Toilet Paper Puts Trees in Trouble

Americans love soft toilet paper, but at the expense of old-growth forests
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Americans love soft toilet paper, but at the expense of old-growth forests

Everybody poops, it's true, but some are more environmentally friendly about it than others. In fact, most of us could stand to sacrifice a little comfort on the commode: The New York Times reports that Americans prefer soft, exotic toilet paper to rougher recycled toilet paper by a massive margin—only 2 percent of the personal toilet paper we buy comes from recycled paper.

Our lust for excremental excess exacts a heavy toll on world forests. Since recycled paper can't come close to mimicking the velvety plushness of the TP types we prefer, paper companies harvest their pulp from millions of trees in North and South American forests. Some of it even comes from rare old-growth forests in Canada. (I like to give our good-natured Northern neighbors as much crap as the next guy, but that's ridiculous.)

Turning trees into toilet paper also requires more water than recycling, and bleaches and dies used for maximum whiteness create an excess of pollutants that can further damage the environment.

This poop problem is culturally unique to the States: Europeans and Latin Americans have much higher percentages of recycled content in their toilet paper pipeline—as much as 20 percent. Environmental groups are hoping to urge us to release our polluting potty habits and adopt greener, if rougher, brands of toilet paper for the sake of the planet.

In hopes of making a bold example, the National Resources Defense Council convinced Hollywood to adopt 100 percent recycled toilet paper at the Oscars last weekend.

That's a group of people who largely believe their s*** doesn't stink, and even they're taking it in the seat for the planet. Maybe it's time for all of us to dump non-recycled toilet paper.

—Ted Alvarez

Mr. Whipple Left It Out (NY Times)

Image Credit: Booleansplit