Technology is moving faster and faster. So why should I be surprised when toilet paper keeps advancing, too?
Kimberly-Clark has introduced yet another tweak to its Scott Naturals line - rolls without that inner core, the cardboard tube.
Why this constitutes something "natural" has eluded me. It's not as if the company is making the TP from leaves.
The company isn't even making it from recycled content, although a spokeswoman said that was a logistical matter that will change. Meanwhile, it's made from paper certified by the nonprofit Forest Stewardship Council as meeting certain sustainability standards.
The company claims U.S. households use an estimated 17 billion bath tissue tubes annually.
Most are not recycled, K-C says. I didn't believe that claim, until I asked a few colleagues. Oh, no!
The company is having a lot of fun with its tube stats, saying the 17 billion tubes equate to 160 million pounds of waste, equal to the weight of 350 Statues of Liberty. (I wonder if Lady Lib would appreciate the comparison.) Or enough to fill the Empire State Building twice. (Ditto.)
I have mixed feelings about this kind of aggregation. It seems so cheesy. You could count up toenail clippings and make it seem like a lot.
But little things do add up, and one small choice can gain incredible power when everyone does it.
So we'll also let Kimberly-Clark add that, placed end to end, all those tubes would circle the Earth's equator 45 times.
The TP has gotten the nod of Wal-Mart and Sam's Club, which are test-marketing it in the area.
But what about that virgin content? Allen Hershkowitz, a senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council who has studied TP exhaustively, says he'd opt for recycled content, even if it means having the tube.
"They should not be making TP without recycled content anywhere," he said.
I used one of the new rolls, and it felt fine, courtesy of all that virgin pulp, no doubt. The roll dispensed like regular toilet paper, except the middle was sort of squished. When I got to the end of the roll, the paper flopped a bit. No big deal.
But I can't help feeling cranky about how complicated toilet paper is getting. I resent the bother it causes. I wish the entire industry would just streamline the options instead of worming around all these complexities.
Buying TP used to be a simple matter of just going to the store and picking a brand you liked.
Then I had to get out the bifocals and start checking recycled content.
Then it became a matter of discerning which kind of recycled content. Is it run-of-the-mill postindustrial content, which can include leftover paper from things like making envelopes? Or elite postconsumer content, which is paper someone has already used? Or read. And then left at the curb.
Now we have to worry about whether it's got an inner roll.
Why do all this homework just to buy something that's used for a few seconds and then flushed?
Meanwhile, the Netherlands manufacturer Van Houtum claims to have made the first carbon-neutral toilet paper. In April, it rolled out Satino Black. It has 100 percent recycled content (including 85 percent postconsumer) and is manufactured using 100 percent renewable energy and without harmful chemicals, the company says.
"Making a different choice isn't easy - you need guts and perseverance," the TP's website claims, adding that selecting its paper "is the ultimate proof that you dare to care."
But I don't think shipping Satino Black from the Netherlands is quite the eco thing to do.
Then there's a company called Bum Boosa in Mashpee - that's no joke - Mass., that offers paper made from bamboo.
The company says its bamboo does not require irrigation, pesticides, or replanting after harvest. Indeed, as anyone who has had the misfortune of planting it in their yard knows, you can't get rid of the stuff.
It has sturdy stems and lots of leaves . . . so perhaps we really are getting back to naturals.
GreenSpace: We Want Your E-tips
With the end of rate caps in the Peco territory coming Jan. 1, there's been a lot of worry about rising costs.
For the Dec. 27 GreenSpace column, we plan to explore ways to reduce the amount of energy you use.
But we'd love your help. Do you have any unique ways of reducing power usage? We don't mean turning off the lights. (Duh.) Or turning down the thermostat. (Re-Duh.)
Be creative. Electrify us! Please e-mail Sandy Bauers at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 215-854-5147.EndText