Toilet paper is a popular item these days, as the coronavirus outbreak has created a run on the household staple and led to empty store shelves across the country. Cloud Paper, a Seattle startup that makes tree-free toilet paper out of bamboo, is on roll right now with its mission to address deforestation and play a part in helping out during the crisis.
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The company was started a year ago by a trio who all met while working for Convoy, the Seattle trucking technology company. Co-founders Ryan Fritsch and Austin Watkins, both University of Washington grads who also worked together at Uber, joined forces with Tori Kiss, who now leads business operations and strategy.
According to Cloud Paper, 40,000 trees per day are cut down just for toilet paper and paper towels, equaling 20 percent of global deforestation. Bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants in the world, can be harvested in as little as three years, and provides an ultra-sustainable alternative to tree-based paper.
Whether it’s panic buying or just smart stockpiling, if consumers were’t thinking much about toilet paper before the COVID-19 pandemic, they are now.
Cloud Paper, which sells its 3-ply, ultra-soft TP in 24-roll boxes through its website, has seen a 600 percent increase in its subscriber base in just a matter of days. And the founders are addressing the run on store supplies of tree-based products by getting Cloud Paper to at least one organization which could be hurt by short supply.
Cloud Paper, which regularly donates rolls to Food Lifeline, has pledged another 10,000 rolls to help those in need during the health crisis.
“When we started Cloud Paper the most important criteria was that we had to provide a positive impact for the people and resources of our planet from day one,” said Fritsch. “This is also why we started partnering with Food Lifeline from the beginning to donate our product to the food banks and shelters that need it.”
The run on stores for products like toilet paper would be especially hard for those organizations, Fritsch said. So the company moved fast to ramp up its donation volume.
In addition to its direct-to-consumer model online, Cloud Paper also has a number of business customers including all Washington and Oregon WeWork locations, assorted restaurants and more.
The company raised $500,000 in an angel funding round last summer and has shipped tens of thousands of rolls of paper in the months since its launch.
The company’s sustainability mission doesn’t stop with the use of bamboo. Cloud Paper also offsets all carbon emissions generated from the transportation of its product through the Carbon Fund. And it uses plastic-free packaging.