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The Story Behind Serious Tissues: 100% Recycled Paper Toilet Roll

By Canopey Team

Toilet paper is one of the most prevalent single-use products in our daily routines.

And while toilet paper is – in the very least – not made out of petrochemicals like all those other throwaway plastic items in everyday life, it still carries a hefty toll on the environment.

Mainstream toilet roll brands often rely on harmful practices like deforestation and damaging farming techniques that take much more from the soil that giving back.

With very few other options out there (reusable toilet roll definitely isn’t for the faint of heart) we have to scrutinise the credentials of our toilet paper brands carefully.

Serious Tissues joined us near the beginning of the Canopey journey, as one of the earliest brands on the platform.

They have a whole accompaniment of our accreditations: their toilet roll is made in the UK from 100% post consumer waste sourced from here (that’s office paper and other recycling), their packs are plastic-free and recyclable, and they support tree planting and carbon reduction schemes.

You can see all their brand-specific accreditations on their brand page, and accreditations specific to their products on any of their product pages:

We sat down with Chris Baker, one of the founders of Serious Tissues, to talk about their journey from pandemic startup to taking the UK’s toilet roll industry by storm.

Can you share with us the story behind founding Serious Tissues? Was there a particular moment or experience that inspired you?

Between the four of us who founded Serious Tissues, we’ve got eight kids, and at the time we launched they were all under eight. We were becoming increasingly worried about the future they’d inherit as they reached adulthood and wanted to use the skills we’d learnt from launching Change Please to do something to tackle climate change. [Editor note: Change Please is an award-winning social enterprise which aims to end homelessness through selling great tasting coffee!]

Toilet paper was an obvious place to start. The vast majority of paper used in this country is made from virgin pulp, which is basically trees that grow for 20-30 years being cut down to wipe our bums. It’s mad that trees are a single-use product when we need them more than ever.

Founders of Serious Tissues sitting on a sofa laughing

Sustainability is a core element of the Serious Tissues brand. What led you to you to prioritise this in the business?

We set out to make a difference in this space from the very start. Combining the massive ecological disaster of toilet roll with an issue people really care about had the brand on a strong footing from day one.

The simple model we launched with a tree planted for every roll really struck a chord because of its simplicity. The average person uses over 120 rolls a year so by switching to us they’d be planting their own personal forest from the toilet seat. This model means we’ve now planted over 1.1m trees in the UK and globally.

We’ve had to evolve the model slightly as the cost of tree planting has gone up by 500% so we’ve started to invest in other projects beyond tree planting that include renewable energy and kelp farms. Based on the average carbon footprint of someone in the UK, each box now sequesters 11% of their annual carbon footprint, and an average subscriber (six boxes per year) would sequester over half of their annual carbon footprint just by switching to Serious Tissues.

What’s hard about running a sustainable toilet paper company? Anything that surprised you?

It’s been a brutal time to launch a business. We launched just before Covid so navigating that was fun. Followed by an energy crisis which hit our costs hard because making loo roll requires a lot of energy.

The cost of living crisis has also put pressure on household budgets so justifying spending a premium to buy toilet paper has been hard. Saying that, our subscriber base has continued to grow, despite all of that, which is great to see.

A box of Serious Tissues toilet rolls on a hallway floor

Looking forward, what are your long-term goals for Serious Tissues and what are you excited about?

It’s such a big category that there is a huge opportunity to make a real impact through a simple product.

If we got to 5% of the UK market we’d be planting millions of trees each year and the model of a product with minimal footprint (by being locally made from recycled paper) and maximum impact (through tree planting and other impact initiatives), has the potential for success in numerous markets.

Rolls of toilet paper on a factory production line

How do you see Serious Tissues evolving to meet future sustainability challenges?

It’s a journey isn’t it. We’re always looking for ways to improve what we do and that won’t change. We’d love to add additional products and broaden out our impact model to tackle other areas within sustainability.

Toilet with Serious Tissues toilet rolls

How has the journey of building your brand changed you personally?

If my hair wasn’t grey before, it definitely would be now!

It’s been an incredibly challenging journey, we’ve made mistakes along the way, but learned a lot and come out the other side stronger.

If you could go back to when you started, what advice would you give yourself?

One thing at a time. It’s great to have a big mission but it's important not to overstretch yourself too early.