By Patrick Rogers
In the U.S., we consume more than 15 billion pounds of tissue each year—more than 50 pounds per person. It's taking a major toll on forests like the Canadian boreal.
Shop for Sustainability<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTI3MTAyMC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNzY0NTMyM30.JYf11RDicTbsWIuigi8e6mSh39dBKJDPcyzOrXmkI94/img.png?width=980" id="6d267" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="484f270873730975806eb63e3afd5d25" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" /><p>Fortunately, there are plenty of competitively priced varieties of tissue with minimal impact on forests. The <em>Issue With Tissue</em> <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/experts/jennifer-skene/issue-tissue-how-us-flushing-forests-away" target="_blank">report's scorecard</a> assigns grades to all the major brands of toilet paper, paper towels and facial tissues, as well as popular house brands at leading supermarkets and brands that have adopted more sustainable practices.</p><p>Leading the scoreboard are six products — Green Forest, 365 Everyday Value 100% Recycled, Earth First, Natural Value, Seventh Generation and Trader Joe's Bath Tissue — that are made entirely of recycled material and use a chlorine-free bleaching process that does less harm to the environment than other methods. Grades of A go to toilet papers that contain the most postconsumer recycled content; this means that most of their materials have already been processed once and therefore reduce waste. (The alternative, preconsumer recycled content, is largely scrap and excess raw material collected during the manufacturing process. While it is far preferable to virgin forest fiber, it does less to offset waste than postconsumer recycled content.) The brands that get an A "have looked into the impact of their products and are embracing alternative materials that will allow us to continue using tissue products with a fraction of the environmental cost," Skene said.</p>
Think Twice Before Buying These Products<p>Brands that get an F in the scorecard — including Charmin Ultra, Angel Soft, Quilted Northern and Up & Up Soft & Strong — rely entirely on virgin forest fiber for their products. These tissue products have three times the carbon footprint of those made from recycled paper; many also use dangerous bleaching processes. You may notice that the label "FSC certified" appears on some of these brands. While the Forest Stewardship Council is the world's most creditable independent certifier of responsibly managed forests and provides an important set of standards for products that require the use of wood (like lumber), there is no reason tissue products should be made from trees in the first place, Skene said.</p>
Give Your Household Tissue Use More Consideration<p>Next time you reach for a package of facial tissue at the supermarket, visualize a majestic evergreen spruce or fir in the forest. "Something that we use once and throw away should not be destroying a vital part of our earth," said <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/experts/shelley-vinyard" target="_blank">Shelley Vinyard</a>, who oversees NRDC's work encouraging corporations to establish stronger protections for Canada's boreal forest. In the bathroom, use paper tissue products with reusable materials that get the job done. Keep rags beside your sink and use them as much as possible instead of paper towels. Replace paper napkins with cloth versions, and instead of one-and-done facial tissues, rely on handkerchiefs and washcloths that can be laundered and reused indefinitely.</p>
Demand Accountability<p>Despite the steady degradation of the boreal forest, the leading tissue brands stubbornly maintain a business-as-usual approach to the manufacture and marketing of paper tissue products. Charmin, Bounty, Kleenex and other brands continue to manufacture tissue using methods that have changed little since the 19th century, still relying entirely on virgin wood pulp. Meanwhile, they have vast research and development budgets that they could leverage to create soft, strong recycled tissue products. "The companies themselves have said people aren't calling for this," said Vinyard. You can help change the manufacturers' minds by letting them know your concerns about wood pulp from Canada's boreal forest—nearly 60 percent of which is shipped to the United States annually.</p><p>"It's all about where responsibility lies," said Vinyard. "Consumers can create the demand for recycled content, but really it's up to major companies with large R&D budgets to innovate and figure out how to make a product that is appealing to shoppers and doesn't destroy our forests."</p>
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The European Commission—the executive branch of the European Union (EU)—will be voting in the next couple days whether to designate Canada’s tar sands as being “highly polluting." Given tar sands’ terrible ecological impacts upon our shared global atmosphere—and Canadian boreal forests, water, and indigenous peoples—the answer should be painfully obvious, and a resounding yes.
Such a designation would be a significant setback for tar sands growth.
Yet given the power of the ecocidal oil oligarchy which rules Canada and much of the world, empowered global citizens need to let the EU know the world expects, indeed demands, the EU do the right thing in condemning tar sands—in order to establish a level playing field for a renewable, efficient, and conservation based energy future.
Send a message to the EU to let them know you don't support tar sands development by clicking here.
For more information, click here.