No Impact Man Colin Beavan famously went without toilet paper for a year, but his no-waste ways hasn’t been catching on. In fact, World Watch magazine reports that we’re “flushing forests” down the toilet — with the average American flushing about 57 sheets of toilet paper a day, and TP use rates growing rapidly in China and Western Europe. (via NewScientist)

To help us change these wasteful ways, the detailed World Watch feature goes into the nitty gritty on everything from expensive bidet systems to cheaper portable self-wash systems — but doesn’t come out against using toilet paper, per se. The bigger problem is the popularity of multi-ply, fluffy luxury toilet papers that require virgin fibers — and the wasted opportunity of unrecycled paper that could be turned into toilet paper. Even with so many companies and cities jumping on the “go green” bandwagon, 14.5 million tons of office paper and newspaper still get trashed instead of recycled in the U.S. alone.

I can’t force people to sort their trash or companies to institute recycling programs — but opt for 100% recycled toilet paper myself, thereby closing the loop to help make recycled products profitable for greener companies.

Making the switch is easy. I actually buy my toilet paper from Staples, because the chain carries Marcal Small Step’s eco-friendly paper products and a store’s located a half block from me — a nice convenience, since I tend to procrastinate on buying the stuff until I’m pretty much all out! Plus, office supply stores carry bulk packages of toilet paper — so I can reduce plasticky packaging while procrastinating a long long time before buying the stuff again.

Now, it is true: Recycled paper products generally aren’t as soft as virgin paper products, though softness really tends to vary more by brand than by recycled content. But as NRDC’s Darby Hoover put it, “How soft do you need something to be that you use for five seconds a day?” (via Grist) When I visited France, I was first a bit shocked to find sandpapery toilet paper was the norm. Then I adjusted. So can you!

For the greenest TP, go for 100% recycled with the highest post-consumer content you can find. Marcal’s 2-ply TP — which I’ve found out usually has about 60% post-consumer recycled content — is soft enough for me, though honestly I’ve pretty much forgotten what the forest-destroying TP felt like. Read Grist’s review of recycled toilet-paper brands to get some help picking out a greener, softer toilet paper — then make 100% recycled toilet paper a staple buy. That is, if you decide to keep using toilet paper.

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Recycled paper products

Flush not forests: Get recycled toilet paper
Do you carefully sort clean paper into your recycling bin? Close the recycling loop by opting to buy 100% recycled toilet paper.