Green Toilet Paper Buying Guide: Be Kind to Your Behind vs. Hug a Tree?

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Greenpeace recently released a tissue-buying guide for consumers to highlight the use of post-consumer recycled content and environmentally friendly bleach. Green Forest came in first, with Whole Foods' store brand, 365, a close second.

The New York Times chose to frame this as a standard environmental cliche: Americans, with their unreasonable preference for soft, fluffy tissues and toilet paper, are destroying the Canadian boreal forest, and it's up to environmentalists to guilt us all into buying the uncomfortable off-brand stuff we don't really like. In this narrative, the big manufacturers' hands are tied.

"Customers "demand soft and comfortable," said James Malone, a spokesman for Georgia Pacific, the maker of Quilted Northern. "Recycled fiber cannot do it."

But I talked to Greenpeace forest campaigner Lindsey Allen and she had a different story. They are targeting manufacturers, not just consumers. For example, they disrupted a Cottonelle viral marketing campaign: "They had set up a blue couch in Times Square and were asking passersby to tell a story; you were supposed to 'let it out,' get emotional, reach for a Kleenex. They were filming for a commercial. We had volunteers get in front of the camera, all miked, who said, we have something we want to let out: 
it’s really sad that you’re using North Ameican Boreal virgin fiber in your products." You can check out the YouTube video here.

It’s common to frame environmental dilemmas moralistically, as small, personal choices where we all should try to do the right thing, even if it makes us a little uncomfortable. But maybe the tissue issue is really a matter of pressuring businesses to innovate and do a better job marketing products that are better for the planet. Is it really impossible to make a soft, fluffy paper with recycled content, and to make it an appealing brand? Marcal, the oldest manufacturers of recycled paper in the country, is giving it a shot this Earth Day, with the first line of nationally advertised recycled toilet paper.

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6 Comments

  • Sonja Sheasley

    Unfortunately recycled content bathroom tissue contains BPAs. Why? Because when paper is recycled, thermal paper is also thrown in. Thermal paper is paper coated with plastic, as in credit card receipts.
    This is only a problem when you consider recycled content bathroom tissue is being flushed down the toilet, eventually contaminating ground water with build up of small amounts of plastic.

    I have one possible solution. I developed a new bathroom tisse made from (renewable and sustainable )bamboo non woven fibers. Please check it out. It is soft, smooth, breaks down quickly, bpa free, elemental chlorine free, and is packaged in a 100% recycled cardboard box. http://www.bumboosa.com We also plant a tree for every product sold and we are committed to alleviating the burden on trees, whether those trees are from ancient forests or managed tree farms.

  • Carl Haufman

    My family are actively promoting green bathrooms at http://www.essexbathroom.co.uk, I know they offer water reducing flushes, green toilet paper, eco friendly under floor heating and ways to use the steam to generate power in the bathroom.

  • Carl Haufman

    My family are actively promoting green bathrooms at htpp://www.essexbathroom.co.uk, I know they offer water reducing flushes, green toilet paper, eco friendly under floor heating and ways to use the steam to generate power in the bathroom.

  • Jeff Samuels

    Save money and the Earth and be clean at the same time...yes! Get serious and add Bathroom Bidet Sprayers to all your bathrooms. Available at www.bathroomsprayers.com with these you won't even need toilet paper any more, just a towel to dry off! It's cheap and can be installed without a plumber; and runs off the same water line to your toilet. You'll probably pay for it in a few months of toilet paper savings. And after using one of these you won't know how you lasted all those years with wadded up handfuls of toilet paper. Now we're talking green and helping the environment without any pain.

  • Glenn Hurowitz

    Anya nails it. Kimberly-Clark insists on selling toilet and tissues made from endangered forests. They're the ones to focus on.