Centuries of growth, seconds of use
Tissue products such as toilet paper, paper towels, paper napkins and facial tissue are found in many households. They are cheap and convenient. These products are manufactured from trees that have been growing for centuries and are turned into items that we use for seconds before we throw them away.
Forests are unique ecosystems filled with billions of birds and other animals. Many are home to indigenous peoples who steward the land, relying on it for sustenance and a place to practice their traditions. In Canada, when the boreal forests are logged, “the rich soil and peatlands that have been storing the carbon captured by trees for centuries are disturbed. … Regardless of claims to the contrary, no amount of saplings planted amongst the graveyards of tree trunks can offset the damage done to our climate from clear-cutting the boreal.”
Paper tissue use around the globe
The United States gets 65% of its pulp and paper imports from Canada and most of those come from vulnerable boreal forests. Fortunately, sustainable toilet paper usage and the number of forest-friendly paper options have increased. NRDC’s “The Issue with Tissue” report card rates these paper products so that you can choose ecologically sustainable ones.
Peru’s paper tissue market is experiencing a surge in demand due to increased hygiene awareness and greater disposable income. This surge is expected to continue for the next 15 years. Much of its tissue is imported. Fortunately, local solutions are making themselves known. Softys Peru’s products are Forest Stewardship Council-certified and ethically made.
Japan relies on recovered paper for most of its tissue fiber. Toilet tissue makes up most of Japan’s tissue production with facial tissue as its second most purchased product. Japan does not appear to have the consumer towel culture of North America.
The good news is that in the United States, Japan and Peru, people recycle paper a lot. Recycled paper production results in 40% fewer greenhouse gases, requires 26% less energy to produce, creates 43% less wasted water, and 73% less air pollution. So, choosing products made from recycled wood pulp offers a way to live sustainably.
More sustainable alternatives
There are alternatives to these single-use products.
- Absorbent cloth towels and washable handkerchiefs
- Toilet paper made from recycled wood pulp or sustainably sourced alternative fibers such as wheat straw and bamboo.
- Bidets, popular in Japan, are gaining acceptance across the globe. A bidet is a tool to spray-clean with water while you’re still sitting on the toilet. Some people say their bidet practically eliminates the need to wipe, though for most, using one simply means going through much less bathroom tissue.
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