Sunday, March 01, 2009

The Problem With Our TeePee

I thought about leaving the puns aside, but this is a sensitive subject. Toilet paper is serious business and comfort is king of many Americans' "thrones". One-ply, two-ply, three-ply, paper with lotion, with aloe and a stuffed teddy bear are a part of our culture as is baseball and apple pie. Of course, we talk more in public about baseball and dessert more than we do about wiping our behinds.

That means it has been hard for the green revolution in this country to permeate the toilet paper market. Yet environmental advocates must wipe away misconceptions about the issue and confront what those few seconds of softness means to our forests and ultimately the health of our planet.

From The Guardian:

"This is a product that we use for less than three seconds and the ecological consequences of manufacturing it from trees is enormous," said Allen Hershkowitz, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defence Council.

"Future generations are going to look at the way we make toilet paper as one of the greatest excesses of our age. Making toilet paper from virgin wood is a lot worse than driving Hummers in terms of global warming pollution." Making toilet paper has a significant impact because of chemicals used in pulp manufacture and cutting down forests.

A campaign by Greenpeace seeks to raise consciousness among Americans about the environmental costs of their toilet habits and counter an aggressive new push by the paper industry giants to market so-called luxury brands.

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.

Now those are some scary statistics. Just as we Americans have wised up about fuel-efficiency, recycling and conservation in other areas, it is time to do the same for toilet paper rolls. The industry will complain but in the end, if we as consumers demand change, so will the suppliers. So spread the word and buy recycled.