Here is a scene that repeated itself a hundred times in the beginning of the No Impact project: we sat down in a restaurant, the server came over all smiles, we said hi, picked the paper napkins from the table, handed them to the confused-looking server, said we brought our own, and pulled our cloths from our pockets with a flourish. “We’re on a don’t make garbage kick,” we always said. Most times, the server thought it was cool. But, um, other times…
By keeping the cloth stuffed in our pockets, we never have to dry our hands with a paper towel in a public restroom. Plus, in those days before the eating local stage kicked in, we could buy a bagel and tell them to wrap it in our cloths instead of paper. Even now, when we buy local cheese at the Union Square farmers’ market, we give them a reusable cheese cloth to package the cheese in.
OK, we’re weird. Even to ourselves! On the other hand, see that picture at the top of the page? That is a picture, courtesy of Greenpeace, of an ancient forest in Canada that was clearcut in order to manufacture disposable paper products.
Some of the felled trees had lived 70 to 180 years before someone decided they wanted to blow their nose on them. Ancient forests are like the planet’s lungs, except they do the opposite of our lungs. The forests breathe in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen. That makes them essential to fighting climate change. Plus, old forests, some of which have been around 10,000 years since the last ice age, provide habitat for all sorts of wildlife like, in Canada, caribou, wolves, eagles and bears.
Of course, there are paper products that are more sustainably produced, and I give a list below. The general idea is that paper products should contain either recycled fiber or fiber from sustainably harvested forests (certified by the Forest Stewardship Council) and should be manufactured cleanly without chlorine
But even sustainably-produced disposable paper products pile the landfills and sewer systems with things that were only used for 30 seconds. That’s why Michelle and I prefer to remain the weird couple with the cloths.
Here’s a list of ancient forest-friendly paper products, courtesy of Greenpeace:
Toilet Paper: CVS Bathroom Tissue 1000, Cascades, Marcal, Natural Value, Earth First, Seventh Generation, Trader Joe's, 365 Everyday Value
Facial Tissue: Marcal Fluff Out, Seventh Generation, Trader Joe's
Paper Towels: Marcal Bella, Natural Value, Seventh Generation, Trader Joe's, 365 Everyday Value
PS I found out that my appearance on the Colbert Report airs at 11:30 PM on April 9 and a bunch of times including 8:30 PM on April 10. I'll be on Talk of the Nation on April 9. I wish someone would clearcut the butterflies in my stomach!
Colin Beavan (that's me!) is now leading a conversation about finding a happy, helpful life at Colinbeavan.com. If you want to know how people are breaking out and and finding authentic, meaningful lives that help our world, check it out the blog here and sign up to join the conversation here.