Okay, that is not entirely accurate. My green misadventure began years earlier. Through fits and starts I had tried to make myself as green as possible in a given set of circumstances. It was the reusable bag, turn the thermostat down in winter, shorter shower sort of green.
Along the way I found myself having gone from living in a small house with my wife to a much larger house with my wife, daughter, and soon-to-arrive second child. There was no conscious compromise, just an erosion of eco-identity.
It hit me while I read an article about the clear-cutting of boreal forest in Canada for use in toilet paper. Here was something that I abhorred, yet I was supporting directly. I was responsible for destroying virgin forests in order to wipe my rear end. Every time I wiped with pillowy soft, two ply, quilted toilet paper did Ed Begley Jr. cry? Was the next step using baby sea pelts for the same purpose with the same lack of shame? If I was unwilling or incapable of making a small change to my buying habits could I lay any claim to being “green?”
In typical American fashion, there was only one answer: shopping! With no green hipster approved outlet of environmentally conscious goods available within a reasonable radius I ventured into my local supermarket and big box retailers in search of a toilet paper that utilized recycled content and non-recycled fiber sourced from sustainable sources. It does not do a lot of good to reduce one’s destruction of irreplaceable landscapes by 25% if an option exists to excise the destruction completely.
In typical American fashion, the big box stores were useless. Sure, Wal-Mart gets a lot of publicity for hyping green products and reducing the carbon footprint of its logistical operations or being the largest retailer of organic groceries, but its aisles are primarily filled with products that most shoppers in the 1950s would have little trouble recognizing. Maybe I do not live in an area deemed worthy of such products. Nontraditional toilet paper was not in stock. Target was a similar wash out.
The grocery store–Hy-Vee–was a savior. As I have come to learn, a full-service grocery store with empowered management and a customer focus can be a life saver. Why? This type of store is not a slave to a computer program thousands of miles away that stocks products based solely on an algorithm produced by using scanner data. In short, they will take risks in stocking products to differentiate themselves from the cookie cutter experience of Wal-Mart, Target, etc.
At Hy-Vee, in a corner of the store made out to look like a mini-Whole Foods emblazoned the Health Market–were two options for boreal forest free toilet paper. It was like being granted permission to cross the velvet rope of eco-friendliness. Clear cutting be damned!
How to choose? Why choose? Buy them both. In one arm, a package of Seventh Generation 100% recycled toilet paper (they call it bathroom tissue, but I digress). In the other, a package of Marcal Small Steps 100% recycled toilet paper (likewise, bathroom tissue). Clinging to my eight rolls of plastic wrapped liberation I headed home to reality.