According to the much larger article in New Scientist magazine entitled “Inconspicuous Consumption,” November 28-December 4, 2009, toilet paper comes in many different varieties, from one-ply to three-ply and from those made entirely with new wood and those 100% recycled from paper.
Toilet paper that is recycled entirely from used paper reduces the amount of energy needed, when compared to toilet paper produced from new wood.
The emissions into our environment, such as from carbon dioxide (CO2), are also reduced with the use of recycled toilet paper.
According to the New Scientist story, one kilogram of recycled toilet paper saves about 30 liters of water and between three and four kilowatt-hours of electricity, over the same mass of toilet paper made from new wood.
The article states, “Since 1 kilowatt-hour of grid electricity is responsible for around 500 grams of CO2, that means a saving of 1.5 to 2 tonnes of CO2 per tonne of tissue.”
People around the world use different amounts of recycled toilet paper. For instance, in Latin American and European countries, about one in five rolls of toilet paper are made from 100% recycled paper. In the United States, the ratio is only one in 50 rolls.
The environmental organization Greenpeace is mentioned in the New Scientist article as saying that the use of new wood for the production of toilet paper “… puts additional logging pressure on old-growth forest in North America, forests which play a vital role in supporting native biodiversity.”
Page two talks about softness in the different varieties of toilet paper, along with external links to additional information on the "greeness" of your toilet paper.
However, on the other side of the toilet-paper picture, the use of recycled toilet paper means that your bottom will not get the softest of the fibers within the toilet paper.
Often times, toilet paper companies will add new wood to paper when they make toilet paper to increase its softness. In these cases, the toilet paper is made up of a certain percentage of new wood (say, 50%) and a percentage (50%) of recycled papers.
To learn more about recycled toilet paper, please read the May 2009 Consumer Report’s magazine article “Toilet paper,” from the United States.
In the United Kingdom, the EthicalConsumer.org’s article “Buyer’s Guide to Toilet Paper” is informative and interesting reading.
You can also learn more about the softness of toilet paper in the FastCompany.com article “Green Toilet Paper Buying Guide: Be Kind to Your Behind vs. Hug a Tree?”
The article includes a “Recycled Tissue and Toilet Paper Guide” of about 100 different brands, brought to you by Greenpeace.
It guide states, “Americans could save more than 400,000 trees if each family bought a roll of recycled toilet paper—just once.”
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) article “A Shopper's Guide to Home Tissue Products” also provides valuable information on facial tissue, toilet paper, napkins, and paper towels.
The New Scientist article "Five eco-crimes we commit every day" can be read in more detail on the Web, which includes information on coffee, toilet paper, laundry, food wastage, and gas-guzzling gadgets.