Eillie Anzilotti, FAST COMPANY
Toilet paper is made from wood pulp that comes from Canada’s forests, which lost 28 million acres between 1996 and 2015. But if you look beyond the big brands, there are way more sustainable options out there.
If you’re a person living in America, you probably churn through the equivalent of 141 toilet paper rolls each year. It’s not often a thing you think about closely. Toilet paper is sold in abundance in the U.S.; you can buy 36-packs off Amazon. The supply, it seems, is limitless.
But it’s not without impact. Much of the pulp that makes up the tissue used in America comes from the boreal forest of Canada. The forest, which spans over 1 billion acres, holds at least 12% of the world’s carbon stores in its flora and soil. But the logging industry is decimating the resource. Between 1996 and 2015, over 28 million acres of the Canadian boreal were cleared by industrial logging, which directly feeds the tissue industry. Virgin pulp, which goes into toilet tissue, accounts for around 23% of Canada’s forest product exports. Not only is this terrible for the climate, but the industry is also destroying the habitat of numerous animal species and more than 600 indigenous communities.
A new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council and Stand.Earth spells out the dangers of the logging industry, specifically for the creation of tissue products. The major toilet paper suppliers in the U.S—Procter & Gamble, Kimberly-Clark, and Georgia-Pacific—which own recognizable brands like Charmin and Quilted Northern, are a significant part of the problem, according to the NRDC. “People don’t really think about their toilet paper purchases as environmental decisions,” says Shelley Vinyard, boreal campaign manager at NRDC. “But most major household brands that people buy are made from 100% virgin forest fibers.” In the report, the NRDC includes a helpful scorecard that shows which brands perform the worst and best on environmental measures; popular ones like Charmin scored an F. (When asked about the report, Kimberley Clark and Proctor & Gamble both noted their wood comes from sustainably managed forests and that they support the standards supplied by Canada’s Forest Stewardship Council, though they didn’t mention any efforts to shift the material they use. Georgia-Pacific didn’t respond.)