Sunday, August 9, 2009

Greener Kleenex?

This billboard can be seen on Interstate 183 between Irving and Dallas, TX. It was put there so executives at Kimberly-Clark could see it as they drive to their offices in Dallas. The billboard not only makes a strong statement, it's also garnered enough attention to make heads spin. But has it been for nothing? Absolutely not!

You probably don't think about trees when you use a Kleenex to blow your nose or when you use toilet paper to um, well you know what you use it for. Funny how we always say "Don't want to kill anymore trees" when we reuse paper, but the same trees that produce paper used in writing and reading produce paper products used all around the house. Why don't we make this connection?

Last week, Greenpeace celebrated an agreement with Kimberly-Clark to stop the unsustainable cutting of forests to make Kleenex and other paper products. Greenpeace waged its "Kleercut" campaign five years ago, targeting Kimberly-Clark for its policies on sourcing forest products. The end of these practices is near and I couldn't be happier.

Kimberly-Clark produces an astonishing 3.7 million tons of tissue products annually. They are the largest tissue maker in the world, owning such brands as Kleenex, Scott, Viva, Cottonelle, Kotex, and Huggies brands. The problem? They use "virgin" fiber from clearcut ancient forests in the Canadian boreal to make their products. Taking "virgin" fiber to make a disposable product is a crime!

So what changes are being made? Kimberly-Clark's new policy is to use wood fiber from environmentally responsible sources. Yeah! By the end of 2011, they will stop using any forest products derived from the Canadian boreal unless that wood is Forest Stewardship Council-certified. They have also ensured the public that 40% of their North American tissue fiber is either recycled or Forest Stewardship Council-certified. These are big changes and they are definitely the right things to do at the right time.

Kimberly-Clark has been clearing Canadian boreal forests for years. Why are these forests important? Why should we care about them? Because without them we could not survive. These forests are essential in fighting climate change. Without forests, all the CO2 that is emitted would end up in the atmosphere. There is already too much CO2 in the atmosphere and it is having adverse affects on our climate. The forests are also home to wildlife like caribou, wolves, eagles, and bears. So many animals call these forests home and these animals are essential to our survival. Animals also provide ecosystem services, services vital to our survival. Without the animals, these services cannot be performed. This is another case of the domino effect - no forests=no animals=no humans. See a problem here?

I know that some of you may be saying to yourselves "Wait Stubby. What about the Naturals line of products from Scott? Aren't those green?" They are green and this was a step in the right direction by Kimberly-Clark, most likely prompted by the Greenpeace campaign. The towels are made with 60% recycled fiber and the napkins are made with 80% recycled fiber, but what about the bathroom tissue and moist wipes? Zero recycled fiber!

While creating the Naturals line was a step in the right direction, it was the smallest baby step ever. There was and is so much more Kimberly-Clark could do. It does demonstrate that they can make a high-quality tissue with recycled content, but what took them so long? And why not use recycled fiber to make all their products?

Now I personally don't use bathroom tissue, napkins, wipes, or towels, but I know people who do and some of them don't want these items made from recycled fiber because they think they won't be soft to the touch. Hmmm. This is a good point. But like Mom always tells me - you get use to what you have. Move from a 3,000 sq. ft. house into a 2,000 sq. ft house and you will get use to it. Go from eating one cup of food a day, it gets cut to one-half cup and you will get use to it. The point is that you will adjust. You will survive. And most importantly, so will the forests, the animals, and the human race.

The Naturals line is a type of semi greenwashing - getting you to buy into the greenness of the product while the parent company, Kimberly-Clark, makes most of its profits from "virgin" fiber. A little of this, a whole lot of that, and cha-ching. Don't buy into it. The level of post-consumer recycled content in these products are below recommended levels and you have options, options that will allow you to sleep good at night knowing that you are doing the right thing.

Toilet tissue made from recycled fiber is available everywhere. Brands like Seventh Generation, Trader Joe's, and Marcal are a few that I see Mom bring home from the store, but you may not be able to purchase these brands where you live. You can purchase these brands via the Internet, but if there is a CVS close by, their Earth Essentials line is made from 100% recycled fiber.

I know that price is a factor when choosing products and in this economy, it is even more of an issue than it was in past. I understand that some people cannot afford to switch to 100% recycled fiber toilet tissue, but if you can, please do. And if you can only replace one roll, just one, the impact is huge. If every household in the United States replaced just one roll of virgin fiber toilet paper (500 sheets) with 100% recycled ones, we could save 470,000 trees, use 1.2 million cubic feet less landfill space, and save about 169 million gallons of water. All of this by just replacing one roll. This is a change that many people can make. Every little bit helps. It helps you and it helps me. It helps now and for the future. Mother Earth thanks you in advance for doing the right thing.


Archie and Melissa said...

hi stubby!
it is amazing the resources it takes to make all of these products we use everyday.

thank you for showing us greener ways to support our planet and ourselves at the same time!

Mia said...

Thank you for sharing Stubby!! You are such a green pug =)

Kelly said...

Great post, Stubby! As always!

I think greener kleenex are a great idea. You wouldn't believe how man tissues my momma goes through. She is always boo-hooing about girly stuff that moms cry about... money, family, sad commercials on tv. Aren't humans silly?! :)

Stubby said...

Hi Melissa & Emmitt! It just goes to show how things can change when people work to change them. Most people don't even realize how important the forests are, but hopefully now people will be more aware.

Stubby xoxo

Stubby said...

Hi Lilo! I am trying my best to be a green pug thanks to Mom. She pushes me to find the info for my blog, so she deserves some of the credit. Sometimes mom are so smart, aren't they?

Stubby xoxo

Stubby said...

Hey Pearlie Poo! So good to hear from you. Your momma sure must be busy these days because I hardly ever see your smiling face anymore.
How is your dad's bartending going? Has he made you any good drinks lately?

Mom is always blowing her nose, but it isn't because she is crying it's just because she has lots of snots. That's kind of gross, huh? I'm glad I don't have to blow my nose because it's so much easier to sneeze all over people to get the snots out!

Stubby xoxo