We need toilet paper for obvious reasons. But we all know that paper is sort of problematic for our forests and we’re all concerned about paper waste. When you’re thinking “Is there any way to keep using toilet paper without further damaging the environment?” You’re not alone. In fact, there are new companies or startups that specialise in this matter.
Brands such as No. 2, Who Gives A Crap, Tushy, Cheeky Monkey, Bippy, and Peach all have similar goal: improving all kinds of toilet experience. Those brands are on a smaller scale. Most are self-funded or have received pre-seed rounds of under a million dollars. Compared to the existing, conventional brands in the industry (which worth $31 billion), that number is quite overwhelming.
Major companies like Procter & Gamble, Georgia-Pacific, and Kimberly-Clark have treated their products as a commodity, and they’ve been competing based on price. Additionally, they haven’t been innovating that much in terms of eco-friendliness apart from making larger rolls.
However, the newer brands have their own strategies. They appeal more on the market which has been getting more aware of sustainability by including more sustainable materials, not using plastic wrap, improving texture, and giving the rolls beautiful designs that looks great on your bathrooms. These brands do charge more than conventional toilet papers which usually sell a roll for under $1, but you and the environment get all the good stuff.
This kind of innovation might seem like a new idea or technology. Surprise, surprise, these startups are actually inspired by the original inventor of toilet paper, Joseph Gayetty. In 1857, Gayetty came up with a new wipe alternative to the most commonly used toilet paper at the time: pages of old catalogs or newspaper.
The inventor developed sheets of manila hemp infused with aloe. Back then, a thousand sheets worth $1 (it’s equal to $28.86 in today’s money) and it was considered a luxury item. But not long after that, this product became a necessity and it turned out to be a must-have item in every American household.
With the current economic situation, these startups believe that their target will pay more for a higher-end version of toilet paper. Some lifestyle brands such as the razor startup Harry’s and Away are some successful examples that they want to follow.
Elevating toilet experience is the ultimate aim of these startups. On its website, Peach Goods stated, “We believe in moments for ourselves. To give every part of us—and our bathrooms—something better.”
Will this new product or alternative fight deforestation?
Natural Resources Defense Council has released a report that laid out how the facial tissue, paper towels, and toilet paper industries are devastating forests around the world at a rate of 27,000 trees a day.
Some popular toilet paper brands source their wood pulp from forests which trees regenerate every 20 to 50 years. And once they’ve got their sustainability scorecards, those types of brands got Fs. Of course, the ones with As are the ones which use recycled paper instead of virgin.
Now, the newer, indie brands want to be as sustainable as they can. Because aside from wanting to help the environment, consumers are now shifting towards an eco-friendly lifestyle and they’re more eco-conscious than most people in the previous generation.
To do so, these new companies take one of two approaches. The first one is using recycled paper rather than pulp from virgin trees, which not only saves the forests themselves, but it also requires less energy and water. The second one is using bamboo, something that grows so much faster than trees. Who Gives A Crap offers both recycled and bamboo paper, while Tushy, No.2, and Cheeky Monkey all use bamboo
According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, tissue paper made from bamboo release 30% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than products made from virgin wood. Additionally, bamboo has just a bit of virgin fiber’s impact on forests and the climate.
Tissue paper made from bamboo or recycled paper isn’t something new, there are a lot of companies or brands which have done that. For example, Seventh Generation has been using recycled paper for decades, and sustainable retailer Grove makes bamboo toilet rolls.
Therefore, the newer brands come up with something that will set them apart from the existing brands. They promise to deliver convenient innovations like softer paper textures and as mentioned before, pretty designs.
No. 2 stated that the brand has found a way to reduce bits of paper that get left behind after wiping. In order to get the exact texture she was looking for, the founder spent six months on the R&D process with her manufacturer in China, testing out different formulas, thicknesses, layers of paper, and how quickly it dissolves in water. The result is soft but strong paper.
Peach is the only new brand that uses virgin wood pulp. As you know, that option is the least eco-friendly option among the newer brands. However, the brand stated that it sources the pulp and produce their products within the country. Companies or brands that use bamboo usually source their rolls from China. Other than that, the brand makes sure that the rolls don’t use bleach, formaldehyde, and other chemicals to artificially soften, strength, or whiten their paper.
Commitment to sustainability and other experience
Products aren’t the only thing that these brands focuses on. Tushy, No.2, Bippy, and Who Gives A Crap sell their products in patterned paper that’s as attractive as the toilet paper. When you get the products, it doesn’t feel like you’re opening a toilet paper at all, more like opening a bag of treats.
It’s true that conventional toilet paper brands sell their products in bulk, not individually. However, No. 2 believes that selling paper individually makes the products look aesthetic and also more sanitary. Besides, those rolls of paper would mostly sit around in bathrooms for quite a while before people actually use them, making them unhygienic.
Delivering the products to the consumer is also the brands’ concern. Many brands offer subscription programs, so there will be big boxes of rolls delivered on your doorstep on a regular schedule. With this program, you won’t have any running-out-of-toilet-paper troubles.
Basically, these brands are trying to do what Gayetty did a long time ago. He tried to make people want to have a better bathroom experience, and these startups are trying to makes consumers invest in a better bathroom experience as a form of self care and wellness. However, note that Gayetty was the inventor of those paper wipes, meaning that there was nothing like it before.
Therefore, these brands are not only competing with each other, but also other popular and bigger brands that have existed since a long time ago. But maybe, if these brands can prove that consumers are indeed looking for something that elevates their bathroom experience and gives less negative impact to the environment and finally the conventional brands can make similar alternative, then it seems like we’re going in the right direction.