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The issue with our toilet tissue

Finding suitable alternatives for your toilet paper
Finding suitable alternatives for your toilet paper 03:10

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - Every day, we make environmental decisions. Recycling has become almost a reflex.

But did you ever think you are making an environmental or climate decision when you buy toilet paper?

Last week's World Forest Day went pretty much unnoticed, except for one group which chose the day to release its Issue with Tissue report.

The report takes toilet paper makers to task for wiping out a lot of forest land.

From Newfoundland, across Quebec, Ontario, all the way to the Yukon, the lush trees of the Canadian boreal forest create a green canopy across our neighbor to the north. However, an issue arises.

"[The forest] is being unsustainably logged to feed demand for toilet paper. It's literally being flushed away down toilets in the United States," said Jennifer Skene with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Skene gave a failing grade to the biggest producers of our toilet tissue due to harvesting the boreal forest.

"The rate is about six NHL-sized hockey rinks every single minute," Skene said.

The NRDC said it goes beyond losing the trees.

"[It's] home to species found nowhere else on earth, more than 600 indigenous communities."

In the NRDC's primary crosshairs are Proctor & Gamble, the makers of Charmin. While the company did not respond to KDKA's request for comment, KDKA did find on their website a lot of defense of their environmental efforts, including replanting and reforestation after harvesting.

"You can clear-cut a forest and replant a tree, but you can't regrow an entire forest ecosystem."

Skene said some tissue manufacturers are listening.

"Seventh Generation's toilet paper is made from 100% recycled content, and that's deemed a premium quality brand. There are plenty of very soft brands made from bamboo," Skene said.

Proctor & Gamble pointed out it does not own or manage forests, but it does have strict environmental guidelines for its wood pulp suppliers.

So, what is the NRDC trying to accomplish with its issue with tissue reports?

They are trying to get the companies to produce more environmentally friendly products and to get all of us to put the trees in front of comfort.

What's the issue with your toilet tissue? 02:45

The average American uses 85 toilet paper rolls a year, and the Natural Resource Defense Council wants you to use your toilet paper money to side with the trees.

It might be hard to wrap your head around this but to get these rolls of toilet paper to you, somewhere, trees must come down.

"Toilet paper comes from one of the most ecologically important forests in the world, the Canadian boreal forest."

Skene said we're not talking about a tree here or there.

"More than a million acres of the boreal forest are clear-cut every single year."

The NRDC said there are sustainable alternatives.

"There are plenty of premium recycled brands, premium brands made from bamboo that get the job done, that is every bit as high quality as forest and at a fraction of the cost," Skene added.

But what about sensitivity?

"I have a very hard time telling the difference, and I know a lot of people do."

Skene said part of the solution lies with us, the consumer.

"One would be more than willing to trade off a little bit of softness for our planet," Skene said.

"Sure. I would [switch], one Pittsburgher said. "Save the trees."

"The paper is very important to me as one of the few luxuries in life. It's private and enjoyable. I'll stick with the nice soft, extra-rich toilet paper," another person said.

"My general purchase of toilet tissue is whatever's giving me the best price," said another.

"We're seeing big companies making the switch. Target now has a brand made from recycled material. This is not something that's only happening, sort of, off on the margins," Skene said.

Companies like Proctor & Gamble, which makes Charmin, Kimberly Clark which makes Scott tissue, and Georgia Pacific, which makes Angel Soft and Quilted Northern, all maintain they follow climate and forest-friendly practices to produce your tissue.

But it sounds like the environmentalists dismiss their efforts.

The NRDC gives a grudging nod to their efforts but calls it a greenscreen to cover the damage, and it doesn't go far enough.

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