No, really, that’s their latest campaign.
The tenderness of the delicate American buttock is causing more environmental devastation than the country’s love of gas-guzzling cars, fast food or McMansions, according to green campaigners. At fault, they say, is the US public’s insistence on extra-soft, quilted and multi-ply products when they use the bathroom.
"This is a product that we use for less than three seconds and the ecological consequences of manufacturing it from trees is enormous," said Allen Hershkowitz, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defence Council.
"Future generations are going to look at the way we make toilet paper as one of the greatest excesses of our age. Making toilet paper from virgin wood is a lot worse than driving Hummers in terms of global warming pollution." Making toilet paper has a significant impact because of chemicals used in pulp manufacture and cutting down forests.
We could go back to corn cobs I suppose, if we weren’t already using them to make ethanol.
However, (and I’m certainly not going to try and provide any proof of this, this is simply floating an idea) I’m not actually entirely certain that using virgin wood rather than recycled paper is in fact detrimental to the environment.
Assume first that the trees cut down to make the bog roll are specifically grown to make bog roll from. Sounds about right to me given that just about all paper is indeed made from plantations.
Last time I looked the emissions and costs of making virgin paper were about the same as making recycled paper. In fact, using Friends of the Earth figures from a few years ago virgin slightly edged recycled.
But there’s something else here as well: the carbon cycle.
If those woods go uncut (and unreplanted) then the trees will fall over at some point and release their carbon. Is it as methane or as carbon dioxide when wood rots?
If they are cut down and made into bog roll then they end up being flushed and then treated in sewage plants: where we collect the methane and convert it to CO2 via energy generation (or at least modern plants do).
So I cannot see that there’s any problem with using virgin material from plantations.
Indeed, if rotting wood gives off methane in the wild (and I have absolutely no idea whether it does or not) then we might say that using virgin material to wipe our botties is a good idea: as we collect and convert the methane given off at the sewage plant.
Anyone care to set me straight here?