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You may be cleaning up in the bathroom using an old-growth tree

Gerald Porter Jr.
Bloomberg

With everyone spending more time at home, demand for residential toilet paper is way up. That’s bad news for the world’s oldest forests.

Unlike the industrial rolls found in many offices and restaurants, the cushy TP Americans love for their own bathrooms is made almost entirely of trees cut from virgin forests.

A customer, wearing a protective face mask, places a package of toilet paper into his cart while shopping at a Super H mart grocery store in Niles, Ill., Thursday, March 26, 2020.

Procter & Gamble Co. – maker of Charmin, the country’s most popular brand – has defended the practice in part by saying it plants a tree for every one it cuts down. It also pays to protect trees in other parts of the world as a way of offsetting some of its greenhouse gas emissions.

But carbon accounting isn’t that simple. Forests store carbon in the soil, not just in trees, and that isn’t so easily replaced.

A rundown of how the major manufacturers treat their trees:

Procter & Gamble

Brand: Charmin

Made from virgin forest? Yes

Replants trees? Yes, 1:1

Buys carbon offsets? Yes, but not to cover emissions from TP

The company says: "Every decision we make is guided by what’s best for consumers and the environment. P&G has committed to using recycled fibers where it can have the most benefit for our consumers." – P&G spokesperson

Unilever

Brand: Seventh Generation

Made from virgin forest? No

Replants trees? N/A

Buys carbon offsets? No

The company says: "There is no reason to cut down trees and invest other resources to produce tissue paper products that are used once and discarded." – Martin Wolf, Seventh Generation director of sustainability and authenticity

Georgia-Pacific

Brand: Angel Soft

Made from virgin forest? Yes

Replants trees? Yes, 1:1

Buys carbon offsets? No

Brand: Quilted Northern Made from virgin forest? Yes

Replants trees? Yes, 1:1 for all, except 1:3 for EcoComfort subbrand

Buys carbon offsets? No

Brand: Aria

Made from virgin forest? Yes

Replants trees? Yes, 1:3

Buys carbon offsets? No

The company says: "Though our business requires the use of this natural resource, we are committed to helping maintain healthy forests now and into the future by using resources more efficiently by sourcing responsibly, protecting endangered forests and special areas, and supporting wildlife conservation and biodiversity." – Georgia-Pacific spokesperson Eric Abercrombie

Kimberly-Clark

Brand: Scott

Made from virgin forest? Yes

Replants trees? Didn’t respond

Buys carbon offsets? No

Brand: Cottonelle

Made from virgin forest? Yes

Replants trees? Didn’t respond

Buys carbon offsets? No

The company says: Didn’t respond

Amazon.com

Brand: Presto

Made from virgin forest? Yes

Replants trees? No

Buys carbon offsets? Not yet, but eventually, as part of its plan to reach net-zero emissions by 2040

Brand: Solimo

Made from virgin forest? Yes

Replants trees? No

Buys carbon offsets? Not yet, but eventually, as part of its plan to reach net-zero emissions by 2040

The company says: "We support nature-based solutions, which refer to conservation, restoration, and improved land management actions that increase carbon storage or avoid greenhouse gas emissions in forests, wetlands, and grasslands across the globe." – Amazon spokesperson

Target

Brand: Up & Up

Made from virgin forest? Yes

Replants trees? Yes, but wouldn’t say how many

Buys carbon offsets? Yes

Brand: Everspring

Made from virgin forest? No

Replants trees? N/A

Buys carbon offsets? Yes

The company says: "Target is committed to sourcing wood-based products from well-managed forests to avoid contributing to deforestation or forest degradation." – Target spokesperson Shane Kitzman

Costco

Brand: Kirkland

Made from virgin forest? Yes

Replants trees? No

Buys carbon offsets? No

The company says: Declined to comment