Quit Flushing Forests: Shop Smarter

Will your next trip to the loo be an act of environmental advocacy? A new pocket guide released this week clearly reveals which branded tissue and toilet paper products are responsible for giving songbird habitat the hatchet, and which ones are looking out for woodlands and wildlife. Follow the guide’s recommendations and you won’t have to give up comfort for a cleaner conscience; You can “love your bum” (as one toilet paper ad says) and the forest.

The majority of pulp in disposable paper products comes from Canada’s boreal forest, “an emerald halo of woodlands, wetlands, and rivers that mantles North America,” as Audubon contributor T. Edward Nickens describes it in his recent article, “Paper Chase” (January/February 2009). “More than 300 species of birds breed here, and as many as five billion individual birds—including 40 percent of North America’s waterfowl—fly south from the boreal each autumn.”

In an effort to protect the boreal woodlands and wildlife, a new Recycled Tissue and Toilet Paper Guide by Greenpeace (an update  of an earlier version by NRDC) gives a thumb’s up to brands like Green Forest, Natural Value and Seventh Generation, which meet three criteria: they are made from 100 percent overall recycled content, a minimum of which is 50 percent post-consumer recycled, and they are not bleached with chlorine or toxic chlorine compounds.

The guide steers consumers away from less sustainable products, including those made by one company in particular: Kimberly-Clark, the global industry leader with net sales in 2007 of over $18 billion dollars. In “Paper Chase,” Nickens reports that “In one year Kimberly-Clark, maker of Kleenex, turned more than 500,000 tons of virgin pulp from the Canadian boreal into toilet paper, napkins, paper towels, and facial tissue, according to the company’s 2005 sustainability report.”

The Recycled Tissue and Toilet Paper Guide
, available for downloading, recommends avoiding Kimberly-Clark's household paper product brands Kleenex, Scott, Cottonelle, and Viva. Greenpeace Forest Campaigner Lindsey Allen, who has been lobbying “KC” for four years to make its business practices more sustainable, says consumers using the brands recommended by the paper guide—and avoiding those that aren't—will be sending a clear message that they refuse to flush forests down the drain.

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