Saving Tree Shopping- Recycled and Alternative Paper Products from Home to Office

by - Thursday, April 06, 2017

tree fallen down in the woods

To celebrate Earth Day this week, I thought I would give you information to make some of the easiest and most cost-effective switches to minimize your impact and make positive changes for the planet! It's great to volunteer. It's great to make large gestures.

But these little choices we make all the time, the choices that look like habits, have some of the greatest impact.

Think of how many paper towels you use in a lifetime! Even if you switch over to recycled now, you could save so many trees from coming down with just your own family's purchases. Even better, every time you purchase post-consumer recycled paper, you send the message to companies that this matters and that it is worth their time and energy to make their products more Earth-friendly. It's a positive feedback loop, and those little good decisions echo outward.

We need trees. They are one of our best and only defenses against the obscene CO2 emissions that are effecting our climate. They work as the lungs for our planet, keeping it cleaner, cooler, and more beautiful. We can forget that every paper towel we use costs us trees, because we are alienated from the source of our product, but if you had to see one of God's creations fall every time you bought paper towels, wouldn't you buy less?

I get that sometimes you need whatever wrapping paper you can find or that you don't have space to buy paper towels in bulk. The point is that no one can do everything, but everyone can do something, so really consider making the switch over for at least some products, especially the ones you buy in bulk (because you know way ahead of time when you will refill that anyway).

A few other things to consider before we go through the list-

1. The closer the paper will be to your body, the more you need to consider what is in it. A lot of the eco-friendly wisdom right now is to not use recycled paper for toilet paper, because some paper that is recycled (namely magazines) has plastic in it. These plastics (not unlike the plastics your food comes packaged in and regular toilet paper is wrapped in) has chemicals that can seriously hurt your endocrine system. So you might consider Tree Free or other options when looking at that kind of paper.

2. Try it once, then Buy in Bulk- Almost all of these are very comparable in price if you just buy in larger quantities (it cuts down on packaging too). I get that you need to try it before you commit to months of it- so definitely do that! Think of it as a long term investment in the Earth.

3. You can read about more options on other posts on this blog. Greening the Basics Part One and Two are my absolute favorites, and they have tons of information you might need. I also wrote a blog on wrapping paper earlier this month, so check out lots of information on that! It's kind of a cool one to change!

Most of the links are to Amazon, where you can do subscribe and save to make eco-friendly choices even more affordable. On the other hand, you can find some of these products at local grocery stores (especially more organic ones) or at big box stores like Costco.


Paper Towels

paper towels on a table

So basic, such a perfect place to start. Have you ever made a mess so precious that a tree needed to die to clean it? Me either.

To Compare- Bounty Dura Towels- 9.79 (1.63 a roll)

Our Pick-Seventh Generation Unbleached Paper Towels- 4 packs of 6 rolls= 24 rolls- 41.76 (1.74 a roll)- We love them, and I can use one, rinsed multiple times, to clean the whole kitchen. We also like this company because the majority of their products are also made in the US. Never going back.

Three More Options-Seventh Generation White Recycled Paper Towels- 24 rolls- 37.96 (1.58 per roll)

Marcal Small Steps Recycled Paper- Pack of 12 rolls- 28.99 (2.41 a roll)

Boardwalk Recycled Paper Towels (these are the kind you get at restaurants and come on ginormous 800 ft rolls)- 6 rolls- is 35.20 or 5.86 for every 800 foot roll.

Skip the Paper Completely- You can greatly cut down the number of paper towels you use by simple starting with a washcloth. You are going to do laundry anyway, so just throw a kitchen towel in every few days. You might also try bamboo paper towels or Unpaper towels. Both are machine washable and reusable, so they cut way down on waste!

Side note- Do NOT replace paper towels with wipes. Yes, they are easy, but they have plastics that make them impossible to recycle, and they won't break down nearly as well. I get anti-bacterial wipes may come in handy for some jobs, but they aren't an eco-friendly paper replacement.


Tissues


Now, I don't know about you, but I don't find boogers all that precious. Again, this is a perfect place to replace brand new paper products with something recycled.

To Compare- Kleenex come in a wide variety of packs and prices dependent mostly on the fanciness of their packaging. Get something a little fancy and it costs 4 boxes of 50 tissues for 11.49 (about 5 cents a tissue! Pretty steep).

