By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

There’s a funny scene in the Larry David show Curb Your Enthusiasm in which Larry, and the displaced New Orleans family encamped in his house, wink and smirk over the toilet paper that his wife has installed in the bathrooms.

Being an environmentalist – as is her real life counterpart Laurie David – Cheryl David had outfitted the water closets with recycled TP. The running joke was that everyone had noticed the difference. And they weren’t in love with the experience.

Such is the reputation of recycled TP. Although, it seems as though I have successfully slipped it by my family. Has it gotten better (I think it has)? Or are they smirking behind my back? Probably a bit of both. I don’t really know, and it doesn’t matter because we won’t be returning to conventional stuff.

The environmental costs of using virgin paper for disposable products are just too great. Deforestation is a problem worldwide and at the very least, we can avoid being co-conspirators by rejecting the marketing myth that we have to treat ourselves to the cushiest TP. I mean, really.

Believe it or not, there’s been a bit of debate over bathroom paper. One guy in NYC made his point by starting his own brand of recycled TP. It’s called —- Be Gone and its proprietor claims it is softer (when folded and not crumpled) than the embossed, puffed and well-marketed stuff sold in stores. Who knew? We were just un-informed,  crumpling instead of folding.

—- Be Gone is crudely, but incisively named: This is a single-use, single-function product. Do we really want to carve up forests for it?

Here’s an area where a lesson from our forebears seems in order. They once used the Sears Catalog in the outhouse. That was the original recycled TP and from not so long ago, in the broad sweep of history. (Oddly, the Kimberly-Clark, maker of non-recycled TP includes an essay about the history of toilet paper on its website. Things like corn cobs, leaves and newspapers are mentioned.)

Granted, we don’t much get the Sears catalog these days. And the thought of using it that way…let alone a corn cob. Let’s not go there.

Today, we have better ways at our, ah, disposal. Our family has a membership to Costco, and kudos to them, they carry the Sunrise brand of recycled TP — sold in bulk packages no less.  If it’s not the softest paper we’ve ever encountered, well, it’s soft enough.

For those of you shopping at other stores, please see the newly reissued Greenpeace Recycled  Tissue and Toilet Paper Guide, which gives thumbs up to brands such as Green Forest, Seventh Generation, Natural Value, Earth Friendly, Fiesta and Fiesta Green and Whole Foods Market house brand 365. The guide lists TP brands to avoid as well, such as Charmin, Angel Soft and Kleenex Cottonelle, Quilted Northern, Scott, Target and Wal-Mart brands.

(I should note, too, that Costco’s house brand, Kirkland, pops up as a facial tissue to avoid. Other than Whole Foods, house brands, including Wal-Mart’s, Target’s and CVS, tend to fall into the “avoid” category. Interesting, given so many of these stores are touting other green advances.)

For more background on the guide, see our story, Greenpeace issues new guide for choosing recycled personal paper products.

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