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  • By Hillary Brody Anchill

Lee Reitelman

As climate change wreaks havoc worldwide and consumers become more conscious and educated about the food they put in their bodies, the products they apply to their skin, and the waste generated from everyday goods, there is one regularly used product that is likely an afterthought. Toilet paper. Unless there isn’t any available, it’s unlikely that this ubiquitous product is given much consideration. But for Birmingham native and Brooklyn resident Lee Reitelman, the environmental impacts of a single roll of toilet paper – which takes 37 gallons of water to produce – led him, his wife Deeva Green, and two others to co-found PlantPaper, a toxin-free toilet paper company made not from trees (27,000 of which are flushed down the toilet every day), but from quickly regenerative bamboo. Reitelman describes that “no one knew what was going into their toilet paper. We saw an opportunity to potentially spearhead what could be a big and important shift in the ways consumers relate to a product they use multiple times a day. It’s democratic. Everyone needs toilet paper. We could make a really great alternative, and we could help be responsible for shifting the paradigm. We didn’t want to make a tradeoff but a trade up.” Reitelman knows that changing ingrained attitudes and purchasing habits takes time, especially for as mundane an item as toilet paper. He says he’s always been “interested in the way that good design and good storytelling can help shift attitudes. As someone who’s always been excited about putting new information in front of people, giving them the opportunity to make different choices is what excites me about PlantPaper.” PlantPaper is also easy to purchase. While available in approximately 50 stores so far, its subscription-based model has proven to be extremely popular so far. “You set it and forget it. You never have to schlep it from the grocery store or down the street. There’s a huge convenience factor,” he pointed out. Reitelman, who welcomed a baby boy this summer, notes that, “for a long time now, I’ve wanted to use my energies in a way that would bring some sort of meaningful benefit to our society.” He and Green briefly had a restaurant and catering business that only used raw materials available within walking distance from the restaurant, among other ventures. First and foremost, Reitelman is an educator, and it is this ethos that permeates everything he does. “As we are becoming parents, you begin to take some of these decisions more seriously than if you were just buying for yourself. From a health perspective, I don’t want bleach or glues on my baby’s body. At the same time, I don’t want to buy something that’s going to turn this planet into a garbage dump. It feels really good to be working on something that’s in line with our vision of what we want the world – or don’t want the world – to become.”

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