On 27th September 2017, I read this in an email from Greenpeace.
“We’ve just found out that Velvet, the luxury loo roll, is using wood pulp from the Great Northern Forest to make its toilet paper. The forest stores huge amounts of carbon and plays a critical role in holding back the impact of climate change – but it’s at risk of being wiped away forever. And all for posh paper.”
Picture the scenario.
Suit No. 1 walks into the boardroom for the weekly discussion on product ideas.
“Hey guys! Let’s start making luxury toilet rolls for the discerning arse!”
“Hmmm… tell us more,” says Suit No. 2 doubtfully.
“We’ll start quilting it, and perhaps even spray it with a smidgeon of aloe vera!” says Suit No. 1 with more than just a hint of smugness.
“Eh?” says Suit No. 2. “Isn’t that like lagging your drain pipes with cashmere?”
“No,” cries Suit No 1, inspired by the vision of worldwide anal pampering. “Your bottom doesn’t worry whether you use lavender scented quilted toilet tissue, but your brain will like it, especially if it’s presented in a wide range of attractive 3-ply pastels to match the colour of the toilet.”
“Okay,” says Suit No. 2, warming to the idea. “Let’s advertise it with a cute puppy to show just how soft it is – just what the pampered sphincter needs!”
Trees? Hmm. We’ll come to that later. Meanwhile, here’s some puppy porn to distract you.
Love that puppy!
Andrex® makes 6 different types of toilet paper. Their “Classic Clean” (the one they’ve been making for 75 years) retails in Tesco at £4.45 for 9 rolls, which the website says costs 25p per 100 sheets. You can’t fault them for not giving you enough information. There’s even a handy guide telling you how to use it.
The Andrex® Clean Routine
- Use 3-4 sheets per wipe
- Wipe from front to back until clean
- Use 1-2 Washlets® to feel cleaner (Don’t fret. Washlets and wipes have their own special place in ShitYouDon’tNeed Hell. We will come to that in due course.)
- Pat dry with toilet tissue
- Always wash hands with soap
Note the way it says “use Washlets to FEEL cleaner.” Doesn’t say used them to BE cleaner!!! ‘Cause they probably dare not claim that you WILL be cleaner – one little gust of wind and all that washletty goodness is gone, gone, gone.
And it doesn’t say anything about chopping down trees either.
A bum steer…
I paid a visit to the website of a major UK supermarket and counted 38 different types of soft toilet roll. Should your pampered Poop Chute require something deluxe, you can find quilted paper, paper embossed with puppies, scented paper, paper with coconut oil…
And heaven knows, you can’t POSSIBLY have the wrong colour bog roll in your designer bathroom. For the birthday boy or girl who has everything, why not splash out on Renova’s 3-roll colourfast gift pack in “warm and woody brown”… Woody? Maybe they shouldn’t have reminded me about the trees…
No fetish left unfeted.
You can get Christmas toilet roll with seasonal jokes. Or glow-in-the-dark toilet roll (so useful in a power outage). Perhaps you’d prefer comedy “crime scene” paper, or poetry rolls, crap jokes rolls, rolls printed with measuring tape, or even Take A Dump With Donald Trump rolls – his face on every sheet. Okay, the latter is tempting.
But where does it end? I half expect the National Enquirer to report that Mariah Carey uses loo paper flecked with real gold leaf. Because she deserves it…
Most of us, however, are stuck with the ordinary, run of the mill, herbal infused, lanolin enriched, embossed and quilted paper. So where does it come from? Trees. And tissue made from freshly cut, old-growth wood makes a softer roll than from recycled stuff. Old growth means trees from old forests. The old, bio-diverse forests we really REALLY need.
Oh, and sorry, Essity.com, that big company who make and market Velvet and Cushelle, planting three trees for every one you chop down sounds nice but is potentially extremely misleading and ENTIRELY depends what you’re planting. For instance, one ancient slow growing, full grown hardwood tree for three fast growing softwood saplings is NOT a fair exchange.
Hitting rock bottom
Remember that email from Greenpeace about the great Northern Forest. Do you really need to wipe your poop away with the home of the beautiful grey wolf?
