Old Growth Forests and My Butt: The Great Toilet Paper Dilemma


Scott_toilet_paperI found out something very disturbing recently. Not about Dr. Laura, or Mitt Romney, or Christopher Hitchens.

About toilet paper.

Old_growth_forest_2What I found out is that much commercial toilet paper is made from old growth forests.

HamburgerNow, I try to be socially conscious and eco-groovy; but I’m also not a psycho about it. I tend to apply the harm reduction model to my social conscience generally, and to my eco-friendliness in particular. If I generally walk and take the bus, I’m not going to kill myself over the times that we drive; if I generally eat organic and free-range and keep my consumption of energy-wasteful meat pretty light, I won’t go into conniptions over the occasional burger from the corner deli; if I generally recycle, I’m not going to have a guilt trip over throwing away the occasional to-go cup.

Quilted_northernAnd for a long time, I was that way about toilet paper. I was like, “Okay, I know the recycled stuff is better; but I’m really not crazy about it, and since I’m normally good about this sort of thing, I’m going to cut myself some slack on this one.”

Ten_minute_activistBut then I read this book called The Ten Minute Activist: Easy Ways to Take Back the Planet. (Actually, Ingrid read it first and then called the toilet paper issue to my attention.) Good book; all about ways to be socially conscious without being a martyr about it.

And one of the things they said was that lots of commercial toilet paper is made from old growth forests.

So I started thinking.

Old_growth_forestOkay. On the one hand — on one side of the scale — we have old-growth forests. Source of ecosystems, and oxygen, and, you know, life on the planet.

Wipe_my_buttOn the other side of the scale: Slightly less soft paper with which to wipe my butt.

EquationAnd I realized that this is a no-brainer. Having slightly softer paper with which to wipe my butt is not — repeat, not — more important than old-growth forests. It’s just not. There is no math in the world that can make that equation come out any differently.

Seventh_generation_toilet_paperSo the recycled stuff it is.

Cotton(P.S. In fact, recycled toilet paper technology is a lot better than it used to be. It’s still not as comfy as the commercial stuff, but it’s perfectly fine. There’s also this toilet paper made out of cotton instead of paper: we decided we liked the recycled paper stuff better, but if you’re considering making the great renunciation, the cotton stuff is worth trying.)

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