By: Neda Shamsdiba
You wipe your bum every day, but you probably don’t give much thought to your toilet paper. Being sustainable involves making changes in all aspects of life, from ditching single-use plastic, to choosing sustainable underwear, and even toilet paper.
Don’t worry; I’m not here to tell you that being sustainable in the bathroom means only using a bidet or reusable cloth. If that’s your thing, then kudos, but it’s not for everyone. But conventional toilet paper isn’t the only option either. Today we have other choices, like hemp toilet paper.
This modern alternative is super convenient, especially considering before conventional toilet paper people used clay, rocks, flat sticks (think tongue depressors), leaves, newspaper scraps, corn on the cob, and even their hands to wipe.
In some parts of the world, squatting toilets and water instead of toilet paper are still found, and I can attest to this from uncomfortable first-hand experience while traveling through places like Vietnam, Thailand, and Iran.
Luckily, being more sustainable in the bathroom doesn’t mean reverting to less modern methods, it just means converting to hemp toilet paper; the more sustainable option that’s good for the plant and your bum.
WHAT IS HEMP TOILET PAPER?
Hemp toilet paper is, as the name implies, toilet paper made out of hemp. The process of turning hemp into toilet paper is pretty straightforward, and a lot less toxic than making conventional toilet paper.
To make hemp toilet paper, after being harvested, hemp cellulose fibers are turned into a pulp. Then any unwanted lignin (the component of hemp, wood, bamboo, etc. that creates the brown color) is removed. The pulp is then flattened and dried into a thin sheet of tissue that can be turned into single, double, or multiple-ply hemp toilet paper rolls.
Trees and bamboo go through a similar process, but since these materials are hardwoods, turning their fiber into pulp for paper often requires extensive chemical processing. But, because of hemp’s fine fibers, hemp tissue paper production is possible with little to no chemical processing.
Plus, with many conventional toilet paper products, to remove lignin, the pulp is bleached using harsh chemicals that can leach chlorine, dioxin, and other toxins into our waterways. But, because of hemp’s chemical composition and morphology, and its generally lower lignin concentration, lignin can be removed through the environmentally friendly processes of oxygen delignification and autohydrolysis.
Instead of intensive chemical processing, oxygen delignification uses a combination of sodium carbonate, high temperatures, and high pressure to remove lignin. Autohydrolysis uses the force of high-temperature water to remove lignin.
While hemp toilet paper isn’t super mainstream yet, making paper out of hemp is nothing new. The Chinese were the first to successfully make paper out of hemp over 2,000 years ago. And the history of hemp shows that in the 1700s, American farmers in several colonies were legally required to grow hemp that was used for paper, among other things.
Hemp is such an effective resource for paper, that up until the end of the twentieth century, 75% to 90% of worldwide paper production came from hemp!
WHY BUY HEMP TOILET PAPER?
A big reason to buy hemp toilet paper is to offset the high demand for conventional toilet paper, which generates heavy waste.
Since toilet paper is such a highly demanded and commonly used product, it’s essential to make the switch to a more sustainable option like hemp toilet paper. Hemp toilet paper is more sustainable in all aspects, from growing, to processing, to decomposing.
But reducing the dependency and demand for conventional toilet paper isn’t the only reason to buy hemp toilet paper, there are way more benefits. Read on to find out what they are.
BENEFITS OF HEMP TOILET PAPER
1. HEMP TOILET PAPER IS SOFT
Hemp toilet paper is made of naturally soft bast fibers.
Natural bast fibers are made from the soft inner parts of a plant’s stalk or stem, and their softness distinguishes them from the coarser leaf fibers. This is why materials made from hemp, like fabric, are soft on your skin.
Just like WAMA hemp underwear feels good on even your most delicate parts, so does hemp toilet paper.
2. HEMP TOILET PAPER IS STRONG, DURABLE AND ABSORBENT
3. HEMP TOILET PAPER IS ANTIBACTERIAL
Hemp contains over 500 natural compounds, and some of those, including cannabinoids, alkaloids, and other bioactive components show antibacterial activity against a wide range of bacteria.
Since hemp is naturally antibacterial, when you wipe with it, you get a better clean, which is really important when it comes to caring for your sensitive areas, especially for the ladies in the room.
This is good to hear, because believe it or not, a lot of toilet paper can cause all types of infections and skin sensitivities, including allergic reactions, yeast infections, UTIs, and puffiness.
4. HEMP TOILET PAPER IS RENEWABLE
On the other hand, trees planted for paper production take a minimum of approximately 8 to 20 years until they are ready to harvest, putting them at a significantly lower renewability rate than hemp.
