There are certain products that we use every single day where there are very few acceptable alternatives for Americans.
Toilet paper is one of these products. The few potential alternatives are probably not acceptable or not convenient for most of us: do nothing, follow the deposit with a quick shower, or the proverbial yesterday’s newspaper. Groups offering an alternative to toilet paper are also suggesting that we use medicated wipes, but these don’t breakdown well in septic tanks or wastewater treatment systems, and do we really need to freshen up with witch hazel every time we go?
There are hundreds of Toilet Paper brands at the grocery, so which one do we buy and what are the environmental effects of the brand we buy?
Peter Senge writes a lot about a sustainable world. In his book The Necessary Revolution he introduced the 2010 management team at the Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati to one vision of a sustainable world. In Necessary Revolution he introduced the team to Seventh Generation consumer products using their business model as a good model for a $100,000,000 business, which was about the size of the MSD budget at the time. I have been a loyal fan of Seventh Generation since. But does Seventh Generation greenwash?
Seventh Generation Bathroom tissue is made from 100% recycled fiber, of which 50% is post-consumer. The twelve pack is packaged in a thin plastic casing which they also imply is made recyclable. How do they stack up?
The hidden trade off – Seventh Generation does not cut down trees and the product does not use chlorine bleach. Many of their recycled paper products are not whitened at all. They seem to be ok on this one.
No proof. The recycled content of the product is not certified. However, In Necessary Revolution Peter Senge goes into detail on their business model. Based on Senge’s writing, I accept their statement.
Vagueness. Since they give numbers and geographic areas, the product and packaging don’t appear to be vague.
Worship of false labels. Packaging implies that wrapper is recyclable. Kroger collects this type of wrap for recycling, but this material is not recycleable curbside in Greater Cincinnati. For Cincinnati, this claim is accurate, but can be confusing. The company passes in Cincinnati on this claim, but may not elsewhere.
Claim of Irrelevance. Claims on this package fit with my worldview: a world of unprecedented wealth based on the responsible and sustainable use of all our resources – people, nature and technology.
Lesser of two evils. There are poor alternatives to toilet paper. Toilet paper made from recycled fiber is about as good as it gets.
Fibbing. The label appears accurate and the company and its products were vetted through Peter Senge’s efforts. The product performs for me and is the same price or less expensive that most of the competitors brands.
Overall this product does not appear to be greenwashed. It is the greenest toilet paper I can find at Kroger.