How to Become a Tree Hugger (Use Less Paper)

We were recently chatting to some family members about how we have become so blasé about our every day consumables. We don’t even consider where they come from. In particular we were talking about toilet paper (like you do). Let’s be honest, you don’t exactly sit on the toilet thinking about the fact the toilet paper used to be a tree. Well, we don’t anyway. None of us are making a malicious choice to wipe our backsides on virgin trees, but unless we use recycled toilet paper that’s what we’re doing. Said family member retorted with the statement that they’d lived a long life and the least they expected was thick, soft toilet paper. Jumping on our high horse immediately, we stated that if it was a choice between wiping your arse with a feather or saving the world, we’d choose the latter.

The point of retelling the above story is that everybody always has an excuse why they can’t change. Don’t get me wrong, we’re no different. And yes, some sacrifices are required. But one of the big questions we keep on asking ourselves during our journey to living a more sustainable life is: is it actually a sacrifice, or have we just been sold the dream by Andrex that wiping your backside with a feather is essential. Well, obviously the feather wiping question isn’t relevant for all of our sustainability queries, but you get the drift.

So, on to this weeks’ topic…

We started a survey of what paper there was in our house. Ahhh, the things we get up to in our spare time. Our question was simple – how can we use less paper and save trees? Toilet paper alone is estimated to cost 27,000 trees a day. If you think that if everyone swapped to 100% recycled toilet paper it would cost 0 trees a day, it seems like a no-brainer.

So our hunt for paper swaps began. Walking round the house, pen and paper in hand, we made notes. Starting with the pad of paper in our hands, which was not recycled. Ugh. Falling at the first hurdle yet again. We did however continue and came up with the following swaps.

Toilet Paper

Swapping toilet paper for 100% recycled toilet paper is a pretty easy swap. So much so that we’d already done it – winners! Our TP does have a plastic wrapper, which although recyclable at our local supermarket, isn’t ideal. The current en vogue company is Who Gives a Crap, who sell bamboo toilet paper. But since they individually wrap each roll in paper and the whole lot is shipped from China, we’re not convinced it’s the greenest of choices. The brand we’ve decided to swap to is Ecoleaf, who sell 100% recycled TP in a compostable lining which is produced in the UK. It is only 2-ply (oh, the horror), but it’s a sacrifice we are willing to make. Yes, we are heroes.

Tissues

We have boxes of tissues all round the house and none contain recycled tissues, so that’s an easy swap. Tissues still require resources to make them though, so replacing them with reusables would be better. Washable muslin makeup cloths are an option. A nice handkerchief (organic of course) would look far more stylish than pulling out a plastic container of tissues to dab ones eyes at a wedding. We’re not going to be throwing a backlog of tissue boxes out, but we are unlikely to replace all of them.

Kitchen Roll

Ask yourself if you really need kitchen roll. Be honest. We asked this question and decided we didn’t. No trees need to die for us to mop up a spill in the kitchen. We now just use cloths that we throw in the wash after each use. What cloth to buy you say? We already owned lots of microfibre cloths, which we’ve unfortunately found out contain plastic, but we’re not just going to throw them away when they’re still perfectly usable. We have now bought a Guppyfriend, which apparently stops microfibre plastics being released into the water during laundry cycles. An alternative eco-option would be to buy bamboo cloths (do you remember to check whether they’re shipped from China though as this probably means they have quite a big carbon footprint) or you could simply cut up old towels or T-shirts and use them.

If you REALLY need to use kitchen roll, then a) you are wrong, but b) at least use recycled kitchen roll. Ecoleaf do a 100% recycled roll like their TP if you must. Just remember you are lying to yourself.

Printer Paper

Our first question with our printer paper was whether we even needed a printer. Our initial thought was yes. However, when we really thought about it we weren’t quite so sure. Is our home printer just another modern convenience that we’ve been told we need? We are currently trialling having no printer and have packed it away into a cupboard. So far we’ve only had to resurrect it once, to print our End of the Road tickets. (We have of course emailed them to ask if next year they can do paperless tickets). Yes.

So for this particular swap, where we expected to swap non-recycled printer paper for recycled printer paper, we’ve hopefully removed the need for printer paper entirely. We will also not need to use toxic, hard to recycle printer cartridges and will save on the electricity that the printer would’ve been using. Of course, we do accept this may be a bit extreme for some people, we do encourage you to try to step out of a 21st-century mindset – really ask yourself if you need all of these modern conveniences. We have no desire to go back to the Stone Age, but personally we are enjoying simplifying life by asking ourselves this sort of question. If you do need a printer, then at the very least you can swap to recycled printer paper.

Notebooks

Kate swapped away from paper notebooks to OneNote a long time ago. However, since Jamie earns a living from doodling, he needs pen and paper. And Jamie LOVES a Moleskin notebook. But they make no effort whatsoever to use recycled paper and their Code of Ethics fails to mention anything about saving the planet. Taking the ballpark figure of £15 for a notebook, which is what a Moleskin costs, we went to Etsy to find a blank pages, A5 notebook of equal quality. Ah, Etsy, so many lovely things. With a rather overwhelming array of A5 blank notebooks to choose from, we eventually found koi an exact replica of a Moleskin, but with recycled paper. Other lovely options can be found below.

Postal Envelopes

One of our earliest swaps on our journey was to stop buying large envelopes and boxes for posting out birthday presents and eBay sales. We now save and reuse all boxes and bags that come in from the postie, saving money as well as the environment. Our smaller envelopes aren’t recycled and we only use about 1 a year, so it’ll be a while until we have to replace them. But when we do, we’ll buy recycled envelopes.

