This one is a no-brainer

This week's eco product that works is recycled tissue. I suspect I am preaching to the converted, but I just wanted to take a moment to extol the virtues of recycled toilet tissue (to sit beside your dual flush toilet...) and facial tissues.

At the risk offending readers, I also feel a need to express my incredulity at those who feel that their backsides are so sensitive that only virgin wood pulp is good enough.
Let me reassure you: recycled toilet tissue has come a very long way. In no way does it resemble the hard - almost impermeable? - sheets that we used to be faced with in institutional settings when I was a kid (was that just in the UK?).

There are several recycled choices out there and they are all absolutely fine, as far as I can see. They are also well-priced and readily available.

I tend to buy Cascades toilet tissue, because I can get it in bulk at Costco and because it is made not so far away in Quebec (in Candiac and Kingsey Falls). With a family of 6 we get through quite a bit, though I do try to persuade the kids to be modest in their use (when I was a kid, we actually used to have `who can use the least toilet paper' contests in our household: we each had a roll and would see how long it lasted...really).

Cascades has an interesting website and eco fact/activity site with a calculator of how many trees/how much water/energy, etc. is saved each year by using recycled toilet tissue. So, say my family uses two rolls per week, over a period of 10 years we will save 2 whole trees and nearly 7,000 litres of water. And if every Canadian were to use just one roll of 100% recycled toilet paper (instead of virgin pulp paper) we would save over 60,000 trees (that's a decent carbon sink).

As always, there are questions as to what percentage recycled content products contain. Cascades has two `grades' of recycled toilet tissue. Enviro premium is made of 100% recycled content (mostly post-consumer fibre, with some post-industrial mixed in) while Enviro ultra is not ultra enviro as it claims only `majority recycled' content. I guess this is `transition' toilet paper for those who have lived a lifetime with super-fluffy products. I have not tried the premium product so cannot say how much softer it really is.

Cascades products are bright white but are bleached with sodium hydrosulphite, a non-chlorine composite that is much less damaging to the environment. The company enjoys a `processed chlorine free' certification.

Loblaws toilet
However, if you do not frequent Costco, you may not find Cascades products (though several supermarket chains do carry them). But store-brands (e.g. President's Choice) and other types (such as Cashmere EnviroCare) are just as good. Just check the recycled content. If you prefer to do that before you head to the store, Greenpeace has helpfully produced a comprehensive information sheet on forest-friendly tissue products in Canada (as of March 2010).

I have also been using - and sending to school - recycled facial tissue for a while now. Actually, I myself hate tissues and usually carry an old-fashioned handkerchief, but the kids seem to be hooked on disposables (which can at least be composted), despite my best efforts.

Finding recycled tissues has been a bit of a challenge. The Cascades brand (which is well-priced) is not widely available and the Seventh Generation product is both more expensive and made in the US (and also not on every shelf).

eco tissue
So imagine my joy, earlier this year, when I spotted someone walking out of my local Metro store clutching a box of eco tissues. The tissues, from Metro's in-house Selection range, have 100% recycled content (no breakdown of fibre source is given), are chlorine-free and I think they are Canadian made. They are priced at a modest $1.29 for a box of 125 tissues (or 6 boxes for $5.79) and the design is even quite attractive.

The only downside is that they are possibly - according to my unscientific test - somewhat less soft than the other recycled brands I have in front of me. But they will do the job just fine, unless you have a really runny and sore nose, in which case I recommend a cotton hanky anyway!

Dual-flush toilets

So, the reason I have not posted anything for a while is that I have been on vacation, visiting friends in France and Switzerland. And the one eco-thing that has made the greatest impression upon me so far is the ubiquity of the dual flush toilet: in homes, in restaurants, in motorway rest stops and in mountain chalets. In fact, I have yet to encounter a "single flush" toilet in my 10 days here.

Most water-efficient toilets in north america use 6 litres (1.6 gallons) which is a lot better than the 13 litres (3.4 gallons) used by older toilets. High efficiency toilets use 4.8 litres (1.28 gallons). Dual flush toilets - which you seldom see back home - use only 3.4 litres (0.9 gallons) for the quick flush and 6 litres for a full flush.

Switching to low-flush toilets is probably the easiest and most painless way to reduce household water use. If you flush 5 times per day (and you will be lucky to find a small kid that flushes this seldom), you can save 35 litres per person per day. Every month you will save a cubic metre of water (which costs about $3 where I live, once you factor in the sewer charge which is calculated as a % of water use). That adds up to savings of $36 per person every year. (And if you choose a dual-flush model you will save an additional 10 litres or so a day or an additional $10 per year).

From the perspective of the planet, using less water is obviouly a good thing. And what many people fail to factor in is the energy costs associated with water use.

In the US the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 3-4% of national energy consumption is used in providing drinking water and wastewater services.

At a municipal level, water and sewerage usually account for about 30-40% of energy use. It is therefore astonishing to me that municipalities have not been more aggressive at promoting the use of high-efficiency or dual-flush toilets in high-flush environments such as restaurants and public washrooms.

Anyway, back to toilets. Some people are nervous about installing low-flush toilets. I have never had a moment of trouble with mine. All the toilets in my house are made by Toto and all work equally well. If you are interested in comparing different Toto models, see (not my sister site, but it could be!).

Sadly I do not have any dual-flush toilets at this point, but I cannot imagne that Toto's models do not work. All the dual-flush toilets I have used over the past 10 days (not Toto but various European manufacturers) work like a treat.
dual flush button

Another brand of dual-flush toilet that gets great reviews is Caroma. Caroma is the dominant Australian toilet manufacturer (that also sells in the US), and if anyone knows about the importance of conserving water it is the Australians.

I would be interested if anyone has any experience with Caroma. You never know when I might need a new toilet.

In the meantime, I will continue to flush my way across Europe and look for other interesting eco products to share with you.
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