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Nothing to Sneeze At: How Paper Products Affect Global Warming
Think before you blow: That's the message the Natural Resources Defense Council wants to get across, with a wallet-sized guide to buying paper products including tissues, toilet paper and paper towels. And it’s one of the easiest ways to go green at home.
The NRDC is concerned about the destruction of Canada's boreal forest – a vital ecosystem that's home to hundreds of species, including songbirds and large carnivores like wolves and bears, and is also a massive storehouse for carbon dioxide (the forest keeps the CO2 out of the atmosphere, where it would contribute to global warming).
According to the NRDC, major paper-product companies use fiber from virgin boreal forests to produce tissues and other items that could just as easily be made with recycled materials. With cold and flu season in full swing, the NRDC's campaign against companies such as Kimberly-Clark, which makes Kleenex, is starting to generate national attention. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer ran a comprehensive feature on the subject, including interviews with representatives from both NRDC and Kimberly-Clark. Kimberly-Clark, according to the paper, says few consumers want recycled tissue products, opting instead for the more plush premium products such as those with the Kleenex brand name. Company officials also told the newspaper they make their products from fibers leftover after lumber is milled for construction materials.
The enviros counter that it is precisely the selling of scrap wood for paper products that makes logging the old-growth boreal forest profitable for timber companies, and that there are recycled products out there that are perfectly acceptable to discerning noses and other body parts.
The handy NRDC chart breaks down paper products by brand, showing their recycled content, the type of chemicals used in processing and the bottom line on whether or not to buy the brand. The upshot: avoid Kleenex and Puffs tissues, and instead reach for products made by Seventh Generation or Marcal. Leave Cottonelle and Charmin on the shelf, and go for any of the nearly dozen other toilet paper brands to which NRDC gives the green light, including Whole Foods brand and Sofpac. The NRDC web site offers comprehensive information on the boreal forest, how consumer decisions can save it and how else you can help.
For more information on the boreal forest, check out the web site of Forest Ethics, the environmental group that's launched a major campaign against Victoria's Secret, which sends out a million catalogs a day made from boreal forest trees.