Turns out, the toilet paper you buy is a climate decision.
Haven’t heard about the devastating environmental effects of your most beloved toilet paper brands? That’s exactly what P&G — the producer of Charmin Toilet Paper and other leading brands — has relied on for decades. Here’s what you need to know about what Charmin is doing to the planet.
The Truth About Charmin
In 2019, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) published a report on the connection between U.S. toilet paper manufacturers and the destruction of Canada’s boreal forest.
In case you don’t know, the boreal forest of Canada is the largest intact forest in the world. It’s as vital to the Northern Hemisphere as Brazil’s Amazon rainforest is to the entire planet. The forest is crucial to storing carbon, purifying the air, and regulating the climate. In other words, it’s vital to the health of our environment.
But according to the NRDC report “The Issue With Tissue,” Charmin toilet paper is quickly destroying the boreal forest. In fact, all brands produced by P&G are.
For the last several years, annual report cards have been released ranking all the major players in the toilet paper market. Charmin has earned an F every year.
A Bigger Problem Than Just Charmin
The United States is the second-largest consumer of toilet paper in the world (after China, which has four times our population). Americans flush roughly 36 billion toilet paper rolls per year.
The three biggest toilet paper companies — P&G, Kimberly Clark, and Georgia-Pacific — use primarily virgin pulp. In other words, their toilet paper is made almost exclusively from freshly cut trees. Out of the three brands, P&G is the largest purchaser of boreal pulp for tissue products in the US.
In fact, it’s been found that P&G sources pulp from threatened boreal caribou habits, along with sourcing pulp from Indigenous Peoples’ lands.
And P&G is well aware of its environmental impact. Heirs of the original P&G founders have even come out against the brand’s unsustainable practices. And in 2020, 67% of shareholders voted in favor of a resolution produced by Green Century Equity Fund that instructs the company to report on how it can eliminate deforestation and intact forest degradation from its supply chain.
Yet, several months later, the brand has done next to nothing to limit its environmental impact. Instead, it points critics to the forestry section on their website where you’ll find distracting and misleading information about their “certification process” for wood pulp with the only reference to “recycled” materials has to do with the brand’s product packaging. The source of those “certifications”? The Forest Stewardship Council, which has come under fire for failing to prevent deforestation and covering for those who violate timber-sourcing laws.
When asked why the brand refuses to use recycled wood pulp, a P&G spokesperson asked CBS reporters,
“Have you tried recycled toilet paper yourself? I promise you’ll enjoy [Charmin] much more.”
What You Can Do
Despite P&G’s insistence that they are producing the high-quality product Americans want, consumers are indicating they prefer climate-friendly options. There has even been a rise in the popularity of eco-conscious toilet paper brands over the last few years.
For consumers looking to make informed decisions that reflect their environmental concerns, there are several brands to turn to. The brand Who Gives A Crap 100% Recycled toilet paper and a few of Seventh Generation’s toilet paper options received an “A” grade on NRDC’s annual report card, along with an array of other brands. (Bonus points: Seventh Generation has been producing 100% recycled toilet paper since the 1990s.)
There are other options; you just have to seek them out. I know I will as a former Charmin Ultra Soft fan.
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Shannon Vize is a freelance writer and content strategist living in Brooklyn, NY. Her writing has been published by Elite Daily, Taylor Magazine, CIO, and Forbes. When she’s not hate-binging the latest episode of The Bachelor franchise, she’s busy trying to dismantle the patriarchy by dissecting the latest anti-feminist theme in pop culture to anyone who will listen.