

Could I do it myself? I think I could for #1, but I have a harder time imagining wiping with cloth for #2.

One of my resolutions this year is to completely eliminate paper towels in the house. I don’t think I could go completely TP free, but it’s definitely a possibility to cut down on its use!

Thanks so much for the intriguing question!

Heidi January 19, 2009 at 12:05 pm

Great answer 🙂 I have thought about it, but can’t seem to take the plunge. Maybe one day…

I do have cloth paper towels that I love – I am doing an interview/post with the WAHM I bought them from on my blog next Wed. She stocks the following Monday if you are interested.

They are knit on one side and terry on the other and there are snaps on all 4 corners. They come with elastic bands with snaps on them that wrap around a paper towel holder/tube. Basically, this means you can snap them together and wrap them around the paper towel holder – “real” cloth paper towels!

I love mine. You can use pretty much anything – but having them this way makes it easy for me to also use them for company (I get a lot of compliments for them). I felt funny handing guests a beaten up towel and explaining that I don’t use paper. I have no problem pulling out my cloth paper towel roll and saying “this is what we use”. It generally leads to compliments rather than questions, LOL!

heather January 19, 2009 at 12:25 pm


That sounds awesome! Does she have any pics online? That’s make a great feature for The Greenest Dollar (plus I’d love to have some for my own home; I’m currently using a wicker basket of cut up t-shirts, but yours sound really nice!).

I look forward to seeing your interview on Wednesday. Thanks for letting me know!

Heidi January 19, 2009 at 2:00 pm

She doesn’t have pictures up at the moment! I am pretty sure she told me she took a couple months off (birth of a baby I think) so her first new stocking will be the first Monday in Feb (which is why I am waiting til next Wed to do the post). She did say that she would send me a bunch of pictures and I am hoping she will have some previews up before the post goes live.

Beth @ Smart Family Tips January 20, 2009 at 11:22 am

I’ve recently tried both the Seventh Generation TP and Trader’s Joe’s brand. If there’s a Trader Joe’s in your area, I think it’s much better than Seventh Generation’s, BUT, I would definitely use SG’s over non-recycled for the very reasons you list in this post.

Thanks for doing to cost compare. I’m not sure where Trader Joe’s brand fits on the scale.

heather January 20, 2009 at 11:24 am

Hi Beth,

Thanks for writing in!

I didn’t know Trader Joe’s made recycled TP. That’s awesome! The closest TJ to me is 45 minutes, but I’ll definitely check out their prices next time I’m over there.

Thanks again for the tip!

farlane January 26, 2009 at 3:47 am

I have the same beef with Green Forest … they do the same thing with their paper towels. I wonder how much ecological benefit is canceled by the need to use more plastic wrap?

Anyway, cool blog – you should add it to Absolute Michigan:

heather January 26, 2009 at 6:44 am


Thanks so much for checking out my blog! I just went and added my site to Absolute Michigan. Many thanks for the suggestion!

Rebecca Rivera May 17, 2009 at 9:08 pm

I use all cloth in my house and fabric is much nicer than any toilet paper. I buy sevength generation for my older son (he won’t junp on the wagon-lol) and guests. My younger son & I use cloth. I cut up old t-shirts, fleece, etc. It is very easy and no one has ever complained about my bathroom being stinky.
The best change was going without paper towels. That has saved me so much. Also going to cloth pads. They are so soft, comfortable, and absorbant. I buy mine from a great work at home mom. I could make myself, but i can’t sew (on my list to learn.)

I really like your blog! -Becky

Rebecca Rivera May 17, 2009 at 9:08 pm

I can’t spell -lol

heather May 18, 2009 at 4:55 am


That’s great! I’m still working myself up to going cloth in the bathroom. But, that’s a goal I want to start on as soon as my house sells (it’s on the market right now, which is why I haven’t jumped onto the cloth train yet!). But, I did ditch paper towels this year, using old t-shirts instead. And like you, I’ve definitely saved money!

Thanks so much for reading!

Ellen August 19, 2009 at 4:43 pm

Green Forest also makes a double roll toilet paper product that has 352 sheets per roll, is packed tightly, and I’ve never had it unroll. The one you’re complaining about is single roll that has 198 sheets per roll (which I’ve never had a problem with either but whatever…) I emailed and asked them why they make both since it seems like more on a roll is better – less plastic packaging etc. It is because single roll products (which they say are one of many standard industry sized) appeal to people who have cash flow issues who really need to bring home some toilet paper. They have enough money at this moment to afford a package of single roll, but they don’t feel they can buy something like double roll that initially costs more money, even if over the long run it is more economical and ecological. If they buy any brand of double roll today, it literally means no milk for the kids tomorrow, or no bus fare to get to class and back home again. Hard to imagine people live this close to the edge if you don’t struggle like this but that’s the way it goes. It is like telling someone they should buy a Prius when all they can afford to buy is a used Suzuki. Maybe the Prius is the better choice overall in terms of gas mileage, reliability etc., but not everyone has the means or cash to buy a Prius, and the Suzuki will get you there. Single roll fills an economic niche, just like organisms fill environmental niches. This way, anyone who wants to can afford to buy 100% recycled paper product instead of the mainstream products.

Sue March 11, 2010 at 11:03 am

Hello first time on your blog and love this topic about toilet paper. When I was a student I years studing in Italy and it was then that I fell in love with the beday that most of the medittrain countries have in the homes. If you use the beday propperly you will never have the need for toilet paper. Familys have little towels for each member in the bathroom so after you use the toilet you move over on to the beday wash yourself and dry off with a normal towel. I am living in poland now and I had to order a beday form italy I will be putting it in my house that am building.

paradigm shift November 9, 2010 at 10:35 am

I also don’t understand why the paper towels or TP in a bundle needs to again be packed in even more plastic individually???? at least cardboard rolls will be history soon and this is progress even if the co. sole purpose is to make more $$$$, the end result is the same..so it is a win-win…another article is all about bidets and how they totally elim need for any TP..which most european and asian countries do, and even venezuela 90%…we need to stop coming up with false assertions about countries who are light-years ahead of us as excuses to not try to catch up with most countries…in green technologies…etc…i.e most countries except US have also already elim. plastic bags entirely and it hasn’t seem to affect their quality of life, except positively, when there is less trash.

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