Here, in the United States, we use more toilet paper per capita than in any other country on the face of the earth. Although things are different in other parts of the world, in our society, we view toilet paper as a necessity because that is how we were trained in our culture, in our economy, and in our lives. Toilet paper was the first thing everyone stocked up on at the start of the pandemic. It is something that we know we need to use, but we think we have no replacement for it.
I’m Marla, the Green Home Coach! Today, Tony Pratte, my occasional co-host, joins me on the show once again for another conversation in our series about climate change.
Today, Tony and I are talking toilet paper! In this episode, we explain what goes into the toilet paper that we are literally flushing down the toilet. We also discuss what you can use as alternatives and why that matters.
Looking at our country as a whole
When we look at our country as a whole, we are the most prosperous country with the largest economy. Yet, we are very wasteful.
Use this, not that
I got a flyer from my local natural grocery store explaining what we should and should not use. They list many different items, from laundry detergent, to grocery bags to weed killer, and they even list toothbrushes.
Alternatives to single-use products
There are many alternatives for us to use rather than single-use products, where we tend to be the most wasteful. Most of us do not think of toilet paper in that category, however.
We are literally flushing forests down the toilet so that we can use something a little softer to wipe ourselves.
I have used recycled toilet paper for several years now because I feel that any time I can use a recycled material rather than virgin material, it is a good thing. It takes far less energy, water, and chemicals to make something from a recycled product, and you are also expanding the life of that product.
All paper gets made from wood pulp. Different kinds of wood pulp get used in making the various types of paper.
Wood mills have tons of scrap lying all over. One would assume that those scrap bits of wood get used for making paper, but that is not what happens.
Making toilet paper
Toilet paper is not only made from leftover bits and pieces of wood, but shockingly, 44% of the wood pulp used to make toilet paper comes from clear-cut native virgin-growth forests.
Although many of those involved with forestry claim to plant a tree every time they cut one down, it will take many years for those trees to reach their full forest height. Those trees often get planted within a monoculture instead of in a diverse setting with active microbiomes like a forest. Everything in nature works in systems, including forests. So, when forests get ripped out for our convenience, there is a long-term pay-off.
Using recycled paper for toilet paper
Many of the resources used to make paper could get offset by using recycled paper to make toilet paper.
FSC certified forests
Forests that are FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified have been deemed to be sustainable and sustainably managed.
Toilet paper made from virgin wood
Paper made from virgin wood has longer fibers which give it a lot more life. Every time paper or wood gets recycled, the fibers become shorter. So it makes a lot of sense to use recycled paper to make toilet paper because it will get flushed down the toilet.
Often, sewage plants make fertilizer from the sludge.
Paper made from bamboo feels more like paper made from wood with longer fibers. So toilet paper made from bamboo will feel more comfortable to use. You need to know that the bamboo was responsibly sourced, however.
As consumers, we tend to have a lot more power than we comprehend. We can use that power to vote with our pocketbooks and choose the products that we use with care.
Learning about alternatives
Learn more and talk to people about what you have learned. We can all help each other by sharing what we have learned about alternative ways to do things.
We need to understand that with every change of materials, there is an overall impact that we need to factor in.
The whole globe is a massive system made up of smaller ecosystems. When one of them gets knocked out of balance, the system looks to correct and find balance. But that takes time.
Tearing down forests
Forests are massive carbon dioxide storage facilities and they play a huge role in balancing the climate of the natural world. All of that gets negatively affected when we tear the forests down. The habitats of many species of animals, birds, and insects get destroyed. Some indigenous people depend on forests for their livelihood.
The natural world supports us
The natural world matters. Your health, and that of your family and friends, is highly dependent on the health of the planet. So, we need to remember that the earth supports us and take care of it.
You can make a start, one roll of toilet paper at a time!
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