Toilet paper’s environmental impact | Journal-news



How often do you think about toilet paper? Maybe when the weather forecast calls for snow. They certainly did in the early months of Covid when stores were stripped of paper products in general and toilet paper in particular. You definitely do when you’re in a public restroom and there isn’t one. Will your stablemate spare you a square? Otherwise you walk, you wipe, you flush. And in those moments you rarely think about what you use or where it came from. However, the choices you make when purchasing toilet paper not only impact your comfort, but the comfort of Mother Earth as well. Yes, toilet paper and the health of our planet are closely linked.

This square of toilet paper comes from trees. Millions and millions of trees are needed annually to make all of the toilet paper rolls that we see in the store. Trees are the lungs of our planet. If they go, we go. And since we walk many times a day, we should think about what we use and flush it down the sewer or septic tank. Will our choice destroy life on our planet?

Trees remove from the atmosphere much of the carbon dioxide that we humans and animals exhale into them through our exhalation, as well as through the exhalation of all forms of transportation and industry that rely on fossil fuels. The more trees we cut down, the more carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere. Excess carbon dioxide is causing the global climate changes we are witnessing today. So what that square is made of is pretty important.

Much of the toilet paper we use in the United States is made from trees cleared from Canada’s boreal forest. Large areas of forest in the world such as the North American boreal forest (which includes the Canadian boreal forest) and the Amazon rainforest are carbon sinks, meaning they absorb carbon dioxide. Without enough carbon sinks worldwide, more carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere, which is harmful to all living things. According to whogivesacrap.org, “every day over 1 million trees are cut down to make traditional toilet paper”. Because we’re destroying these big forests just for this space, we need a new approach to keep ourselves clean.

According to the Environmental Paper Network, “Toilet paper made from trees has three times the impact on the climate than toilet paper made from recycled materials.” Yes, recycled toilet paper. No, it’s not made of what you washed away this morning. It is made from the paper products that you send to the recycling center – newspapers, magazines, printer paper, etc.

Before the invention of modern toilet paper, people used a variety of substances to keep their buttocks clean. According to history.com, “In very ancient times, it was common to sweep with stones and other natural materials and to rinse with water or snow. Some cultures chose to use shells and animal skins.” In addition, moss and leaves, as well as pieces of cloth and pottery, have been used for centuries. “By the early 14th century, the Chinese were producing toilet paper at a rate of 10 million packs of 1,000 to 10,000 sheets per year.” Although paper became available in the 1400s, “… modern commercial toilet paper did not emerge until 1857” in the western world . Other sources of toilet paper included corn on the cob and pages from magazines and newspapers. “The first perforated toilet paper rolls were introduced in 1890, and by 1930 toilet paper was finally being made ‘splinter-free’.” We’ve come a long way to safely clean our butts.

Aside: The first flush toilet aka lavatory, bathroom, privy, latrine, outhouse, water closet (WC), guest toilet, lavatory, washroom, gentleman’s room (little boys), ladies’ room (little girls), comfort station, loo. lav, throne, can, john, honeyeimer, head, among others, were invented in England in the 15th century, but did not become widespread until the mid-18th century when Thomas Crapper’s plumbing company improved the design – hence often used as a synonym to refer to a toilet and what is deposited in it.

In addition to recycled toilet paper, some companies are making toilet paper from bamboo, a renewable resource that has a much lower environmental impact than cutting down trees for paper products.

“If every American would decide for just one day to use bamboo or recycled toilet paper instead of toilet paper made from virgin wood pulp, we could save 180,624 trees from being cut down. That’s more than 10 times the number of trees in Central Park (18,000 trees).” (whogivesacrap.org)

If you want joy on the go, use recycled or bamboo toilet paper. You can find Recycled at most grocery stores and both online. By wiping with recycled toilet paper, you know you’re wiping out some of your carbon footprint and that your path is protecting Mother Earth. We can’t grow another planet, but we can reuse what we already have.

— Ginnie R. Maurer lives in Falling Waters and can be reached at [email protected]

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