The Issue with Tissue

I am currently building the Ad Vitam store, therefore I am researching and trying all kinds of products. Coming across an article by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)The Issue with Tissue - How Americans Are Flushing Forests Down the Toilet , which I recommend reading, I got inspired to dive deeper into more sustainable alternatives.

Just by that title alone without reading any further, it’s a no-brainer to figure out that tissue products such as toilet paper, tissue paper and paper towels can’t be good for the environment. Thinking of how many people use them daily and wastefully, it’s very clear it’s unsustainable.

In general, North America uses the most of the world’s resources of everything from all countries in the world. If every human on this planet were to use our resources as much as North Americans do, we would need 5 Earths. The European style is about 3.

When it comes to tissues, the report states the following:

“Tissue products such as toilet paper, paper towels, and facial tissue are cheap and convenient—but they cost the planet a great deal. The vast majority of the tissue products found in our homes are made from wood pulp, the use of which drives the degradation of forests around the world. The consequences for Indigenous Peoples, treasured wildlife, and the global climate are devastating.

These impacts are compounded by the fact that the United States is a particularly voracious consumer of tissue products. The U.S. tissue market generates $31 billion in revenue every year, second only to China, and Americans, who make up just over 4 percent of the world’s population, account for over 20 percent of global tissue consumption.”

It comes to no surprise that environmental issues and sustainability efforts are so vehemently fought against, especially by big industries, because it would mean a loss of lots of $$$ and if there is a resistance to incorporating new methods. Even in the sector of consumers I can already see a huge resistance because people just don’t want to get out of their comfort zone and change their habits by any means.

I grew up in Germany, which is a very environmentally conscious country. All the issues we have today were already talked about worldwide over 30 years ago. It’s nothing new. The only difference is that the repercussions are finally here.

I was raised to use resources consciously, to keep water consumption moderate, to buy recycled products of any kind, to recycle waste properly, to take care of and save trees, to contribute to pollution as little as possible, to switch off lights when not used, to bring your own bag when shopping etc.

When I moved to the US, I was shocked by how wasteful everything and almost everyone is. I jokingly called Americans “Energy Monsters” at the time. It’s deeply embedded into the culture and the American psyche. Consume consume consume, more more more, shop until you drop. Quantity means value. It's a consumer culture. I get it why it is difficult to see things from a different perspective, if it goes against your beliefs and what you have been trained to do all your life.

It's like trying to tell an avid smoker to stop smoking because it’s very bad for their health and very likely it’s going to kill them. This might be a fact, but if the smoker isn’t confronted with the immediate thread and/or doesn’t want to change their habit, most likely this won’t be enough reason for them to stop. I used to smoke cigarettes and I couldn’t care less about that information because I was addicted to it at the time.

We consume primarily for emotional reasons, not logical ones, unless we choose and become conscious. This pretty much goes for everything.

Coming back to the tissue issue, another excerpt from the report says:

“It is time to reexamine current norms of tissue production and consumption. It is also time for companies to act more as global citizens and usher the world into a more sustainable paradigm. Fortunately, solutions promoting healthy forests and a healthy planet already exist. Companies and consumers simply need to embrace them.”

Did you read that last sentence?

“Companies and CONSUMERS simply need to embrace them…” It talks about YOU and ME. If you have read the last blog post 10 Tips for Conscious Consumerism, you might remember the Emma Watson quote:

“As consumers, we have so much power to change the world by just being careful in what we buy.”

The whole philosophy of Ad Vitam is to effect true change in a society, it must start with the individual. Big revolutions never happen from the outside in, but from the inside out. It's all on us. As well as the report states, solutions already exist, they just need to be incorporated.

Right after reading "The Issue with Tissue" I was looking for alternative options because I use tissue paper, paper towels and of course toilet paper daily. One thing I have been doing is buying all these things made from recycled paper, which the report also highly suggests.

Please look at this Buyer's Guide To The Sustainability Of At-Home Tissue Products below.

Buyer's Guide for Sustainable Tissue Products

Grade A is obviously the best option and Grade F obviously the worst. How fantastic that Trader Joe’s recycled bath tissue toilet paper and facial tissue show up as Grade A! I buy them all the time, also because they are one of the most inexpensive ones compared to other brands. Whole Foods 365 Everyday Value, Sustainably Soft got a Grade D. Yikes, I am no longer buying that. “Sustainably Soft” is clearly quite misleading in this case. But luckily Whole Foods 365 Everyday Value has also a recycled version of toilet and tissue paper.

Further in my research Instagram “magically” knew (scary isn’t it!?!) what I was looking for and provided me with a solution. I came across an add while scrolling through my feed for tree-free toilet paper. Of course, I ordered it. I also ordered tree-free paper towels and reusable washable towels. They are made of 100% sustainable bamboo and the packaging is made of 100% recycled cardboard.

Bamboo is controversial for some and should only be bought if you can make sure that it is sustainably sourced. While it is certainly more sustainable than virgin wood pulp, bamboo-based products are not quite as low-impact as postconsumer recycled products or alternative fibers from agricultural residue.

Benefits of Sustainable Sourced Bamboo?

1. Mature bamboo can be harvested every 3 months and regenerates after it’s been cut.

2. Bamboo requires little water and no pesticides.

3. Bamboo absorbs 5x as much CO2 as trees.

4. This variety of bamboo (the one the toilet paper I ordered is made of) is not a source of food for Panda Bears.

A whole box got delivered yesterday. It was a bit more pricey than good old Trader Joe’s. Testing it, the paper/tissue is just as good, absorbent, and soft as what we have been used to from regular ones. Thumbs up!

From everything I have learned, I will return to recycled tissue products. If I can't get that, I'll use other alternatives such as sustainably sourced bamboo.

I hope I could inspire you to do the same. :)

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