Our Pick- Tree Free Facial Tissue- 30 boxes of 90 tissues (less than 1 cent a tissue)- We tried this bamboo and sugar-cane biodegradable paper substitute as an experiment, and I think we like it pretty darn well. I think the long term plan is to switch to tree-free for toilet paper and get recycled face tissues, but we have so many tissues, it will be a long time before we get there.

Three More Options- Green Forest Facial Tissues- 24 boxes of 175 (about 1 cent a tissue). Not only is this way cheaper, they also have great reviews (my favorite  "I am not a major hippy, but if I could do something good for the environment, why not?") Preach it

Marcal Fluff Out Facial Tissue- 30 100 count boxes-24.99 (not great reviews, but really cost effective if you have a less sensitive nose.

Seventh Generation- Just to compare, their single box of 175 tissues is 2.84. In case you don't have the room to buy in bulk, there are still eco-friendly options for you!

Skip the Paper Completely- Get a hanky? Old-fashioned classy, and a little bit gross.


Napkins


To Compare-Vanity Fair Napkins are about 5 dollars for a 300 count pack (and straight to the Koch Brothers no less). Bounty is about 8 dollars for 400. So about 2 cents a piece on either.

Our Pick- Seventh Generation 2 Pack of 500 unbleached napkins- 90% post-consumer waste- 15.57 (or about 3 cents a napkin). Probably enough napkins to be set for life.

Three More Options- Seventh Generation White Napkins- 250 white napkins- 5.39

Natural Value Napkins (100% recycled/ 80% post-consumer)- 200 Count napkins- 6.37 (3 cents a napkin.

Marcal 100% Recycled Napkins- 400 for 10.69 (about 3 cents a napkin). They are also made in the US and have great reviews.

oh little rabbit birch tree cloth napkins
from Oh Little Rabbit
Skip the Paper Completely- For everyday use (especially for adults), there's really no reason not to just use cloth napkins, which do the job just as well and can be reused oodles of times. You can find cloth napkins at most secondhand stores, or more beautiful  and stylish options on Etsy stores like Oh Little RabbitJAQStudio, and Clear Sky Home. The upfront cost might be higher, but you can use them much longer in the end.


Toilet Paper


As I mentioned, this is the most complex of the recycled paper products, and these are just the kinds of issues our children will face ALL the time if we don't get it together as a planet. Plastic is going to choke out good options.

To Compare- The Charmin Bears are an embarrassment to America, to toilet paper, and to bears. Charmin Ultra Strong comes in a pack of 9 for 16.95 (1.88 a roll). Stop buying Charmin and stop the bears.

Our Pick-Seventh Generation- Unbleached with at least 50% post-consumer content- 60 rolls for about 68 dollars (about 1.14 a roll). It serves its purpose and we generally like it. It also comes in all recyclable packaging.

Three More Options- Green 2 Tree Free- If you decide the BPA risk is too much for you, this is your best option. It is made out of bamboo and sugar cane bi-products, both of which are quick-growing and sustainable, and you don't have to worry about BPA at all. If you buy in bulk (96 rolls at 114 dollars, so basically all you need forever, right?), you can get it for 1.16 a roll, which is even cheaper than the other options. This is what we will do from here on out, I think.

Marcal Small Steps- 40 rolls, 1000 sheets each, is 50.66, so about 1.20 a roll.

Skip the Paper Completely- There is a thing called a family cloth. If you are that hardcore, you can look into that. I will never get there.


Paper Plates

We have all been to the picnic with tons of paper plates filling the garbage bag tied to the table. What a waste of trees that these plates are used once and tossed. Can we at least change our approach so that trees aren't wasted?

To Compare-Dixie plates may be made in the US, but they don't use recycled paper and they coat the plates in plastic materials that make it hard to recycle. They are also super cheap- 220 plates cost 17.99 (or about 7 cents a plate)

Our Pick- Chinet's eco option is Made in the USA, made out of recycled materials, and is fully compostable. So like 1000 times better for the Earth than those Dixie or Vanity Fair plates. A Value Pack of 32 costs about 5 dollars, so it is about 15 cents a plate.

Three More Options-Earth's Natural- Compostable plates made out of sugar cane instead of trees (but they are made in China). 9.24 for 50, so about 18 cents a plate.

Stalkmarket- If you are looking for a lot of paper plates, Stalkmarket has a similar product- 420 plates for about 11 cents a plate. Totally compostable, able to handle hot, cold, and the microwave. It looks like you can even get it open box!

