“Figures don’t lie but liars figure” is a piece of modern wisdom passed on through the pen of Mark Twain. I wonder what he would say about our modern world today? There are no lack of ironies so I suppose he would have a great time. Let’s see if some tissue statistics point to some.
The average tree weighs over 1000 lbs and produces about 800 rolls of toilet paper. Seems like a lot but is it? The average person uses about a roll per week so this is a fifteen year supply. Toilet paper is about half of the tissue we use at home so that big tree would supply about 7.5 years of a person’s tissue needs.
If you are like most people you don’t live alone. The average household in the US is 2.6 people. Hmm. That tree is now only good for about 2.8 years. Still a lot, however, don’t we also use trees to make paper? Well, yes. 36% of harvested wood is used for paper every year. 25% of that is tissue so now that big tree is used up in 8 months in the form of newspaper, wrapping paper, toilet paper, facial tissue, envelopes, stamps, junk mail, political mailers, cardboard boxes from Amazon, paper grocery bags, the stiff backings of vacuum packs on products from the hardware store and well, you get the idea.
Most of this stuff is used and thrown out immediately (or recycled, hopefully). Half of paper is recycled. Half. That’s actually a good number and we should pause to congratulate ourselves on making a sizable dent in paper consumption. Go world!
What about the other half you say? Well, some of it gets mucked up with food and can’t be recycled. The rest is either just thrown out due to lack of discipline in the recycle chain or its tissue.
If you were paying close attention and like to do math in your head you probably calculated back a few paragraphs ago what the percentage of harvested wood is tissue. For the rest of us it’s 8%. 8.8%, actually, and none of it is recyclable. Nobody wants to extract picked up spills from paper towels, God knows what from facial tissues and you know what from toilet paper. And who would use it? Not me.
Why is this 8.8% important? Good question. The answer is because it is a heck of a lot of trees. National Geographic estimates that tissue production is responsible for the cutting of 270,000 trees a day or about 100 million trees per year. A healthy forest has about 50 trees per acre so this is about 2 million acres of trees per year. That’s 3125 square miles. Since the gold standard for comparing large areas is Rhode Island this is a little less than 3 Rhode Islands. By the way, I want to suggest we make the “Rhode Island” a standard unit of measure (1,212 sq mi). We always end up comparing against it so why not just embrace it from the start?
All of our tissue products are made from bamboo and sugarcane. Buy tissue products (from us please!) and we can save 3 Rhode Islands of forest per year. Seriously, this is a lot of harvested trees saved every year… and I ain’t lyin!