Tissue Issue: New Greenpeace Guide Identifies Brands Made from Ancient Forest Timber
In the temperate rain forests of the Pacific Northwest, trees that have stood for over a thousand years tower far into the sky. The light that passes through their branches to an impossibly verdant forest floor hundreds of feet below creates places that some have called the most majestic cathedrals on the face of the Earth.
This is the ancient forest, a realm of profound natural power and ageless beauty. It is a priceless treasure millennia in the making, and it’s being turned into… toilet tissue?!?!
Ancient or old-growth forests are defined in various ways. Generally, an old-growth forest is one that’s believed to have never been cut by human beings. Because it has grown undisturbed, an old-growth forest is likely to contain the full mix of all of the different plant and animal species that together comprise its ecosystem, and is usually a prime storehouse for biodiversity that may have been lost in other places.
Any kind of forest can be considered old-growth, whether it’s an oak forest in the southern U.S. or a mangrove forest on the coast of Asia.
As long as it’s believed to never have been cut and to contain its original mix of species, the forest in question generally receives this increasingly rare designation.
In the Pacific Northwest, old-growth forests are typically characterized by a number of conditions. They contain a healthy mix of trees of all possible ages and species.
The combination of very old and very young trees creates a diverse, multi-layered canopy. On the forest floor, a large number of fallen logs and standing dead trees, which are called snags, provide rich habitat for an almost endless variety of plants and animal life.
Mosses and ferns tend to proliferate in these highly shaded, extremely moist environments, forming a wall of vegetation so dense that early explorers called it a “green hell.”
The old-growth forests of the Pacific Northwest contain some of the tallest and oldest living things on Earth. Redwoods, Douglas firs, western hemlocks, Sitka spruce, cedars, and other tree species can reach over 1,000 years of age and achieve a girth measured in yards, not feet.
The forests created by these enormous ancient trees are impressive, to say the very least. Unfortunately, less than 10% of them remain. Most have been logged or developed in some way. That makes what’s left all the more precious, and yet these irreplaceable old-growth ecosystems continue to face the axe.
Astonishingly, someone somewhere apparently thinks that one of the best uses for ancient forests is for wiping noses and other things.
Fortunately, a new guide from Greenpeace Canada has arrived to help consumers make a better choice.
Called the Shopper’s Guide to Ancient Forest Friendly Tissue Products, it lists over 140 tissue products in 3 different color-coded categories that together help shoppers cast a crucial economic vote for the conservation of these irreplaceable treasures.
The red section lists tissue companies and brands of disposable tissue products that contain ancient and/or endangered forest fibers and/or whose products have been bleached with chlorine.
This list also contains companies that have refused to make commitments to purchasing recycled or Forest Stewardship Council-certified fibers for their products in the future.
Obviously, these are the companies consumers should avoid and the products they should refuse to purchase under any circumstances. Such brands include Kleenex, Puffs, Bounty and Charmin.
The yellow section is more of a gray area. It lists products that Greenpeace believes may be ancient forest friendly but can’t verify, either because the manufacturer failed to make a formal, written pledge or because there is a lack of certainty over the accuracy of any claims that are being made.
Brands in this category include Cottonelle, Scottie Supreme, Scott Towels and Viva.
The green section, on the other hand, is pure gold. It lists tissue companies and brands of tissue products for which a manufacturer has made a firm commitment to ensure that their products are ancient and endangered forest friendly; have a high post-consumer recycled and/or alternative fiber content; and are produced without chlorine.
Wise purchases here include Earth Friendly Products, PC Green, and our very own Seventh Generation brand.
While the guide has been produced by Greenpeace Canada and is geared toward Canadian consumers, that shouldn’t stop anyone in the U.S. from using it.
Indeed, many of the companies and/or products it rates can be found on both sides of the border, and U.S. residents are urged to use the guide as well in order to make purchases that don’t waste their children’s natural heritage on something as absurd as a runny nose.
For more information and a downloadable copy of the guide, visit http://www.greenpeace.ca/tissue/.
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