Great Lakes Regional Pollution Prevention Roundtable
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Help Desk Archive


Paper use
Question submitted on 1/10/08

I have a question regarding using paper fast food napkins, paper towels and toilet paper to help save the world in doing our part for conservation. The other day on the Oprah show, a guest suggested we should cut down our use of paper napkins to save a bunch of trees. I think we should use less paper towels too. And, I wondered if the use of single ply toilet paper would also help save the trees as well as saving us trouble with our potty drains not just in homes but in homes where the drainage system isn't that great. What do you think? Should we all buy single ply? Shouldn't we use linen napkins more. Any additional suggestions for conservation with regard to paper?

Answer:

As with most consumer choices, there are trade-offs. For example, if you use cloth napkins instead of paper, you're still going to effect the environment every time you wash them, especially if you're not using eco-friendly laundry detergent. However, if you use paper products made from post-consumer recycled content, you'll also minimize your environmental footprint.

For an excellent discussion these issues, take a look at The Consumer's Guide to Effective Environmental Choices (http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/39335766). Although it was published in 1999, it's still the best book I've seen for helping consumers make choices that really will have an environmental impact.

That being said, there are ways that we can all reduce our use of paper (although I'm personally not willing to skimp on the toilet paper). Some resources include:

Simple Ways to Reduce Office Paper Waste and Make Better Use of the Paper You Need
http://www.nrdc.org/cities/living/paper/strategies.asp

A Shopper's Guide to Home Tissue Products
http://www.environmentalpaper.org/memberextranet/documents/Consumer%20Guides_tissuewalletcard.pdf

Action Guide to Greener Paper
http://www.environmentaldefense.org/article.cfm?contentid=180

Environmental Paper Network
http://www.environmentalpaper.org/

I hope this helps. If you need more information, please let me know.

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