Friday, November 12, 2010


Our bums aren’t worth it. Despite TV commercials to the contrary, having plushy toilet paper isn’t a necessity. In fact, the most-advertised TP isn’t just costly, it's an environmental disaster. Hey, stay with me for just a minute! This isn’t another extreme recommendation of the “deep- greeners” (like yours truly), really, it’s something helpful that everyone can do without too much effort. Remember three easy rules: 1) TP only from recycled fibers, 2) no fragrances or chlorine bleach, and 3) fold one-ply instead of wadding two-ply. So, that’s the delicate subject of this post – your mindful use of TP can make an important difference.

Do you know how many trees are cut down each year just to wipe our bums? Well, if you live in the U.S., the number is astounding – more than 7 million. And that’s a whole lot more use than in any other country in the world - about three times more per person than the average European, and 100 times more than the Chinese. U.S. people seem to love to use disposable products and what’s more disposable than TP? It’s used for three seconds – then it’s flushed.

In fact in some other countries, Australia, for example, all TP is made from 100 percent recycled fibers. Marketing hype aside, TP from recycled materials does the same job as the high cost, environment-damaging kind. So, do our bums deserve so much over-pampering? Those are live trees that are being cut down to make virgin fiber.

TP comes from the pulp and paper industry, one of the greatest industrial source of global warming pollution (after only the chemical and steel industries). It’s also the world's greatest industrial cause of deforestation. And besides killing trees, paper making from trees also uses more water than paper recovery (turning paper back into usable fiber). What's more, less than half the TP-making pulp in the U.S comes from new-tree farms - in South America and the United States. The rest comes from older forests, including some of the last virgin forests in North America.

Yet, according to a New York Times article, some large paper manufacturers recently report a 40% rise in sales of luxury brand TP. Wait a minute! That’s like having more use of the highest-octane gasoline during a recession. It just doesn’t make sense. But, apparently, that has been the result of all those TV commercials that equate “cheap” TP (read that as recycled-fiber tissue) with scratchiness and lack of hygiene.

Isn't it time for us to reject this mindless consumerism and stand up for our principles? Most schools and office buildings have already switched to TP from recycled content because it costs less. The goal should be for all TP used in the U.S. – both inside and outside of the home- to be from recycled fibers. And no forests should be trashed just to make plushy toilet tissue.

You’ll be doing even better for our Earth if you look to see that your TP has no fragrances and is "unbleached" or "chlorine-free." It’s also good to use the one-ply instead of the two. Research has shown that people use a “handful” of either one- or two-ply tissue, and that the “bottom-line” (forgive the pun) amounts to fewer sheets used when it’s neatly folded and not wadded or doubled up. So opt for one-ply paper and fold rather than wad, if you want to use less. By being more conscious of the amount of toilet paper you use, you help save our trees and save yourself some money.

And, if you have a family member (or members) who habitually waste a lot of bathroom paper, put up a big sign across from the toilet that says something like this: “The TP you’re using is a huge cost for the environment and for our family - so, don’t be such a jerk!”

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