Soft Toilet Roll Worse than Hummers and McMansions?

Image credit: The Guardian
Green Groups Claim Soft TP is Worse than SUVs
Our sister site Planet Green has already explored 9 green toilet paper tips, but the struggle continues. From a purely symbolic standpoint, it's hard to think of a more anti-environmental action than cutting down a tree, pulping it, bleaching it, making it into paper (extra-thick multi-ply paper at that), and then using it to wipe your butt - and that's even if you orient your toilet roll correctly. It's almost certainly something that future generations will look back on with a sense of perplexity, and quite possibly anger. But according to The Guardian, a coalition of green campaigners is claiming that symbolism is the least of our concerns - they argue that America's taste for soft toilet paper is worse than driving hummers or building McMansions.

"More than 98% of the toilet roll sold in America comes from virgin forests, said Hershkowitz. In Europe and Latin America, up to 40% of toilet paper comes from recycled products. Greenpeace this week launched a cut-out-and-keep ecological ranking of toilet paper products. "We have this myth in the US that recycled is just so low quality, it's like cardboard and is impossible to use," said Lindsey Allen, the forestry campaigner of Greenpeace."

Now scanning further discussion on the subject elsewhere, I suspect that the above quote is slightly incorrect - 98% of the toilet roll sold in America comes from virgin fibers - but much of this is from managed forests, or second generation natural forests, as opposed to virgin forests [See Allen Hershkowitz's own clarification of this misquote below]. Aside from anything else, it seems hard to believe that we have enough virgin forest left to be producing 98% of our toilet paper! But that's not to say that wiping our butts on managed forests makes that much more sense.

As for the "worse than hummers" claim, we haven't been able to find the reasoning laid out - it may be that the folks at NRDC and Greenpeace are not purely talking about toilet paper - but rather all kinds of disposable paper products. Whatever the truth behind the inevitable "this is worse than that" claims that accompany such press releases, toilet paper is as good a place as any to start cutting back on our consumption of forest products.

Here's an excerpt from Allen Hershkowitz of NRDC about why we need to change our disposable paper habits, and fast:

"No forest of any kind should be used to make toilet paper. Toilet paper made from trees should be phased out in the same way we're phasing out the use of incandescent light bulbs. The Natural Resources Defense Council and Greenpeace are campaigning globally in behalf of that cause and the world should take note.

Given the enormous ecological impacts associated with the pulp and tissue industry, (global warming impacts, forestry impacts, water impacts, biodiversity impacts, hazardous waste production impacts, hazardous air emissions), "suffering" through two or three seconds of using less soft toilet paper is worth the ecological benefits, especially when we are talking about reducing the industry's global warming impacts and preserving ancient or tropical forests, which are both impacted by toilet paper manufacture."

For more information on greening your toilet paper - take a look at Greenpeace's newly launched cut-out-and-keep guide to sustainable toilet paper (there's already a discussion about this guide in our forums). And check out some links below for ideas on greening your toilet habits.

More on greener toilet paper and other bathroom habits
Green Your Toilet Paper - Over is Better!
From the Forums: Recycled Tissues
From the Forums: How to End America's Obsession with Soft Toilet Paper
Bidets: Eliminate Toilet Paper, Increase Hygiene
Can Potty Poetry Reduce Wasted TP?
Planet Green: 9 Green Toilet Paper Tips

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