By Barbara Kessler

Environmentalists have long been nudging consumers to think about the real cost of the paper products that they use, to understand that toilet paper and paper towels exact a price in the loss of the trees required to make them.clearcut-forest-3.jpg

This green price tag is highest when manufacturers of household paper goods use virgin wood products instead of using recycled materials. And yet, some of the world’s largest manufacturers of tissue and toilet paper continue to use virgin wood fibers, raising the ire of nature groups.

Greenpeace Canada and the Natural Resources Defense Council have jointly taken aim at Kimberly-Clark, the world’s largest tissue paper products manufacturer and its associated milling and logging operations that, in their view, are chipping away at some of the world’s largest unspoiled forests, particularly the Boreal Forest in Canada. They say the erosion of that forest is jeopardizing not just the billions of birds that nest there, and some endangered caribou, but literally, the planet.

Kimberly-Clark concedes that about 11 percent of the fiber it procures comes from Canada’s Boreal Forest, but “under our procurement policies, we make it clear that we purchase the wood chips that do not come from those areas of the Boreal that are designated as ecologically significant, old growth areas,” says company spokesman Dave Dickson.

Dickson adds that Kimberly-Clark is making environmental strides by testing marketing new consumer products – tissues, toilet paper and paper towels – made with recycled fibers. (More on that in a moment.)

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Help Save The Boreal Forest

Greenpeace, however, is unlikely to be dissuaded until logging stops in the Boreal region.
Now three years into its “brand damage” campaign called “Kleercut” that mocks Kimberly-Clark’s flagship Kleenex brand, the group has achieved some notable successes. Several large companies are no longer buying K-C products and Kimberly Clark has changed how it makes some of its brands in the United Kingdom by incorporating sustainable wood products. Earlier this month, a group of Greenpeace members blockaded the entrance to a K-C processing facility in Everett, Wash., in bus outfitted as a Kleenex box, keeping the issue before the public.

Ultimately, Greenpeace hopes to win over consumers, get them using recycled tissues – and pretty soon.

The Greenpeace campaign (motto: “Wiping Away Ancient Forests”) is time critical because each day, more of the Boreal Forest that spans Northern Canada disappears, and its 70+ year-old trees cannot be easily replaced, nor can its ecosystem be regenerated or replicated. (See the photo above from Greenpeace’s photo gallery of vanishing forests.)