As long as humans have been on this planet, they’ve been going to the bathroom. (Well, we have to assume so, anyway). But if subway ads or podcast ads or Instagram ads are any indication, we are apparently in the golden age of the butt. There are trendy bidets (self-care for your crack), butt masks (for maintaining the sparkle and smoothness of your butt cheeks), and finally, at the peak of our millennial-ness, a bougie new class of farm-to-tush toilet papers. Millennial butt care. It’s everywhere, it’s inescapable, it’s…kind of confusing?
Over the past couple of years, as we recklessly thought not at all about our rolls of Charmin, a change swept the ass-care industry. Companies like Bippy, Peach, Who Gives a Crap, and No. 2 took to Instagram with their aesthetically pleasing, sustainably made luxury direct-to-consumer rolls, imploring us all to flush our hard-earned cash down the toilet for a roll of T.P. that’s in line with our personal brand values.
Did we really need to reinvent the roll? Toilet paper is something I never really thought that much about beyond, like, knowing that I had it in my bathroom. But now all of these butt-posi companies have me wondering whether I should. Do I need a fancy $3 roll of toilet paper? Do I? Do I?
Instagram says I do. Or at least maybe I do. Thousands of engaged consumers are filling their feeds with toilet paper fit for the aesthetically discerning. Bippy offers its 13,000 followers toilet paper memes. Peach serves up Pinterest-ready interiors and travel shots in sherbet oranges that have seemingly little to do with toilet paper but are damn nice to look at anyway. The Who Gives a Crap account boasts more than 150,000 followers and often posts colorfully designed 4x4s showing off its artfully wrapped paper. For National Toilet Day in November (which is, of course, a thing), the brand celebrated with a masterfully choreographed video of a man tap-dancing on top of—duh—a toilet. “Haha, this is awesome!” one commenter posted. “Gold,” wrote another.
The onrush of toilet paper companies with wacky names do aim to solve an actual problem millennials care about—taking care of the earth. In an article for Vox’s The Goods, reporter Dan Nosowitz (who, full disclaimer, is also my husband) found an early 2019 report from the Natural Resources Defense Council that graded T.P. brands on measures of sustainability. Charmin, Quilted Northern, and Kirkland Signature all got F’s.
Those big fat F’s gave hungry entrepreneurs looking to wage war on Big Toilet Paper a wide opening. “When I found out 15% of global deforestation was caused by toilet paper—an item I had used my whole life without question—I knew I had to do my part,” says Lisa Frame, cofounder of Bippy, whose tagline is “a modern personal care line exclusively for the butt that’s on a mission to preserve forests from the bottom up.”