By 2012, half of Sumatra’s virgin jungle had already been flushed down the toilets of the world – don’t we need to start thinking about where stuff comes from?
The statistics associated with soft toilet paper are shaming. It’s claimed that 36.5 billions rolls of toilet paper go down the wazoo every year in the USA alone. In plain terms, that’s:
- 15 million trees pulped
- 473,587,500,000 gallons of water used during the manufacturing process
- 253,000 tons of chlorine to bleach the paper
- 7.3 terawatts of electricity yearly
The World Green Organisation, a Hong Kong based environmental NGO, conducted research that concluded 17 trees needed to be chopped down and 20,000 gallons of water is polluted for every tonne of paper tissue created. Ironically, it uses less water to wash yourself after using the toilet than it does to make the paper you wipe with.
It doesn’t stop there. Toilet rolls must be packaged. Then they must be transported to the supermarket. Then unpacked and placed on the shelf. (Oh, and they mostly come wrapped in that soft plastic that isn’t accepted in your recycling.)
AND THEN IT IS ALL WASHED AWAY IN THE SEWAGE SYSTEM AND HAS TO BE TREATED ALL OVER AGAIN!!!!
According to the Toilet Paper Encyclopaedia (not only is there such a thing, there is also a website called Toilet Paper History…), Greenpeace says that more than 400,000 trees could be saved if each American family bought a roll of recycled toilet paper – once. Yep. Just once.
Imagine how many trees have to be felled for nearly four billion bottoms, because that’s about how many people use toilet paper right now. Mercifully, this is only half the population of the world. In many parts of the world, they don’t use toilet paper, they use bidets or special handy shower hoses which might be unfamiliar to us but which are not pollutant or wasteful.
So while you may look around the world and think you know all the most destructive things we do, like drink spring water and chuck away the plastic bottle, just remember that soft toilet roll is right up there with the worst excesses of human activity.
The way we live now
The lunacy of modern consumption is beautifully demonstrated up by the bewildering array of luxury toilet paper on offer. Do we really need such a dizzying array of choices – especially for something so banal? Insisting on a luxury as fleeting as 3-ply super soft toilet paper trivialises us. People are capable of so many astonishing things – perfumed bum roll doesn’t really make the grade of great human achievements. So much ingenuity, so much money on development, product research, packaging design, advertising, so many golden retriever puppies…
And so much destruction… deforestation… pollution … and all for a three second wipe.
What you can do
- Switch to recycled or bamboo paper. Now. Here are some links. They all deliver! https://pureplanetclub.com/ https://www.alibaba.com/showroom/bamboo-toilet-paper.html https://uk.whogivesacrap.org/
- If you want to make Geoff Bezos any wealthier, there are plenty of options on Amazon. Beware being distracted by any sponsored ads at the top of the page – when I looked it was for Charmin®, one of the most “luxurious” brands available.
- Use wash cloths (face flannels) instead of washlets after you have wiped. Buy 20 at Wilkos for £7 and chuck ‘em in the laundry after each use.
- Better still, install a bidet if you can fit it – and afford it…. The Tjebbi is a portable bidet, bloody brilliant. Or try one of the Blue Bidet products.
- Sign this petition (yes, another bloody petition)
What you can save
The air your children and grandchildren will breathe – or not. It’s that serious.
Want to protest?
You will have your own ideas (and do let me know!) but big companies don’t like negative publicity. Post this link to this piece on your Twitter feed.
“Luxury toilet paper is ShitYouDon’tNeed. @essity @AndrexUK @Charmin @KCCorp @Charmin @ProcterGamble “
Enough gloom – here’s another dog
My pal Margaret Allen says:
There is a very good, informative website called “My Plastic Free Life” which has a great article and conversation with Who Gives a Crap, the manufacturers of bamboo Toilet Paper. It answers all your questions. (FYI, bamboo can grow at a foot a day – it’s the ultimate recyclable renewable.)
They also donate 50% of their profits to building toilets for people that don’t have them. That has to be good.
Meanwhile, there actually is a cheeky Aussie company called Toilet Paper Man that produced one single roll of 24 carat gold toilet paper in 2013.