Flush a little less?…

I was a bit shocked last week to read that the average American uses 57 squares of bathroom tissue a day, or fifty pounds a year.  I’m guessing we Canadians aren’t much different.

57 squares: that’s a lot of paper – by my math, nearly six metres or 20 feet!  Unfortunately, recycled fibres make up only a small percentage of that; the vast majority of bathroom tissue is virgin fibre.

Upstream of consumers, that’s a lot of trees, energy, water and other resources used.  Downstream of us, that’s a lot of flushed fibre for our sewage systems to handle and process.

TP is a consumer staple we don’t often talk about, but it clearly has a significant environmental impact.

So what to do?  Perhaps two simple things.

First, since Reduce is always the most important of the three Rs, strive to use just a bit less every trip to the WC.  Small actions by many equal huge differences.

Second, choose the most eco-friendly paper you can; look for high post-consumer recycled content and third-party certifications such as the Forest Stewardship Council logo.

(And that’s a wipe… I mean, a wrap.)

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Choose the most eco-friendly bathroom tissue

Not all bathroom tissue is created equal – in fact, there are huge differences between the most and least eco-friendly types.  Considering how much of it we use, it makes good sense to choose the most eco-friendly.  Here are four tips:

  1. Look for 100% recycled paper with as high a content of post-consumer waste as possible. Post-consumer waste is paper collected from recycling programs (newspapers, flyers, envelopes, etc.), so a high level really means that you are saving a tree.  Paper made from recycled pre-consumer waste (print overruchlorine-freens, trimmings, etc.) isn’t as good, but it’s still better than paper made from virgin fibre.
  2. Look for paper certified as ‘processed chlorine free’. If you can’t find the logo, look for a statement about low or no chlorine use.
  3. Choose large or double rolls over small ones: they mean fewer cardboard tubes and less plastic packaging.
  4. Look for paper wrapped in recyclable #4 plastic, and recycle it with your other soft plastic (IE grocery bags, bread bags, milk bags).

And, don’t forget that the first of the three Rs, Reduce, is by far the most important one!

(Below is a label I spotted on a package recently – not perfect, but pretty good!)

label

Choose the right tissue paper

Home tissue products have long been made from virgin fibre (IE straight from the tree; zero percent recycled).  That means we have cut LOTS of trees to make napkins, paper towels, facial tissue and bathroom tissue, which are designed to be used once and then trashed or flushed.  Even today, several leading brands of tissue products are still 100% virgin fibre.  Arg – we are flushing trees down the toilet.

Fortunately, the market is changing: many paper companies have started offering tissue products that contain recycled paper.  You can help speed up that market change (and save a tree) by choosing recycled tissue products the next time you shop.  Look for the recycled logo, and aim for as high a percentage of post-consumer content as possible.

Click here for more background on this issue (dated but good information).  Click here (for Canada) and here (for US) to see how some popular brands stack up.