Susty Party Supplies- 100% Compostable and Tree-Free, comes in tons of pretty designs- 50 for 12.99

Skip the Paper Completely- Maybe not for your big picnics, but for your little ones, Preserve plates are made of 100% post-consumer plastic and are 100% recyclable. And if you decide you are done with them, you can mail them back to the company, and they will recycle them for you. The plates are 8 for 8.76, so about a dollar a plate, but you would only have to use them a couple of times a summer before  you recouped the cost.


Baking Cups


I love making cupcakes, and I never thought of my liner hoard as problematic (just preparation for future parties!) but I am not sure I am ok with trees coming down for something that is basically a luxury. I mean, are you turning down cake if it doesn't have a cutesy paper on it.

To Compare-Reynold's Baking Cups, the ones I know I have picked up at the store many a time is 36 liners for 1.28 (about 4 cents a liner)

Our PickPaper Chef- 2 pack of 60 for 8.25. (about 7 cents a liner). They also have mini and large liners. You can find these in lots of pretty common stores as well.

One More Option- If You Care- FSC Certified- 24 boxes of 60 for 36.25 (or about 3 cents a liner. Cheaper and better for the environment- plus you will basically be set for life). They also come in large and mini.

Skip the Paper Completely- Silicon liners! I can't find any made in America, but they can be used and reused so many times that you could probably save a thousand paper liners in the course of a baking lifetime. Anytime the cupcakes aren't going to leave the house, these make way more sense. We have these fortune ones which happily enable you to eat more cupcakes- best cupcake liners ever (they are 16.07, but they can have infinite use).You can get lots of different bright colored silicone sets- this one or this one.



Printer/Copier Paper


Ok seriously, why is any copier paper not made of recycled paper? This seems like a perfect use for post-consumer waste to just get reused again. Can you imagine if businesses switched over even 10% of their paper to recycled product? It would make such a huge difference!

To Compare- Ok, there is a lot of variety here, but I chose this HP bestseller- Bright White and wrapped in plastic (really, HP?). 20.36 for 500 sheets.

Our Pick- Hammermill Great White- 100% Post-consumer paper (seriously, 100%- why is anyone buying non-recycled printer paper?)- 62.99 for 5000 sheet case.

Three More Options- Printworks 100% postconsumer paper (made in the USA of recycled food packaging)- 400 sheets for 18.56

Staples Copy Paper 100 percent recycled/ FSC certified- 500 sheets for 16.99

Aspen 100- 100% post-consumer recycled- supports projects to build parks in urban areas- 500 for 10.49.

Skip the Paper Completely- Brown Bear Tree Free Paper- Made from bagasse (sugar cane extract)- 5 Ream case for 49.64


Notebooks

We buy so many of these in a lifetime- I loved a fresh new notebook for school shopping as a kid, and I love a new notebook now! I love it even more that you can find so many Earth-friendly options for this!

To Compare- Moleskine notebooks- Used by Ernest Hemmingway or something, but now they are made of all fresh paper and imported. The kind of thing hipsters and academics love because they aren't really paying attention. If the materials are not good, and the labor is not treated fairly, why is the price so high? Time to question what we are paying for. No more Moleskines! One book for 16.85.

Our Pick- Decomposition Books- I love these notebooks so much. Michael Rogers makes them with cool designs and 100% post-consumer recycled paper. They are also made in America. One of my favorite finds from 2015. One Notebook for 10.00. Look through at all the great designs before you pick.

Three More Options- New Leaf Basic- 100% Post-consumer paper/ college-ruled- One composition book for 3.99. Yes, you read that right.

Tops Second Nature Spiral Notebooks- 100% recycled/ 40% post-consumer- One notebook is 3.99.

Mead Notebooks- Classics. 100% recycled. 30% post-consumer- One Notebook 6.89.

Skip the Paper Completely- Onyx makes notebooks out of bamboo paper. Other than that, this is a hard one to do tree-free, but a great area to use recycled materials.


Greeting Cards/ Stationary


To Compare- Hallmark makes some beautiful cards mostly in the US, but they are mostly made of virgin tree paper, and they often come at a pretty high price. One card is often 7 dollars, like this one. Not the worst choice in the world, but we can do better.

