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Action alert

Eco-Challenge: Pick sustainable paper products

 Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet


As part of our commitment to Earth via our Laudato Si’ Action Plan, we are inviting everyone who shares in our charism to take a monthly Eco-Challenge with us.

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.”

A large pile of cut pine trees is stacked with a forest of pine trees and blue sky in the background

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.

A person holds at least eight rolls of toilet paper haphazardly in their arms

More sustainable alternatives

There are alternatives to these single-use products.

A thin white bidet arm extends into the middle of the void of a toilet seat and a stream of water jets up
  • 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.

Take the Eco-Challenge

How many of these actions will you take this month?

Spread the word

  • Leave a comment about how you’re taking the challenge below.
  • Invite others to take the January Eco-Challenge by sharing our post on Facebook and/or Instagram.

5 thoughts on “Eco-Challenge: Pick sustainable paper products”

  1. Avatar

    In our house, Mary Anne Rodgers and I get all our paper products from Trader Joe’s because they are all made from recycled paper. They aren’t as soft as other brands but it is worth it.
    We share this with others any chance we have.

  2. Avatar

    I use a handkercheif, which grosses some folks out, but it is reliable and sustainable. Only when I am sick do I use tissues.
    I don’t buy paper towels any more. I use Trader Joe’s Kitchen Cloth which can be washed and reused.
    I have started to use toilet paper from “Who Gives a Crap”. You get a subscription, shipping is free. You can adjust the subscription at any time to suit your needs. The box is delivered right to your door. The paper isn’t super soft, but it’s fine for 100% recycled. The company does other social justice work. They give 20% off your first subscription order. They also sell paper towels.

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About us

The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet are a congregation of Catholic sisters. We, and those who share our charism and mission, are motivated in all things by our profound love of God and our dear neighbors. We seek to build communities and bridge divides between people. Since our first sisters gathered in 1650, our members have been called to “do all things of which women are capable.” The first sisters of our congregation arrived in St. Louis, Missouri in 1836, and we now have additional locations in St. Paul, Albany, Los Angeles, Hawaii, Japan and Peru. Today, we commit to respond boldly to injustice and dare to be prophetic.


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