Decadence in the bathroom, and why it hurts trees

Not only do we drive cars that burn dead dinosaurs in order to travel distances less than one mile; not only do we scream if the air temperature in our houses dips below 65 or climbs above 75; we also, apparently, have such tender bums that we are willing to sacrifice 200-year-old trees so as not to irritate the zones in question.

This according to the New York Times, which details here the American "obsession" (their word) with soft toilet paper. It seems that while the hardy and sensible Europeans are content to use a strip of bark or some equally non-silky substance, the Yank is a more sensitive creature, and as a nation we have driven the creation of fluffy, ethereal toilet-paper brands like Charmin Ultra.

You can read more at the Times’ site about the forestry practices that are required to produce these cloudlike rolls, as well as how environmental groups are stepping up efforts to change the national view of fluffy toilet paper. Just as we now look at incandescent light bulbs and think "wasteful," we are supposed to look at soft TP and think "dead Canadian tree that predated Lincoln."

Whole Foods and Harris Teeter, by the way, both carry perfectly comfy brands that are 100 percent recycled. But I’m more interested in the fact that here, again, is the basic question: What is the price of our quest for the perfect—i.e., pain-free—life? When is the pursuit of happiness reasonable and good, and when does it cross the line and become self-defeating? (If all the old-growth trees are gone, I for one will consider my life diminished.) And what can we ask people to sacrifice?

People have different answers to these questions. I do not buy paper towels, because I think they’re unnecessary, but certain members of my family find this certifiably insane. What have you given up for the planet? What do you miss or not miss? And where do you weigh in on the great toilet paper question?


Posted In:     Uncategorized

Previous Post


Next Post

Credit cads

Our comments system is designed to foster a lively debate of ideas, offer a forum for the exchange of ad hoc information, and solicit honest, respectful feedback about the work we do. We’re glad you’re participating. Here are a few simple rules to follow, which should be relatively straightforward.

1) Don’t call people names or accuse them of things you cannot support.
2) Don’t direct foul language, racial slurs, or offensive terms at other commenters or our staff.
3) Don’t use the discussion on our site for commercial (or shameless personal) promotion.

We reserve the right to remove posts and ban commenters who violate any of the rules listed above, or the spirit of the discussion. We’re trying to create a safe space for a wide range of people to express themselves, and we believe that goal can only be achieved through thoughtful, sensitive editorial control.

If you have questions or comments about our policies or about a specific post, please send an e-mail to

Leave a Reply

Notify of