Our Pick- I am currently in love with the Arbor Day foundation cards; they cost 6 dollars for one, but they are printed on all-recycled paper and the proceeds go to planting more trees (the price goes down as you order more)! Every card plants a tree. You can do so much good for the Earth and the person you are sending the card to just by buying these cards. So awesome.

Our other pick would be Darice Kraft paper cards; we bought a bulk pack of these blank cards and have used them for invitations and thank you cards so far. It is kind of fun to do the decoration ourselves, and we are using recycled paper! 50 cards for 9 dollars.

Three More Options- Minted sells photo cards much like Shutterfly, but unlike Shutterfly, you can get those printed on recycled paper. It's definitely a little more steep, but we used them for our save the dates and birth announcements, and both turned out beautiful. I don't know if people could even guess the paper was recycled.

Etsy is a PERFECT place to shop for cards made with recycled paper. When you write in "recycled greeting card" on search, you get almost 13,000 results, so there is plenty to choose from. And you will find so many creative options. You could also shop super cheap printables and print them on your own recycled paper! My favorite right now is Everyday's a Holiday.

RECYCLE YOUR CARDS- Ever wondered what to do with the giant pile of greeting cards you have in your house? Donate them to St. Jude's! Kids in one of their spaces (The Ranch) removes the fronts from their old cards and attach them to new backs so they can be reused again! You can buy their cards in packs to support kids with cancer and their families too. Come on, that's really cool. Check out the information here. I am totally doing this from now on!


Gift Bags


The most eco-friendly wrapping style, because as my Mother in Law taught me, you can use a gift bag a million times. A million. Wrapping paper? Once. Let's all become gift bag converts.

To Compare- This Cindus Foil gift bag is very festive and about 2 dollars. You can get them for up to probably 15 dollars depending on how many Disney princesses and Star Wars characters are on it.

Our Pick-Jillson Roberts sells gift bags that are recycled, but come in lots of colors and finishes so they feel bright and festive. You can also get them in bulk, and never buy another gift bag again. Yeah, the finish is plain, but you could buy stickers or get out your markers and decorate it yourself!

Three More Options- Creative Hobbies- 24 pack of 100% recycled kraft paper gift bags- 14.99

Bag Source- 50 Pack of white recycled gift bags- 23.00

Cosco- Kraft paper bags (a little larger) Pack of 50- 14.97
recycled gift bag instead of a fresh paper gift bag for birthday presents
from Amazon
Skip the Paper Completely- Want to gift in a bag that will get LOTS of use? What about a reusable shopping bag? They can use them for all sorts of storage and shopping of their own, and you can even get ones made of recycled plastic.


Wrapping Paper


The bright side of wrapping paper is that you can usually find it Made in America and much of it is recyclable (so good- but look out for foil! You can't do anything with that nonsense, so get your sparkle another way). It is instant garbage, literally waste as soon as you use it, so buying it out of recycled materials just makes sense.

To Compare-American Greetings sells a set of three wrapping paper rolls for about 14 dollars, but this is another one of those things that just runs the gamut.

Our Pick- I may or may not have just bought us a roll of Pratt kraft paper, and much like my previous mountain of tissue paper blunder, I may have actually purchased two lifetimes worth of wrapping paper. Maybe three. But it was only 23 dollars and the color is warm and nice, so I only regret it when The Boy is giving me a dirty look about it.

Three More Options- Jillson Roberts All Occasion Recycled Paper- Bright! 6 rolls for 26.95.

Wrap and Revel- Fancypants and 100% recycled/ 30% post-consumer paper. Too fancy for me, but really pretty. Perfect for a special gift? 4 dollars for 2 19x26 sheets.

Anna Sees Supplies- Recycled kraft paper again. Pretty giftwrapping. 5.50

Skip the Paper Completely- Gift bags my friend! Or wrap your gifts in coloring book pages you already finished. or check pinterest for other cool gift wrap ideas- the options are endless!


So many ways to do well by trees by just switching to more eco-friendly products. You can do this! Want to continue to improve your shopping? Check out that Mega-List of Shopping Lists and brainstorm other purchases you make regularly that you can do in a more eco-friendly way!

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3 comments

  1. I forgot that it's Earth Day this week!! I love silicon baking cups. I don't own them so I need to get those to save the papers.

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  2. This is a brilliant post! I always try to be eco when I can but must admit i use way too many baby wipes. Thank for the ideas!

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