Now about the recycled toilet paper, I’m not saying that means that you’ll be wiping with toilet paper that’s already been used for wiping (ew). Recycled toilet paper is made of other recycled paper products (think home or office supplies).
Since hemp paper can be recycled so many more times than wood pulp paper, that makes both new and recycled hemp toilet paper a more environmentally friendly option.
5. HEMP TOILET PAPER IS BIODEGRADABLE
Generally, harmful chemicals and toxins aren’t needed to produce pure hemp products, which make them so safe as they degrade back into the soil, that hemp clothing can be composted, and even hemp plastic is biodegradable.
Wait, isn’t all toilet paper biodegradable?
Technically, yes, or it should be, but conventional toilet paper takes longer to breakdown and uses significantly more water to do so. Plus, conventional toilet paper involves chemical processing with chlorine and bleach, and can even contain BPA, all of which are toxins you don’t want leaching into the ground. Hemp toilet paper, on the other hand, goes through a far less chemically intensive (or chemical-free) production process, so it’s way safer as it breaks down.
So switching to a more biodegradable option like hemp toilet paper protects the environment and your septic tank too. Outside of your home, the biodegradability of hemp toilet paper also makes it a great option for camping!
6. HEMP TOILET PAPER IS HIGH IN CELLULOSE (CELLULOSE=MAJOR COMPONENT OF PAPER MAKING)
This is important because the plant part that is most essential for paper making is cellulose, so with hemp, you’d get more of the active ingredient in paper from fewer plants, which saves a lot of resources.
7. HEMP TOILET PAPER CAN HELP SAVE LAND AND HELP REDUCE DEFORESTATION
One acre of hemp can produce as much pulp for paper as more than four acres of trees. Not only can switching to hemp toilet paper save land, but it can stop the clearing of valuable forests.
Using conventional, non-recyclable toilet paper, is literally flushing trees down the toilet.
Most people probably don’t give much thought to exactly where their toilet paper is coming from, but according to the National Resources Defense Council, most U.S. toilet paper is made from trees from forests in Canada, where deforestation is negatively impacting indigenous people and leading to a decline in wildlife species.
Plus, maintaining forests is essential for fighting climate change as trees absorb CO2. And toilet paper consumption isn’t only impacting the forests of Canada, but those worldwide, from the southeastern U.S., to Indonesia, to Australia, and more.
Switching to more sustainable, tree-free toilet paper options, is essential in the fight against deforestation.
WHERE TO BUY HEMP TOILET PAPER
You can buy hemp toilet paper online from companies like Hemp So Soft and Hempies Paper, and many suppliers on Alibaba. Other than that, hemp toilet paper isn’t super available yet, but that’s not because it’s not a great sustainable alternative.
Since hemp toilet paper isn’t readily available, it’s a little hard to gauge how cost-effective it is. But the production of hemp toilet paper is cost-effective, and on Alibaba, you can find rolls for as little as $.10. Prices from Hemp So Soft are reasonable at $20 for a 16 count, and Hempies Paper doesn’t have any pricing information on their website yet.
So what gives with the scarcity of hemp toilet paper?
There are so many uses for hemp products, and hemp toilet paper isn’t the only department where hemp goods aren’t as available as they should be. This is in large part because of the stigma and heavy restriction of growing and selling hemp, because of its connection to Marijuana. (No, wiping with hemp toilet paper won’t get you high.)
But with the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, which removed hemp and hemp products from the controlled substances Act, hemp can almost be grown and treated like any other crop, which means in time, hemp products, like hemp toilet paper, will become more readily available.
HOW DOES HEMP TOILET PAPER COMPARE?
As far as comfort, absorbency, and strength go, you don’t have to make any sacrifices when you choose to buy hemp toilet paper. As I mentioned in benefit #1 and #2, hemp toilet paper is soft, strong, and absorbent, so it easily competes with conventional toilet paper.
But what about bamboo toilet paper? While bamboo toilet paper is a better alternative than conventional toilet paper, hemp takes it one step further with its antibacterial properties and cleaner production process.
So really, the only department that hemp toilet paper can’t compare in is availability.
But, with fewer restrictions on hemp and with forecasts showing that the hemp market is projected to grow from 4.6 billion in 2019 to 26.6 billion in 2025, things are changing.
Toilet paper is another big way to move towards a more sustainable lifestyle. Since toilet paper is used so often and in such large amounts by most people (at least in the U.S.), there’s no way to live sustainably without switching to a more sustainable option, like hemp toilet paper.
Plus, with the softness, strength, absorbency, antibacterial properties, and all the environmental benefits, making the switch doesn’t mean missing out on anything.
How do you feel about wiping with hemp?