The magic of Sundays; a cup of homeheated chai and almond milk, a wide open blue sky, sun blasting through our windows, and our upstairs neighbor serenading me with ‘We are Young’. An inspiring morning indeed.
On to personal paper products (PPPs include tissues, TP, napkins & paper towels)! Paper products are pretty serious bad news for our forests and environment. Numbers: Each American uses 50 pounds of PPPs each year, and 1 tree produces 100 pounds of paper (EPA). So we’re each using ½ a tree/year (x 312 million = 156 million trees in the US alone!) Globally we use 270,000 trees a DAY to flush, blow, or wipe up, wasting water, reducing animal habitat, emitting CO2, and of course using bleaching chemicals (WWF). The majority of big labels use virgin pulp, but there are two simple things YOU can do.
1- Switch to 100% recycled and high post-consumer recycled brands. Post-consumer is important because this paper was once an office report, newspaper, or magazine and while it’spassed it’s ability to be turned back into that, it can find new life as your tissue! There is no reason to not use recycled – it’s just as comfortable and absorbent (we use 365, Seventh Gen, & Green Forest and I love them all) and it really helps: a ton of paper made from recycled fibers instead of virgin fibers conserves 7,000 gallons of water, 17-31 trees, 4,000 kWh of electricity, and 60 pounds of air pollutants (US DOE). What’s that, you want white toilet paper? Weird because have you seen a white tree (ok white birch maybe, but they don’t make tp!). Well hopefully this will help: You are rubbing your private areas with bleach. Gross.
Choose brown over white!
Good* Tissues: (*Good = 100% recycled + 80% or above post-consumer): 365 Whole Foods, Green Forest, Natural Value, Seventh Generation, and Marcal has a new line. AVOID: Kleenex & Puffs.
Good TP: 365, CVS Earth Essentials, Fiesta, Green Forest, Natural Value, Seventh Gen, Trader Joe’s, Earth Friendly and April Soft. Avoid Charmin, Cottonelle, Angel Soft, Quilted Northern, Target Brand!
Good Napkins/PTs: 365, CVS Earth, Earth Friendly, Fiesta, Green Forest, Natural Value, 7th Gen, Small Steps, and TJ’s. Avoid Bounty, Scott, Target and Viva. Read the label! Carefully! You are looking for recycled fiber content and post-consumer levels.
My favorite People Towel
2- Try Resuable Options. I don’t think I’ll ever really do any sort of reusable tp, and handkerchiefs kind of gross me out on the tissue side (but I promise to try!), BUT the easiest switch has been in napkins/paper towels. So far I’ve checked out People Towels as a reusable paper towel/napkin option for personal use. They are designed to bring with you to dry your hands after going to the bathroom (mainly in a public place/work), but I also use them after washing dishes. They are SUPER absorbent and soft (it’s a cross between a washcloth and a sports towel) and I stashed a few around the house/at work. They are also adorable so that’s a bonus. They are machine washable and because they’re made from organic cotton and soy-based ink they are biodegradable at the end of the lifecycle- yes!
I also tried UnPaper Towels which are billed more for use as a napkin or to replace pts in cleaning. I definitely use the most paper towels when cleaning. The good news- they are awesome as a napkin. They are strong but still soft (it feels different from almost every time of towel I can think of! Thin, cross stitched). They also get better as you wet them. In a water spill test they first moved the water around and picked up maybe 30% of it. Bummer. However, once it was wet it really kept sucking the water in. I used it to wipe up the rest of the water and some tea and it got it all! I then used it to wipe the counter with a cleaning spray and that also worked great. I rinsed it out and then tackled the bathroom and again it performed really well. The only thing I will say is that in our uberwhite bathroom, I need all of the hair/dust to vanish and it’s hard to make that happen with these. They clean and remove about 90% of grossness but I still had to use 1 paper towel to finish things off. This is definitely MUCH better than the entire garbage pail I am used to. When they are soiled just throw them in the laundry.
Medium results on the initial water test, definitely captures and holds A LOT of dirt, also surprisingly useful as bike grease cleaner, keep a stack in the place where your paper towel rack used to be!
Hopefully these two easy steps will help you reduce your impact and go green!
Update- Thanks Em for the great text, here’s where to buy these if you don’t live near a Whole Foods, Trader Joes, or SF hippie store: Wal-Mart now sells Seventh Generation (my personal favorite re: comfort), CVS and Walgreens both sell one version of recycled paper towels and toilet paper (not tissues yet), and if you have a computer you can find them at Amazon
Side note, what haters will say about the need to switch to recycled or reusable PPPs: They’re compostable. Yep, if you’re lucky enough to live in San Francisco, you have municipal composting and paper towels/tissues/TP can be composted. While this helps reduce the impact, a biodegradable reusable option cuts down on deforestation, water use, packaging, transport, and the energy costs of municipal composting. And we discussed recycled benefits above. It’s renewable. Yep, wood is a renewable resource, however we are cutting down acres at alarming rates and new trees can’t grow back fast enough. If you look at the southern US, longleaf pine forest covered 60-90 million acres just 100 years ago and now only 5% of that remains (EPA). Canada is also suffering as 500,000 acres of boreal forest are lost each year!