On average, 60 squares a day

I wonder how many toilet paper rolls the average American uses each year? The wondrous Internet to the rescue! The average American uses about 60 squares of toilet paper each day or 20,000 squares per year. Toilet paper manufacturers estimate that an average roll lasts about five days, or 73 rolls per year. 5 days per roll? I’m switching to recycled toilet paper – don’t worry Mom, it’s safe! Does recycled toilet paper cost more? Not really. This week 6 rolls of Bright Green is 3.99, or 13.7 cents per square yard. Not bad.


The average American uses about 60 squares of toilet paper each day or 20,000 squares per year. The number of rolls per person is harder to pin down because all rolls are not equal. Toilet Paper Roll Standardization (TPRS) failed miserably a few years back.

Toilet paper manufacturers estimate that an average roll lasts about five days, or 73 rolls per year. 5 days per roll? I haven’t monitored my household’s toilet paper use, but Josh Madison recorded his toilet paper consumption for a year. He used 49 rolls of toilet paper (49,000 squares) at a cost of $52.43. He meticiously documented the life of each roll with start and end dates. The level of detail is simply amazing.

While I’m not ready to document my toilet paper usage (I’m already documenting my food waste), I have made a couple consumption changes.

  1. Using recycled toilet paper – don’t worry Mom, it’s safe! Using recycled toilet paper reduces my usage of virginal wood pulp – creative marketing phrase from Seventh Generation. Somehow recycled toilet paper is magically whitened without the use chlorine or dyes.
  2. Using less  I’m using a few less squares at each bathroom trip. I’m trying to treat toilet paper like a precious resource, instead of mindlessly grabbing a handful of squares. Maybe a trip to India would help?

Does recycled toilet paper cost more?

Not really. At Safeway, I found an eco brand called Bright Green. The price? Six rolls of Bright Green is 3.99, or 13.7 cents per square yard. This price is not that outrageous compared to non-virginal wood pulp toilet paper (the regular stuff).

The cheapest toilet paper I found was Scott 100 at 7.9 cents per square yard, and the most expensive was a luxurious Charmin variety at 32.7 cents per square yard. Because Toilet Paper Roll Standardization (TPRS) never happened, unit pricing is crucial so that you’re comparing apples to apples.

Is recycled toilet paper safe?


Yes recycled toilet paper is safe and NO recycled toilet paper isn’t brown. Recycled toilet paper looks just like regular toilet paper – it’s WHITE and a little less soft. I found the brown toilet paper at RecycledToiletPaper.com; an entertaining history of recycled toilet paper (RTP). I didn’t know toilet paper was recycled from the sewer and carefully laid out to dry. I imagine it’s a delicate process (wink). 

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council: “If every household in the United States replaced just one roll of virgin fiber toilet paper (500 sheets) with 100% recycled ones, we could save 423,900 trees.”

Do you use recycled toilet paper? Do you lay yours out in the sun or just buy it at the store? Please leave a Comment.

Author: Kate

I'm a writer interested in photography, philosophy, bikes and simplicity.

15 thoughts on “On average, 60 squares a day”

  1. Hi, Kate. We spent part of the long weekend washing all the windows. We have the kind you can take out and clean.

    I didn’t realize it until I was 3 windows in, but I was grabbing a bunch of paper towels for each window. My husband was using one per window and doing a very good job. It is amazing how we just do things out of habit – grabbing a few paper towels to cover a large area instead of using one at a time. It sounds like a small thing, but when cleaning all the windows inside and out it can use up a few rolls if you are not careful.

    Yesterday’s experience followed by your post today has made me think a lot more about the small ways I waste products that add up to big waste over time. Thanks for taking the time to write about something as simple as toilet paper!

    1. Yes, the mindless grab for paper. Thanks for posting your paper towel story! I’ve been more mindful of my TP grab of recent – but then yesterday at work I mindlessly grabbed more than enough. I instinctively grab more when it’s the thin industrial stuff, but do I need to?

    2. Even better than one sheet of paper towel is a sheet of newspaper. They do a better job and you’re reusing something.

    3. Last i heard all toilet paper, paper towel,& other paper items are mostly, if not all, made of recycled paper and have been for quite some time. If a paper product is proudly telling you that their product is made of recycled paper (more than just the recyle symbol) then it’s a marketing gimic to get you to buy their product

  2. Oh my goodness- we use way more than that (a roll every five days). I use way too many paper products. We’ve cut back significantly on paper towels, but I don’t know how to use less toilet paper. Oh dear. Part of the problem is that I often use them as Kleenex.

    I’ll try to get my husband to buy recycled. He’s in charge of buying paper products and other staples.

  3. We switched to the 7th Generation brand of recycled t.p. a few years back and I’m fine with it, I don’t notice a difference at all. What’s funny is every time we’re at a friend’s house, my 7 year old son comments on how soft their toilet paper is and how he wants that brand. It’s obviously Charmin (the gold standard from my youth in the 1970’s that my mom always refused to pay for!!) and I just tell him that we like to help the earth and that toilet paper is not helping the earth. He understands that, he’s quite the budding environmentalist. He knows mama only uses paper towels to clean up cat barf, and why we use cloth napkins…I did save a square of toilet paper when I visited East Berlin about 6 months after the Berlin Wall fell. They still used the brown sandpaper-y kind and I thought it was hilarious.
    Interesting post, thanks.

  4. Marcol (sp) has recently come out with a line called Simple Steps or Small Steps. Where I shop it’s the same price.

    If you’re using TP for tissues, then you should also consider the decrease in your tissue consumption when making your calculations.

    I heard of one person who squashes her rolls of TP so it’s harder to unroll, decreasing the mindless grab of large amounts.

    1. Great article. Thanks for sharing Kevin. Tom makes a great point – in order for recycling to succeed, consumers need to buy recycled products.

  5. This is the funniest post I’ve read in days – the recycled TP link was great. I imagine more than a few folks try to buy it. Thanks for passing along good and useful information and making me laugh in the process.

  6. I just came across this post in my efforts to cut back on all things (not just TP) and thought I would add a tip.

    I noticed while potty training my daughter that she would grab the end of the paper and pull on in, she would then rip off the sheets once it had stopped spinning. My husband also, has a bad habit in regards to TP, he takes the roll off the holder and wraps the sheets around his hands a few times.

    So, before putting the roll on the holder, I step on it, flattening it out. That way when my daughter yanks on it, it only spins once. She is just waiting for it to stop and doesn’t really care how much paper she has.

    Haven’t come up with a solution for the husband/TP problem yet…

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