Unveiling Charmin’s False Sustainability Claims

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Charmin, America’s leading toilet paper brand, may be popular, but its sustainability practices are far from commendable. In a recent report by NRDC and Stand.earth titled “The Issue with Tissue: How Americans are Flushing Forests Down the Toilet,” the devastating impact of America’s tissue production on Canada’s boreal forests and other ecosystems worldwide was exposed. Charmin, unfortunately, emerged as one of the worst culprits, receiving an abysmal F grade for its lack of sustainability practices and heavy reliance on virgin fiber for its toilet paper production.

Charmin’s Greenwashing Tactics

Charmin’s website may give the impression that purchasing their products is an environmentally responsible choice, but, in reality, it is nothing more than greenwashing. The truth is that Charmin sources its toilet paper from the Canadian boreal forest, a crucial habitat for Indigenous Peoples, wildlife, and the climate. Shockingly, this forest is being logged at a staggering rate, equivalent to seven NHL hockey rinks per minute, primarily to meet the demand for products like Charmin.

Charmin’s website conveniently fails to mention the detrimental environmental impact of producing toilet paper from virgin forest fiber. Here are some key points that Charmin conveniently leaves out:

  • Toilet paper made entirely from virgin fiber contributes significantly to carbon emissions. In fact, it produces three times more carbon emissions compared to toilet paper made with 100% recycled content.

  • The rapid clearcutting of the Canadian boreal forest poses a threat to various wildlife species, including caribou, songbirds, and bears, resembling Charmin’s mascots. This destructive logging is primarily driven by the demand for throwaway tissue and toilet paper in the United States.

  • The caustic bleaching process required for virgin fiber toilet paper pollutes waterways and harms both humans and wildlife. The production of pulp from virgin fiber generates double the amount of hazardous air pollutants and 40% more sulfur dioxide compared to recycled tissue. These toxins can lead to respiratory problems, acid rain, smog, and even cancer.

While Charmin portrays itself as environmentally sustainable on its website, the truth behind their claims is as thin as toilet paper:

  • Certification does not guarantee sustainability or responsible sourcing, and Charmin’s manufacturer, Procter & Gamble, is far from selective when it comes to acquiring certifications. Procter & Gamble supports certification systems like SFI and PEFC, which have significant loopholes and fall short of guaranteeing sustainable harvesting practices. The only certification system with credibility is the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), known for its stringent sustainability requirements. However, Charmin’s FSC-Mix certification is a less rigorous standard that fails to ensure the sustainability of boreal caribou populations, the protection of intact forests, or the free, prior, and informed consent of Indigenous Peoples. Transitioning to full FSC certification alone wouldn’t alleviate the pressure on forests caused by single-use products. Only a complete shift away from forest content can achieve that. Additionally, toilet paper made entirely from virgin fiber results in three times the carbon footprint of 100% recycled tissue products, making it clear why Procter & Gamble needs to swiftly incorporate recycled content into Charmin’s production.

  • Replanting trees does not fully mitigate the environmental impact of clearcutting. Clearcutting permanently damages forests, altering the fragile balance of organisms and microorganisms in the soil. This damage reverberates throughout the food chain, often leading to the permanent disappearance of wildlife like caribou, even in regenerated clearcut areas. Boreal trees grow slowly, taking decades to capture the carbon that mature trees do. Clearcutting in the boreal forest also releases massive amounts of greenhouse gases stored in its carbon-rich soils. The replanting efforts in the boreal forest are often unsuccessful in recreating the biodiverse and carbon-rich ancient forests that were lost.

  • Charmin’s claim of not participating in deforestation practices is misleading. The Canadian government’s definition of “deforestation” is narrowly focused on the conversion of forests into non-forest land, such as farmland or roads. This means that a forest can be clearcut without technically being classified as deforested. Therefore, Charmin’s statement about not participating in deforestation has a limited meaning and does not indicate that they avoid other practices that harm forests.

  • Charmin’s use of fast-growing trees like Eucalyptus is not sustainable. Eucalyptus tends to be invasive and destroy native species, significantly altering ecosystems. Additionally, many eucalyptus plantations require clearcutting intact forests. Charmin conveniently fails to mention that a significant portion of its pulp, including 33% of the pulp for Procter & Gamble’s tissue and hygiene products, comes from Canada’s boreal forest, which is far from fast-growing. In the best-case scenarios, it takes many decades for newly planted boreal trees to reach the same size as the ones they replaced. Moreover, evidence suggests that regeneration efforts in the boreal forest are falling short in replicating the biodiverse and carbon-rich ancient forests that were lost.

Any progress Charmin claims to have made falls woefully short of what is needed to achieve sustainable toilet paper production. To truly address the environmental crisis of the 21st century, Charmin must incorporate recycled materials into its products and cease sourcing from ancient forests vital to Canada’s boreal caribou. However, despite our calls for change, Charmin has refused to take action. Join us in raising your voice against Charmin’s inadequate efforts and demand that they adapt to existing solutions. Anything less than incorporating recycled content into their products is wasteful, outdated, and unacceptable.

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