Why Are We Wiping With Trees, Anyway?
Gather ‘round, kids, as you learn about the history of toilet paper and how it’s killing our planet.
It probably goes without saying, but humans have been wiping their asses since the beginning of time. Back in our forager days, we used whatever raw materials were around -- grass, leaves, straw, corncobs. Some rich French people even used lace. But most of our ancestors had bigger fish to fry (literally) than worrying about finding a soft wipe.
Smash cut to 1857 when Joseph Gayetty, a New York entrepreneur, designed the first wiping product -- aloe-infused sheets made from hemp, dispensed from Kleenex-like boxes. It didn’t really take off because most of America were already wiping with the Sears catalog. Seriously! It came in the mail for free, why would they pay for hemp paper? In 1890, the Scott brothers had an idea: they put their toilet paper on a roll. They found some success selling to hotels and drugstores, but there was still a lot of stigma around TP for the everyday consumer.
As the 20th century approached, toilet paper was mostly being sold as a medicinal product, but that was about to change. Enter Charmin, who, in 1928, took a different marketing route. Using a feminine logo and an image of a beautiful woman, their product conjured feelings of softness, distracting buyers from the real purpose of TP. It totally worked -- consumers fell for the Charmin charm, and plumbers everywhere preferred this stuff over the Sears catalog.
Today, the US spends $6 billion a year on toilet paper, more than any other country in the world, which is probably great news for a handful of CEOs. But it’s doing tons of damage: 27,000 trees a day are cut down for the sole purpose of toilet paper. Over the span of one person’s life, 400 trees will parish so they can wipe their ass. There’s got to be another way.
It’s bamboo! Unlike trees, which need to be replanted once they’re cut down and can take decades to reach full maturity, bamboo (one of the world’s fastest growing plants) doesn’t need to be reharvested as the shoots will continue to grow from the root system. Bamboo produces 35% more oxygen than trees, absorbs 35% more carbon than trees, and it doesn’t require any pesticides or fertilizer. And Time named bamboo its Person of the Year in 2007. (We made that one up.)
At Bippy, we hope we’ll look back at Big Toilet Paper like we look back at Big Tobacco -- what were we thinking? Everyone can make a difference, and bamboo toilet paper is just one step you can take to help our planet live a long, happy, healthy life.