Earth Day is coming up in less than a month! What will be your Earth Day resolution?
One easy thing to do is to switch to a more earth-friendly version of something you use regularly–like toilet paper. There are many brands of toilet paper on the market now that are made from post-consumer recycled paper (that’s paper that good citizens put into recycling bins) and either not whitened or bleached with oxygen instead of chlorine bleach–and they are not all scratchy! In fact, I haven’t encountered a scratchy recycled-paper toilet tissue in about 15 years. If you’re really particular about texture, buy a small amount of a brand before you try my money-saving tip.
One objection to switching to a better product may be that it costs more or it isn’t sold at your usual store. Of course, nobody wants to make a special trip every time they run out of toilet paper or wants to spend a lot of money on it. There’s a simple solution to both problems, and it will make your life more convenient, too!
Buy a case. The price per unit (for instance, per roll of toilet paper) will almost always be less than you’d pay when buying a smaller package. Depending on the way it’s packed inside the case, you may be buying less packaging, too–less junk to fill up your trash can or recycling bin! Now you won’t run out of toilet paper for a year or so, and you won’t have to remember to buy it! If the earth-friendly product is harder for you to get than the other kind, now you’ll have a longer stretch of time before that inconvenience tempts you to buy the bad stuff.
“But where will I get a case? My store only has little packages!”
Some stores will gladly sell you a case of a product they carry, if you just ask. You might have to request it and then wait a week or so for them to get an extra case in their next order, so that they won’t risk running out of product on their shelves. Make sure to request a discount–some stores will insist that you pay the usual retail price for all the units in your case, but most will cut you a break because this is a case they don’t have to open and unpack. We buy things by the case from East End Food Co-op here in Pittsburgh, which gives members a 20% discount off the shelf price when buying a case. We can order it by phone, they call when it arrives, and then on our next shopping visit we ask for it at the customer service desk, go shopping while someone brings the case from the stockroom, and come back to the desk to get it. Convenient! EEFC will even order cases of products they don’t normally stock, if their suppliers can get them.
If you don’t have a store like that in your area, it’s easy to buy online and receive your order by mail. These days, even the most mainstream online stores carry some “green” products. But the company I’m specifically going to recommend is Treecycle, which offers a huge range of recycled paper products and tells you all the details so you can make an informed choice, and which is a truly green business that’s been around a long time. I’ve ordered from them several times and always been happy with the results.
One caution about shopping around to find the best price: Make sure you’re comparing products fairly. The same manufacturer may make 1-ply and 2-ply toilet paper in rolls of 300 and 500 sheets, so that brand of toilet paper at two different prices may be two different products. Decide whether you want 1-ply or 2-ply (my personal observation is that if it’s 1-ply I use twice as much, so it’s cheaper to buy 2-ply) and then compare the price per sheet–or just decide that you will buy the 500-sheet rolls so that you have fewer cardboard tubes to compost and you don’t have to change the roll as often!
“But how will I store all that toilet paper?”
It’s easy for us: We live in a house with a full basement! We keep our extra paper products and groceries on shelves in the basement, near the stairs. If your house doesn’t have a basement, maybe you have an attic or garage or shed.
In an apartment, though, you might not have any storage place. You’ll have to get creative! You don’t have to store your case of toilet paper in the big box it comes in–take out those little rolls and stash them in small spaces. These are some ideas I’ve used or seen:
- Get some of the shallow cardboard boxes used to bring canned food to stores. (Costco and GFS stores routinely give these away.) Fill with paper products and slide under the bed.
- Install a shelf 6 inches deep along the top of the wall in your hallway, above the door frames. You’re not using that space anyway. Nobody looks up there much, so it’s not an unsightly place to store rolls of toilet paper.
- Stack rolls in that awkward gap between the refrigerator and the wall (or wherever you have a space that is too small to use for most purposes).
- Put the box on the closet floor and hang your shorter clothes above it.
- Put the box on top of the refrigerator, at the back center–turn it sideways so you can reach the opening. Place frequently-used items like cereal boxes along the front edge of the refrigerator for easier reaching. Climb up on a chair when you need to get more toilet paper.
If you’ll be storing toilet paper without a box, you’ll want it to be wrapped so that it doesn’t get dusty. A variety wrapped in paper around each roll (instead of 4 or more rolls in plastic) would be a good choice for you. That paper composts like magic–earthworms love it–or it’s recyclable, or it makes great packing material or rabbit/gerbil/hamster bedding.
“But what about my weekly budget?”
This method of buying requires longer-term thinking. Instead of spending your weekly budget on everything you’re going to use this week, splurge for the case of toilet paper this week, and you won’t have to buy toilet paper for the next 51 weeks. Set aside the extra money, and in a few weeks you’ll be able to buy a case of something else.
If money really is so tight that you can’t splurge on $72 of toilet paper all at once, put it on a credit card and then set aside a little each week until you can pay it off. You won’t have to do this many times before the cumulative savings will ease your budget.
If don’t have money or a credit card, save your case purchasing for times when you get some extra money, like a gift or tax refund. Yeah, buying a case of toilet paper is even less exciting than spending birthday money on socks…but the savings will make it possible to buy yourself something nice down the road!
“This is a great idea, but I’m already using the greenest toilet paper. What else can I buy by the case?”
- Facial tissues made from chlorine-free recycled paper (for those times you don’t use hankies, or for guests)
- Recycled paper for school assignments: lined paper, notebooks, composition books, printer paper
- Pencils made from recycled newspaper
- Unbleached organic cotton tampons or pads
- Fair-trade organic coffee. Our co-op’s “case” is 5 pounds, which is not a huge amount.
- Any nonperishable groceries you use a lot (We like this vegan jerky, and there are only 24 of them in a case, so the co-op’s 20% off is a great deal!)
By the way, you also could reduce your toilet paper usage by using cloth wipes some of the time….