The Toilet Paper Saga: Statistics & Actionable Tips For Going Green

It can be argued that toilet paper is one of the sanitary items which is often taken for granted. After all, we do not spend much time thinking about where it is sourced, the production process or where it goes once it has fulfilled its intended use. However, you might be surprised to learn that this ubiquitous material has a massive impact upon the environment and therefore, upon global warming. Let’s take a bit of time to explore some surprising facts about toilet paper as well as how you can calculate your very own presence within the world of waste.

Toilet Paper Consumption: Some Countries are “on a Roll”

It seems as if standards of living and overall consumption both have a direct impact upon toilet paper consumption. In fact, the per capita use of this material is downright shocking. Here are the top three national consumers of toilet paper on an annual basis (in terms of kilograms per individual):

  • The United States (12.7 kilograms per year)
  • Germany (12.1 kilograms per year)
  • The United Kingdom (11.4 kilograms per year)

Source: https://www.statista.com/chart/15676/cmo-toilet-paper-consumption/

These weights equate to 141, 134 and 127 rolls per person. Japan, Australia, Spain, and France follow closely behind. However, we are literally just scratching the surface in regards to the human relationship with toilet paper. Let’s now examine some other rather shocking facts and observations.

Toilet Paper: The Long and Short of It

The history of toilet paper can be traced back to the dawn of mankind. In fact, the first “prototypes” consisted of materials such as wood, stones, and leaves. Toilet paper sections manufactured in the 14th century were as large as 0.9 meters. In terms of sheer comfort, you might be slightly surprised to learn that this material actually contained small splinters until 1935; not a pleasant experience. Of course, times have changed.

The average roll on toilet paper will now last for more than 71 bathroom visits before it needs to be replaced. The average individual is therefore thought to use 20,800 sheets every year. While all of these statistics are interesting, we should also keep in mind that toilet paper has had a massive impact on the environment.

Raising Awareness One Wipe at a Time

Want to learn more about your impact on the environment as well as how much toilet paper you have used throughout your lifetime? Check out this fancy-schmancy poop calculator. After you enter the details into the appropriate fields, you will be provided with interesting estimates such as how many rolls you have used as well as the number of trees which equate to this figure.

While this calculator is intended to represent a bit of fun, it should also raise awareness about how humans are impacting the world around them. This is also why it is important to find environmentally friendly alternatives to traditional toilet paper if we hope to ensure future generations.

A Shocking Amount of Waste

There are now more than seven billion people on this planet. It is estimated that one individual will require that an amazing 384 trees are sacrificed in order to provide a lifetime’s supply of toilet paper. One of the issues that 84 percent of all households choose premium and super-premium brands. This could actually increase the number of trees which need to be cut down to accommodate such desires. As we all know, cutting down trees contributes to global warming and unfortunately, this effect is only expected to increase in the coming years.

What Can You Do?

There are several tissue brands that are competitively priced and have a minimal impact on our forests. The Issue With Tissue gives all the major brands of paper towels, facial tissues, toilet paper, popular household brands, and those brands that have started creating more sustainable products and practices assigned grades.

Source: https://www.nrdc.org/stories/shoppers-guide-home-tissue-products

There are six products that are leading the scoreboard:

  • Green Forest
  • 365 Everyday Value 100% Recycled
  • Earth First
  • Natural Value
  • Seventh Generation
  • Trader Joe’s Bath Tissue

Not only are these products made entirely out of recycled material, but they use a bleaching process that is chlorine-free and harms the environment less than other methods. The toilet paper that uses the most pre-consumer recycled content receives the A grades. What this means, is that the majority of their materials have been processed once already and therefore it reduces waste.

Another alternative pre-consumer recycled content is mostly the excess raw material and scraps that were collected in the manufacturing process. While this type of pre-consumer recycled product is preferable in comparison to virgin forest fiber, post-consumer recycled content waste is offset less. These brands that receive an A, have looked into the impact of their products and are embracing alternative materials that will allow us to continue using tissue products with a fraction of the environmental cost.

Think Twice Before Purchasing

Brands like:

  • Angel Soft
  • Charmin Ultra
  • Up & Up
  • Soft & Strong
  • Quilted Northern

Receive an F on the scorecard because their products rely entirely on virgin forest fiber. This causes their products to have a carbon footprint three times greater compared to the brands who use recycled paper. Many of the brands who receive an F also use bleaching processes that are dangerous.

You might notice a label that says “FSC Certified” on some of these brands. And while the Forest Stewardship Council is the world’s most credible independent certifier of responsibly managed forests and provides an important set of standards for products that require the use of wood (like lumber), there is no reason tissue products should be made from trees in the first place.

When you reach for toilet paper the next time you’re in the supermarket, consider the beautiful evergreen fir or spruce that was used to create that product. Something that we use once and throw away should not be destroying a vital part of our earth.

In the bathroom, use toilet paper products that not only get the job done but use reusable materials. Beside your sink keep rags that could be used in place of paper towels and can be washed for indefinite use. Instead of paper napkins, replace them with cloth napkins and instead of one use facial tissues, use handkerchiefs and washcloths that also can be washed and indefinitely used.

Take Action & Demand Accountability

Tell Quilted Northern to stop flushing the most vital part of our earth – the forest. Despite the fact that the boreal forest has seen steady degradation, continue to stubbornly keep a business-as-usual mindset with their manufacturing and marketing of their paper tissue products. Bounty, Kleenex, Charmin, and other brands are continuing to use a manufacturing process that has hardly changed since the 19th century, which relies heavily on virgin wood pulp.

Yet, their research and development resources are vast enough that leveraging the creation of soft, strong, and recycled tissue products aren’t unattainable. By letting these companies know your concerns about the wood pulp coming from the boreal forest in Canada (of which 60% is shipped annually to the United States), you can help change their minds.

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