toilet paper roll with green recycling symbol

It’s no secret that paper products place an enormous burden on forests worldwide — and this is especially true of sanitary paper products. Designed for single use, towel and toilet tissue have a short life cycle that precludes recycling. Additionally, these commodities require frequent restocking and are often subject to waste.

“Americans use a lot of toilet paper,” admits Steve Ashkin, president of The Ashkin Group. “As affluence grows in developing countries, the demand for toilet paper is skyrocketing, and it’s placing a lot of demand on our forestry products.”

But industry is pushing back: The U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED requirements and the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) comprehensive procurement guidelines call for sanitary paper products that include post-consumer recycled content. According to Ashkin, these programs also encourage innovation by driving demand for alternative fibers.

“Forests are the lungs of our planet — and they’re where the vast majority of our species live,” says Ashkin. “We need to figure out how to manage our flora to be able to sustain life, as well as use it to improve the quality of our life.”

Facility cleaning managers can do their part when buying paper products. First, become familiar with the terminology used to describe sustainable towel and tissue products. Second, look for products that have been certified by an independent, third-party organization.

“When someone asks me what they can do to buy more environmentally preferable tissue products, the first thing I tell them is to look for products that have been certified by Green Seal or UL Environment’s EcoLogo program,” says Scot Case, founder of Responsible Sourcing Solutions in Philadelphia. “These organizations have already done the work of figuring out which environmental attributes are most important, and, more importantly, they’ve validated the accuracy of the manufacturers’ claims.”

next page of this article:
Defining Green Paper Terms