Humans exploit the Earth in countless ways and keep destroying it as a reward for it. Deforestation, pollution, and global warming have become huge problems in modern society.
However, while we are mostly aware of our most damaging practices, not many of us have stopped to think about the impact toilet paper has on the environment.
According to the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), an average American uses 28 pounds of toilet paper annually, which is a lot of waste!
Therefore, environmentalists believe that hemp toilet paper can lower this effect on the planet.
Most of the toilet paper used in the U.S. is made with wood pulp from Canada’s boreal forest, the largest intact forest worldwide. It is the home of numerous species and more than 600 indigenous communities.
The massive production of toilet paper negatively affects these forests, their wildlife, and indigenous peoples, as well as the global climate. Yet, while toilet paper can be made from recycled fibers, many of the biggest brands choose to cut trees and produce “virgin” paper.
Alex Crumbie, a researcher for Ethical Consumer, explains that “ there is no need to cut down forests to make toilet roll, yet this is precisely what is happening.”
“We already know of options for more sustainable tissue production—specifically by using recycled materials and responsibly-sourced alternative fibers. Yet, major companies have largely failed to adopt them.”
The best and softest toilet paper comes from softwood trees, mainly pine and spruce trees.
The toilet paper industry has devastated many forests, and the amount of energy and water needed to process one tree into toilet paper is also incredibly high.
The softness, strength, and color are also improved by excessive amounts of bleach, formaldehyde, and organochlorines.
The report by The Natural Resource Defence Council and Stand.earth lists toilet paper brands in terms of sustainability, and the biggest and most popular brands were the ones that scored the lowest. For instance, Charmin, Kirkland Signature, and Angel Soft, received an “F”, while 365 Everyday Value’s Sustainably Soft, Cottonelle, Scott, and Trader Joe’s Super Soft bath tissue got a D.
The report also showed that the leading toilet paper brand in America, Proctor, and Gamble, does not use any recycled materials in the products.
Shelly Vinyard, a boreal corporate campaign manager for the NRDC, claims that they have the needed resources to lead the industry in terms of sustainability:
“Procter & Gamble has the innovation resources to bring Charmin into the 21st century; the question is whether the company will embrace its reputation as an innovator to create sustainable products using recycled material instead of clear-cut trees.”
Since they manufacture toilet paper from recycled materials, Green Forest, 365 Everyday Value’s Bath Tissue, Natural Value, Earth First, Seventh Generation, and Trader Joe’s Bath Tissue all received an A-grade.
So, could hemp be the solution to the toilet paper problem?
A hemp plant can be harvested in about 70 days, while trees need several years. It does not require any pesticides to grow, uses very little water, and can balance out the nutrients in the soil.
Moreover, hemp also produces four times more cellulose fibers than per acre compared with trees and has one of the world’s best biomasses. This means that one can grow up to six tonnes of hemp per acre of land when growing high fiber yield varieties.
It is more biodegradable than any other tissue paper, it is cheaper to produce than regular toilet paper, and it can be recycled 7-8 times, compared to the 3 times in the case of wood pulp.
Plus, switching to hemp pulp would be quite easy as well. Most facilities built for processing wood pulp would need little to no updating or conversion to handle hemp pulp instead.
While it may sound ideal, it has its flaws, of course. The hemp that will be used must be sourced sustainably and not to negatively impact forests.
While it requires no herbicides, pesticides, and irrigation, hemp requires more fertilizers and chemical additives during processing than other alternative fibers. Among the other eco-friendly options, it is important to mention bamboo and bidet.
“ The point is simple: in the 21st century, we shouldn’t be relying on intact forests for products that we use once and throw away. This “tree-to-toilet pipeline” is irresponsible and archaic, and as we look at all the environmental challenges we face today, the tissue industry needs to switch to creating products that don’t mean flushing our forests down the toilet.”
For now, HempSoSoft and Hempies are the only companies available in the United States, that are committed to sustainability and lowering their environmental impact.
Many China-based companies sell their wares to Americans on sites like Alibaba as well. Yet, consumers have the power to change that.
It is our duty to protect the planet, and reduce the pressure on forests. We can start small, from choosing the right toilet paper!
As NRDC says, “it is unbelievable that in the 21st century we still rely on trees at all for throw-away products like toilet paper.” Replacing tree-based products with hemp-based products is one of the simplest ways to move towards a greener future.
If we start using more sustainable products, companies will follow suit, and focus on their manufacturing instead.
Buy the products of brands that are using more environmentally-friendly practices, and over time, it will urge larger companies to transition to using recycled materials and more sustainable fibers.
Yup, it is that easy!