Bags, Bottles & Bulbs . . . and Butts?

March 1st, 2009 by admin

Why I now love scratchy toilet paper

Like a lot of people, these days I am always looking for ways to “be green.”

Last year I spearheaded an Earth Day campaign at my kids elementary school I coined “Bags, Bottles & Bulbs.” The kids made posters about how they could help save the planet in three simple ways: by not using plastic shopping bags, not using plastic water bottles, and switching to energy efficient light bulbs.

Now I think I want to add a fourth “B.” Butts. I was reading an article in the New York Times a couple days ago while my daughter was at her piano lesson, and I saw that Americans are hooked on super-soft toilet paper. We are cutting down forests just to get the deluxe fibers for this TP!

According to the Times:

“But fluffiness comes at a price: millions of trees harvested in North America and in Latin American countries, including some percentage of trees from rare old-growth forests in Canada. Although toilet tissue can be made at similar cost from recycled material, it is the fiber taken from standing trees that help give it that plush feel, and most large manufacturers rely on them.”

The article goes on to describe all the ways in which producing the plusher paper hurts the environment. It notes that in Europe and most other areas of the world, people are more wiling to use the rougher TP made from recycled paper.

I read another article on this topic in the British Guardian.

I have to admit, our family always buys the soft TP, even though it costs more. But not anymore. I do not want to feel guilty over harming Mother Earth for such a mundane comfort.

As I get ready for Earth Day activities at our school, I am wondering if I would get too many laughs if I added the fourth B to the Bags Bottles & Bulbs campaign. I asked my third-grade son if maybe he could help come up with a “Captain Underpants” type of Superhero to spread the word about the harm of plush toilet paper.

If any kind of product called for recycled paper, surely it must be toilet paper?

Maybe we could have some sort of disclosure legislation: all TP would have to label how much of it came from virgin forests vs. recycled paper. I think most people would be willing to give up the super-soft paper if they knew that when they flush the soft stuff, they flush the forest. So please, as Earth Day approaches, join me and make the switch. It’s a small price to pay.

If you need help picking a new brand of TP, check out Greenpeace’s forest-friendly recommendations.

By the way, I’ve heard that soft facial tissues like Kleenex also use virgin forest fibers. So that may be next. Although, if you’ve actually got a cold, you might need the softer tissue.

I designed the “Don’t Flush the Forest” logo above in Photoshop to encourage consumers to buy toilet paper that is made from recycled material. Feel free to download it for personal use under the Creative Commons license. If you use it, please do not alter it (keep my credit on it). If you distribute, you must attach a copy of the license to it with the same conditions. Thanks.

By the way, some of my eco designs are now available on tote bags (a great alternative to plastic shopping bags) at printfection, a great custom print place that has a money-back guarantee.

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Related posts:
Free art about the benefits of water bottles over plastic water bottles.
How to Run a Terracycle Campaign at School

7 Responses to “Bags, Bottles & Bulbs . . . and Butts?”

  1. ann Says:

    i didnt know this fact….interesting.

  2. s.peasley Says:

    “don’t flush the forest”…..should be a good reminder

  3. lowlights Says:

    What? No link to the NYT article?

  4. admin Says:

    Yes, it should be there, where it the words “an article” is highlighted.

  5. Mike G. Says:

    hi! i’m a web editor for Greenpeace. thanks for offering us use of this image — it’s awesome!

    and thanks for covering this issue, and for linking to our tissue guide.

    facial tissue absolutely is a big part of the problem. we have a campaign targeting Kimberly-Clark specifically because Kleenex uses no recycled fiber. pretty crazy, but the brand that is synonymous with “tissue” is made entirely from virgin fiber, including some from the ancient Boreal forest in Canada.

    i think this blog post by one of our forest campaigners is really interesting:

    she attempts to show that a) Americans don’t actually prefer the soft stuff if they know that it comes from virgin forest; this “preference” is actually pushed on us by tissue companies like K-C, who charge a lot more for their “premium” brands — and spend tons of money marketing them, too. and b) that even K-C admits they can make tissue as soft as Kleenex with recycled content.

    so why won’t they make their tissues from recycled pulp? who knows.

    thanks again for covering this issue. if you’d like to cover more enviro issues, you should consider registering for our blogger alerts:

  6. kitty Says:

    hey! i loved your graphic! i like how you’re getting the schoolchildren involved! peace, kel

  7. kb Says:


    I am Kaitlin Bailey from YES! Magazine. We are a nonprofit organization that publishes a wonderful ad-free quarterly journal, offering powerful ideas and practical actions for building a sustainable world. We have been around for more than 12 years and circulate about 55,000 print copies of the magazine nationwide. You can find us online everyday at

    One of the online stories we are running is about recycled paper products.

    I stumbled upon your flickr graphic of the “Don’t Flush the Forest” campaign.

    We are pleased to take you up on your offer of Creative Commons licensing, and wanted to let you know. We certainly will credit you.


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