Soft on the bottom, but not the bottom line

Posted by on 02.27.09 | No Comments
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“Everybody’s going to have to give. Everybody’s going to have to have some skin in the game,” –President elect Obama, early January 2009

Scott Tissue is the brand that 50 years ago my mother taught me was the most economical and used less trees. 3 sheets, folded, do the trick. She said it wasn’t as soft as Mr. Whipple’s Charmin product on the occasional TV ad we were allowed to see, but that it would do, and that we’d come to appreciate the frugality of it. As usual, she was way ahead of her time. But what she didn’t know was that Kimberly Clark, the maker of Scott, now uses, and who knows what they used back then, up to 22% of their pulp from Canadian boreal forests. We didn’t know about boreal forests, but mom was astute and a good thinker. If she’d had the info, I’m sure she would have come up with some other solution besides Scott. She didn’t go to using recycled paper–because there wasn’t such stuff then. Or using a bidet, because we’re Americans, silly.

Scott Tissue

The impact of American fetish with ever-softer toilet paper has become large, and a poster-child for other simple things that first world countries can do to change their consumption and utilization habits. While they are debated, hotly in some circles, they just make sense. Like eating less meat. Like riding a bike. Like eating less, period.

Here’s today’s NYTimes piece on the rough impact of soft tissue. Excerpts:

Environmentalists are focusing on tissue products for reasons besides the loss of trees. Turning a tree to paper requires more water than turning paper back into fiber, and many brands that use tree pulp use polluting chlorine-based bleach for greater whiteness. In addition, tissue made from recycled paper produces less waste tonnage — almost equaling its weight — that would otherwise go to a landfill.

Still, trees and tree quality remain a contentious issue. Although brands differ, 25 percent to 50 percent of the pulp used to make toilet paper in this country comes from tree farms in South America and the United States. The rest, environmental groups say, comes mostly from old, second-growth forests that serve as important absorbers of carbon dioxide, the main heat-trapping gas linked to global warming. In addition, some of the pulp comes from the last virgin North American forests, which are an irreplaceable habitat for a variety of endangered species, environmental groups say.

Greenpeace, the international conservation organization, contends that Kimberly Clark, the maker of two popular brands, Cottonelle and Scott, has gotten as much as 22 percent of its pulp from producers who cut trees in Canadian boreal forests where some trees are 200 years old.

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