Junk Mail and Catalogues

As soon as we moved into our lovely house we signed up to the Mail Preference Service and we opted out of the Royal Mail Door to Door service. This made a big difference, but we do still get the odd catalogue sent out without asking for it. We now have a policy to immediately email that company to ask to have our name removed from the postal list. If you immediate response to this suggestion is that you don’t have time, think again. We have a standard email that we just copy and paste so it takes less than a minute to do this. We’ve even tried asking companies to stop putting in the bulk advertising inside orders, but that doesn’t seem to have worked! We won’t stop asking though…

Magazines

We have three magazine subscriptions – one for Gardeners’ World, one of the RHS and one for Ethical Consumer. While our Ethical Consumer subscription is a digital one, the gardening magazines have been two paper swaps we’ve not had the stomach to do. We considered changing our Gardeners’ World subscription to a digital subscription (the RHS don’t offer one), but didn’t want to swap our bedtime reading to screen reading. And of course both of these magazines do encourage us to improve our garden, which is an eco-act unto itself.

But we came up with a plan. We’ve actually cancelled both subscriptions and will now share the subscriptions of the magazine we buy for someone else. For the price of a stamp and an envelope (recycled of course), we’re saving the planet yet again. Yey for us!

Books

We know the far alt-right is gaining in popularity at the moment but don’t worry, we’re not about to say you should stop buying books. Books are (nearly always) made out of trees though, so they did have to be covered in this post. We say there are still some positive impacts you can make surrounding books. You can move over to e-books, although this is not something we’ve personally chosen to do as we don’t want even more screen time in our lives. Secondly if you have a library that is still open near you, you can use that. We do feel this is dependent on what sort of books you consume.

Our main book purchases are cookery books and kids storybooks, which are used many times over, so we didn’t feel that the library it was the right option for us. While all of the above options are valid, the way we feel we’ve made the most positive environmental impact with books is to always buy books secondhand. We also resell our books that we no longer need. The secondhand books we buy are invariably as new and since both the kids books and cookery books will have mucky hands on them within days, we wouldn’t mind if they were a bit dogeared anyway.

Wrapping Paper

We all know that foil wrapping paper can’t be recycled. Neither can the sellotape. We stopped buying anything other than paper wrapping paper a while ago, but didn’t even think of the tape. We aren’t going to throw away the recyclable, but non-recycled paper that we have, as that would be wasteful. Googling recycled wrapping paper leads to a plethora of options, including our likely candidate, the ever-so hipster plain kraft paper or just using old newspaper.

Sellotape is easier than you’d think as well. You can buy paper tape and we even found some that was recycled paper tape that can be recycled. Kate’s formative years in Germany taught her a (slightly obsessive) love of wrapping, so she’s been looking out for options. If you’re interested, check out this article on wrapping with no tape at all. Christmas should be fun this year! And we’ve still got the option of using glue instead of tape for when the no-tape wrapping loses it’s charm.

Bank Statements / Utility Bills etc

We’ve been paperless with our bank statements and utility bills for many years. We assume everyone reading this has too. There is however a reason for including this section. Kate has her business bank account with the Co-operative Bank, as it’s one of the most ethical high street banks out there. However, it is NOT POSSIBLE to become paperless with the Co-operative Bank business account. This it utterly ridiculous and Kate has told them so. We must always remember that we as consumers have the power to change things. Kate has therefore moved her business bank to Triodos, as the highest recommended small business bank on Ethical Consumer.

Baking Parchment & Cake Cases

Moving into the kitchen our two paper swaps were baking parchment and cake cases. We can’t actually remember why we have baking parchment since we also have reusable baking sheet liners. You can get eco baking parchment if needed though. As for cake cases, we already compost our current cases when the cupcake has been gobbled, but they’re not made of recycled paper. You can get reusable cupcake cases, but they’re made of silicone which doesn’t biodegrade, so we decided they weren’t for us. When our current set of cake cases run out, we’ll replace them with eco cake cases too.

Summary of Swaps

It’s a bit of an epic post this week, so we thought we’d do a quick reference summary of the swaps we’d recommend.

  • Swap toilet paper for 100% recycled toilet paper
  • Swap tissues for organic muslin wipes, organic hankies or 100% recycled tissues
  • Swap kitchen roll for reusable wipes
  • Swap printer paper for 100% recycled printer paper (if needed at all)
  • Swap notebooks for 100% recycled notebooks
  • Swap postal envelopes for reused ones or 100% recycled envelopes
  • Stop all junk mail and catalogues
  • Stop unwanted magazine subscriptions or swap to digital editions (if you can stomach it!)
  • Buy e-books or secondhand books, or use the library
  • Buy recycled wrapping paper
  • Buy paper tape, use eco glue or try wrapping with no tape at all
  • Switch all bank and utility bills to paperless
  • Use reusable or eco baking parchment and cake cases

That’s it for this week folks. Hope you’ve enjoyed it and let us know if we’ve forgotten any paper swaps.

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1 thought on “How to Become a Tree Hugger (Use Less Paper)”

  1. A very thought provoking and pragmatic blog. Thank you.
    My point:-
    Recycled toilet paper – I prefer the 3ply paper though as with 2ply you use twice as much!!!!
    Swapping tissues for organic muslin wipes, organic hankies or 100% recycled tissues – I’ve already done this with great success. The makeup remover pads are amazing, and you can get some beautiful organic hankies.
    Paper is an interesting one as it has to be made from trees to start with even though it’s then recycled. A conundrum!
    Stop all junk mail and catalogues – absolutely brilliant. It’s been driving me nuts for ages so I’ve registered with both the links you’ve mentioned! Fingers crossed! However, for one of the changes I had to print off the form, complete it and send it back by post!!! Ridiculous.
    Buy recycled wrapping paper – you can always make your own decorations on the paper!!
    All our bank and utility bills have been paperless for years.

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