Photo: Per Breiehagen

Toilet paper is an everyday item but also an afterthought for most of us. We have our preferred brand, buy it when we’re out and that’s really about it. But a new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Stand.earth called “The Issue with Tissue” reveals that Americans use three rolls a week and our preference for super soft tp is destroying Canada’s boreal forests and causing widespread environmental damage. 

The report uncovers that Procter & Gamble, Kimberly-Clark, and Georgia-Pacific use zero recycled content in their at-home toilet paper, instead relying on ancient trees clear-cut from the Canadian boreal forest (the “Amazon of the North”). And since major brands refuse to create more sustainable products, it makes consumers unwittingly complicit in flushing forests down the toilet. As the Vancouver Sun explained, rampant use of virgin pulp tissue is threatening the way of life for Canada’s Indigenous Peoples, causing large environmental damage, endangering wildlife and contributing to climate change. As Eco Watch explained:

  • The Canadian boreal forest is the largest intact forest in the world, holding immense value for Indigenous Peoples, species and the climate.
  • It is home to over 600 Indigenous communities whose cultures have remained inextricably linked to the forest for millennia, and is habitat for iconic species like the boreal caribou, Canada lynx, and American marten.
  • Additionally, the forest is critical in the fight against climate change, storing the carbon equivalent of nearly twice the world’s recoverable oil reserves in its soil.

Why This Matters: Toilet paper purchases have actually been used as a proxy by researchers for how the costs of everyday goods disproportionately affect low-income households. With that said, it’s not quite so easy for consumers to change how big companies source their paper, also not everyone can afford to buy eco-friendly toilet paper at Whole Foods. However, knowledge is power and we can pressure companies (send them a tweet!) like Procter & Gamble, Kimberly-Clark, and Georgia-Pacific to not use virgin fiber pulp and instead use recycled content or sustainably sourced alternative fibers. Use of these materials to create tissue can dramatically reduce our destructive impact on the boreal and other forests in North America and around the world. See how your favorite brand stacks up:

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