As the impacts of climate change – from wildfires and hurricanes to droughts and heat waves – become increasingly dire and apparent, some corporate America remains complicit in the degradation of one of our most natural climate solutions. most important and promising, the boreal forest. Encircling the Northern Hemisphere in a circle of spruce, fir and pine, the boreal forest is the most carbon-rich ecosystem on Earth. In Canada, the boreal forest covers more than a billion acres, making it the largest intact forest left on our planet.
Canada’s boreal forest is home to an incredible ecosystem — it’s a haven for species such as caribou, cougars and grizzly bears, whose habitats have shrunk farther south. Billions of birds, nearly half of all avian species in North America, breed in the boreal region before heading south to our backyards and parks each winter. Indigenous peoples have lived in balance with these ecosystems for millennia – stewarding the land and relying on it for sustenance and traditions.
Photo credit: Ethan Gosnell, Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0
However, the Canadian boreal forest is being logged at the rate of one million acres per year. That’s 1.5 football pitches of forest every minute. Many trees are cut down, pulped and made into toilet paper, tissues and paper towels sold in the United States. It’s an extremely unsustainable pipeline – trees that have grown for centuries are destroyed in hours, then turned into products that are used for seconds. When the boreal forest is logged, the rich soils and peatlands that have stored carbon captured by trees for centuries are disturbed. In total, boreal forest degradation results in an average of 26 million metric tons of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere each year, which is roughly equivalent to the emissions of 5.5 million passenger vehicles per year. Regardless of claims to the contrary, no amount of saplings planted among tree-trunk graveyards can compensate for the damage done to our climate by the clear-cutting of the boreal forest.
The solution is simple: reduce the amount of logging in the boreal forest. Trees are not a necessary ingredient for paper production. In fact, businesses can reduce their waste and dependence on trees by using recycled materials to make paper products. Another method of relieving pressure on forests is to use alternative materials to make paper products, such as certified sustainable bamboo, wheat straw, hemp or cotton. Many companies already offer paper products made from 100% recycled materials or bamboo and as a result have received high sustainability scores in the annual NRDC issue with fabric scorecard.
Despite these feasible alternatives, the majority of the home fabric market is dominated by brands that rely heavily on virgin forest fibers, which are fibers made from freshly harvested trees. Trees belong to the forest, not to our toilets. That’s why we asked Amazon, Walmart, Costco, Procter & Gamble, which produces Charmin, and Georgia-Pacific, the maker of Angel Soft, to ease the pressure on all forests, especially the boreal forest by making their tissues and papers products with less virgin wood pulp and more sustainable materials instead.
Logging in the boreal forest. Photo credit: Jourdain, NRDC
Specifically, we’re asking manufacturers of tissue paper products to increase the amount of forest-derived fiber in their tissue paper products by 50% (or more) by 2025. We’re also asking companies to ensure that their pulp suppliers are only developing indigenous territory. if the free, prior and informed consent of indigenous and forest-dependent communities is given – a stipulation that ensures that those most likely to be directly affected by the logging activity are involved in decision-making decisions about what happens to their land.
Scott and Kleenex, manufactured by Kimberly-Clark, are proving to be leaders on this issue in the home tissue market. These brands have made commitments that surpass all of their competitors, including reducing their natural forest footprint by 50% by 2025. This means incorporating more alternative and recycled fibers into their tissue paper products. Although this goal is not as ambitious as it could be, it is a progressive step towards protecting our forests.
It’s time for our nation’s leading toilet paper and facial tissue manufacturers and retailers to demonstrate their commitment to their consumers and communities. To protect our climate, our animals, and people around the world, Amazon, Walmart, Costco, Procter & Gamble, and Georgia-Pacific must agree to protect our forests.