In the guide below, we discuss what the most sustainable and eco friendly way to go to the toilet might be.
We list some of the available options, and make commentary about the sustainability of these options.
(*Note – this is a general information guide only. It is not expert advice. See a health professional for a professional opinion on health, toilet practices, and so on)
Most Eco Friendly & Sustainable Way To Go To The Toilet – For Adults
There’s two components to this to consider:
1. The method of going to the toilet
2. The cleaning method
In order of what the most eco friendly and sustainable to the least might be:
– Composting Toilet
Not really practical for mass city and urban areas, but could be practical in more rural areas or places with less population density.
A composting toilet with sawdust makes eco friendly use of human waste as water and energy doesn’t have to be used to process the waste (biological processes can be used instead).
There is some concern with composting toilets and fully treating pathogens though – so, composting toilets need this aspect checked off.
Sometimes the waste is moved to a secondary treatment or composting area.
– Water Efficient Toilet With A Half Flush
More suitable for cities and urban areas, or places with high density (and areas connected to the sewage mains).
You can get water efficient toilets, that also include half flush for urination.
These toilet will save some water during their operation and lifespan.
– Regular Toilet
A regular toilet is a toilet that isn’t specifically built with water efficiency in mind, and may or may not have a half flush feature.
In order of most to least eco friendly and sustainable:
– Reusable & Washable Toilet Cloths
Ideally made of an organic cotton or another sustainable fibre, or even cut up from second hand fabric
Some people are OK with using reusable and washable toilet cloths.
These cloths are usually placed in a big sealed bag (for hygiene, smell and safety/health reasons), soaked and disinfected in hot water (and the water safely disposed of), and then washed thoroughly with a washing agent and stain remover to be re-used when fully clean.
This is too time intensive, and too ‘icky’ for many people though.
– 100% Pre Consumer Or Post Consumer Recycled TP, or Bamboo Toilet Paper
100% post consumer toilet paper is made of paper that comes from offices, homes and schools.
100% post consumer toiler paper can also be made of wood chips or wood offcuts.
Bamboo toilet paper is usually made of bamboo and sugarcane that is grown sustainably (usually in smaller Chinese provinces where local families rely on the income).
Both these options are said to provide some water, energy, and carbon footprint savings over regular virgin tree sourced toilet paper.
They can also have features like recyclable paper packaging over plastic packaging.
Read more about the different types of toilet paper in this guide
Comes in three main types i.e. a bidet attachment, a non electric bidet toilet seat and an electric bidet toilet seat.
Bidets that aren’t electric use a small amount of water while in operation, and electric bidets only use a small amount of electricity (but different models can have different requirements).
Not much is mentioned about how bidets are made – but, they are usually made of plastic, metal and ceramic, and we know plastic has petroleum in it, and metal has to be mined or recycled.
A small amount of toilet paper might be used with non air drying bidets for drying purposes.
Bidets, like recycled and bamboo toilet paper, don’t require the growth and cutting down of virgin trees, and obviously don’t produce as much waste as regular toilet paper (because the water spray does most of the cleaning).
Read more about the sustainability of bidets in this guide
– Regular Toilet Paper Made From Trees
This toilet paper can be made from sawdust and timber offcuts, or wood straight from harvested pulpwood trees.
Either way, it comes from virgin wood.
The tree plantations may or may not be sustainably certified.
Growing trees for paper products takes land, energy, water, and has a carbon and waste water component.
There’s also the plastic packaging waste.
– Wet Wipes
Regular wet wipes are made of plastic or synthetic fibres, have synthetic chemicals (cleaners, disinfectants and fragrances), and usually don’t pass compostability, biodegradability or flushability/dissolvability tests.
There are newer natural or organic wet wipes that are labelled or marketed as having natural fibres, natural chemicals and being biodegradable, compostable and flushable/dissolvable – but, it can be unclear what conditions exactly they are biodegradable and compostable under (and how long they actually take to break down in nature), and what dissolvability tests they have passed.
Another big problem with many wet wipes is that they are found in blocked pipes, and have pollution concerns in the case they have synthetic chemicals or they don’t break down in water or when disposed.
Read more about the potential sustainability of wet wipes in this guide
Also, note the general consideration that has to be made between landfill, recycling, incineration and composting of different wastes, and which waste management method might be best.
* A water efficient tap fixture/faucet could be used for cleaning hands after going to the toilet.
* Feminine hygiene is a specific and separate topic to the above toilet topic (but, menstrual cups and reusable/washable pads are among popular products used by some females)
Eco Friendly & Sustainable Toilet Options For Babies
This is a completely different topic to adults having to go to the toilet, as obviously babies are usually going to go to the toilet in their nappies, and will need clean up.
Some of the more eco friendly products and methods people use might use for babies might include:
– Washable and reusable nappies/diapers
Made of an organic fibre, or second hand fabric, with fleece or other types of liners you can easily buy.
Some people don’t like them because of the sanitary concerns and the clean up required (it can be far easier just to use disposable nappies).
– Washable and re-usuable cloth wipes
Used to clean up mess and can be wetted with water.
Essentially the same as mentioned above in the adult section.
Made from organic or second hand material, and washed/treated, and used again as opposed to being thrown out like regular wet wipes.
– Recycled toilet and tissue paper, or bamboo toilet and tissue paper
Can be used as a wipe, and put in the toilet afterwards.
2. Various external guides about eco friendly and sustainable toilet practices
3. Various BMR toilet paper, bidet and wet wipe guides