By Deborah Fleischer, Green Impact

A Delicate Undertaking
I picked up a copy of Time Magazine while visiting my parents and noticed A Delicate Undertaking, an article in their Going Green section comparing different brands of toilet paper with recycled content.
I have been using Seventh Generation 100% recycled toilet paper for years and just don’t get all the hype that “recycled material simply can’t match the comfort U.S. consumers have come to expect.”

My derriere has never felt deprived from its lack of virgin fibers. But I am obviously in the minority.

U.S. desire for a plusher flush
According to Time Magazine, few Americans are using recycled TP. They report: “Toilet paper containing 100% recycled fiber makes up less than 2% of the U.S. market, while sales of three-ply luxury brands like Cottonelle Ultra and Charmin Ultra Soft shot up 40% in 2008. Compare the U.S. desire for an ever plusher flush with the more austere bathroom habits of Europe and Latin America, where recycled TP makes up about 20% of the at-home market. Recycled material simply can’t match the level of comfort that virgin fiber provides – and that U.S. consumers have come to expect.”
Yet, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council: “If every household in the United States replaced just one roll of virgin fiber toilet paper (500 sheets) with 100% recycled ones, we could save 423,900 trees.”

Recomended brands
Greenpeace recently reviewed over 100 brands and only recommends brands that contain 100% overall recycled content, contain at least 50% post-consumer recycled content, and are bleached without toxic chlorine compounds.
Of the four different TP brands reviewed by Time, only two of them, Seventh Generation and Whole Food’s 365, are on Greenpeace’s recommended list.

Room for improvement
Time also reviewed Scott Naturals, which only has 40% recycled content and does not use a less toxic bleaching process. And Marcal’s Small Steps, which is 100% recycled, but contains less than 50% post-consumer material.
I noticed that Kimberly-Clark’s professional line includes SCOTT 100% Recycled Fiber Standard Roll Bath Tissue made with 100% recycled fiber and Green Seal Certified–why can’t they keep to these standards in their retail product line?

Greenpeace Recycled Tissue and Toilet Paper Guide
While Time mentions Greenpeace’s campaign to pressure paper companies to incorporate higher recycled content into their products, they failed to mention Greenpeace’s new Recycled Tissue and Toilet Paper Guide, which includes a nifty iPhone application.
The application makes it super easy to guide your shopping choices next time you shop for TP.
Greenpeace gives the “Recommended” rating to the following brands:

  • Green Forest
  • Wholefoods 365
  • April Soft
  • Earth Friendly
  • Fiesta Green
  • Natural Value
  • Seventh Generation
  • Trader Joe’s
  • CVS Earth Essentials
  • Cascades
  • Bright Green

Now there is an easy way to be sure your flushes are as green as possible. Next time you grab a roll of TP, do your small part to help protect the world’s ancient forests.

Deborah Fleischer is the founder and president of Green Impact, providing strategic environmental consulting services to mid-sized companies and NGOs who want to launch a new green initiative or cross-sector collaboration, but lack the in-house capacity to get it up and running. She brings expertise in sustainability strategy, program development, stakeholder partnerships and written communications. And you can follow her occasional tweet at GreenImpact.

Sustainability Consulting Bay Area

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