Humans are the only species on the planet that wipes. This is a function of our anatomy, but also of our psychology. The desire to keep clean has been an important driver of social and technological progress.
Over the last several millennia, people have used all kinds of materials to help them get the job done, from river stones and mussel shells to wooden sticks and corn cobs. More recently, newspapers, Sears catalogs, and the pages of unwanted books were pressed into duty.
It wasn’t until the mid-19th century that Joseph Gayetty, an American inventor, created the first commercially available toilet paper. Made of manila hemp—a versatile fiber derived from the leaf-stems of a species of banana tree—Gayetty’s Medicated Paper was a leading toilet paper brand until the early 1900s.
In the late 19th century, the Scott Brothers commercialized toilet paper made from trees. Unlike Gayetty’s banana leaves, trees required the use of harsh chemicals and huge amounts of water to break down hard wood into soft paper. But with ready access to trees and little understanding of the deleterious effects of such chemicals on the human body—not to mention the planet’s ecosystems—the Scott Brothers forged ahead, eventually making their way into homes across America.
More than a hundred years later, not much has changed. Toilet paper is still stuck in the early twentieth century. There’s been no meaningful innovation in the industry, except that it’s gotten all the more efficient at destroying old-growth forests—in other words, streamlining the tree-to-toilet pipeline.
Why so little innovation? Because the same small handful of big companies who’ve been making toilet paper the wrong way for 100 years are still running the show—including the Koch Brothers, who own Soft n’ Gentle, Quilted Northern, Angel Soft and Brawny. You can be sure they’re not looking out for our behinds.
Making toilet paper from trees is an idea whose time should have long since passed. It simply doesn’t make sense to start with a fiber so strong it requires harsh chemicals—a gallon of them per roll—to turn it into paper, chemicals that end up in our bloodstreams and waterways.
These chemicals, including bleach and formaldehyde, have been shown to enter the body through micro-cuts, causing UTIs, yeast infections, anal fissures, and hemorrhoids. The fluffier and whiter your toilet paper, the more likely it is to contain high amounts of such chemicals.
If we think we’re treating ourselves to luxe paper, we’re not. We’re wreaking havoc on our most precious environments. What feels soft in the hand isn’t soft on the body. And it doesn’t do the one job it’s meant for—helping us to stay clean and healthy.
Not to mention the irreversible damage to the planet. Every day, 27,000 trees get flushed down our toilets, many of them from Canadian boreal forests. These boreal forests are among the most important carbon sinks in the world, and replanting those old growth trees with new ones does little to offset emissions of carbon dioxide—over 26 million tons of which is released every year by clearcutting.
What about recycled paper? It’s better, but far from good. It takes even more chemicals and water to make post-consumer paper hygienic than it does virgin trees. And even that’s not enough to rid recycled toilet paper of BPA, a known endocrine disruptor.
There is a smarter way. Made from a blend of soft, organic, fast-growing grasses—never from trees. Stronger, more absorbent, and made entirely without the use bleaching agents and other harmful chemicals, PlantPAPER is a 21st century solution to an age-old problem.
Featuring our signature embossed dot matrix pattern—silky on one side for dabbing, grippy on the other for grabbing—PlantPAPER keeps you clean and leaves no trace.