Hot Ashes For Trees

I am Queen of Beverages. I have them all. Sitting next to me at my desk, I have a can of V8, which I love with my whole black heart. Recently, I was walking through Costco looking for a bale of cat litter and in the next aisle I saw a flat of V8 juice, and I thought, ‘Of all dumb things, why am I denying myself the delicious vegetable juice? It’s not – like – tequila and a five gallon tub of Heath Bar Crunch.’ So I bought it. My can of juice is about half empty. It’s next to a Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey travel cup I’ve drunk coffee out of at the office since Miss Sasha was even teenier than she is at full adult size. The travel mug was not a hit in my last office, where my co-workers felt it was inadequately adult, but that’s nothing next to the 1-pint Wesson oil measuring cup full of cooling Earl Grey tea. I used to sit at staff meetings and slurp just to annoy the Grown Ups. I hate slurping. It is no surprise that my popularity suffered a slight dip along the lines of those suffered by persons on their way to Medieval public executions.

About the bale of cat litter: the giant bag boasts, “Lasts as long as 58 pounds!” This provides us a new measure of time: The Litter Scale. If 5 lbs. of cat litter lasts 1 week before it must be disposed of with great vehemence, 58 lbs. would represent the passage of 11.6 weeks tolerably stinky weeks. I don’t think this will replace my Giovanni Paolo II calendar but if Larry, the little black cat bent on stealing your soul, would cross his legs and hold it once in a while, I could buy bales of cat litter on a more or less quarterly basis. Some sacrifices are worth it.

A friend forwards the URLs of interesting news stories, usually with a one-word reference. This one was called Paper.

The topic can be delicate: what to wipe our hands, noses and, yup, rear ends with when the need arises. With Earth Day celebrated this Saturday, environmental groups are asking Americans to switch to recycled paper towels, napkins, tissue paper and toilet paper as a way to save virgin forests and the wildlife they shelter – even if it means a slightly rough touch on the backside.

Ain’t that a kick in the pants! Wait – he doesn’t mean recycling toilet paper, does he? After it turns out he does not, I stop chanting my new mantra, “Ew…ew…ew…” and read on. Author Miguel Llanos holds his (presumably biodegradable) cards close to his vest through the first third of the article, then gets down to – pardon me – business.

Seventh Generation, one of the largest recycled producers, estimates that:
* One million trees would be saved if every U.S. household replaced just one 250-count package of virgin fiber napkins with 100 percent recycled ones.
* 544,000 trees would be saved by replacing a 70-sheet roll of virgin fiber paper towels.
* 424,000 trees would be spared by replacing a 500-sheet roll of virgin fiber toilet paper.
* 170,000 trees would be saved by replacing one 175-count box of virgin fiber facial tissue.

Hundreds of thousands of trees? I don’t need to hear another word – and yet, the article goes on.

Paper industry giants like Kimberly-Clark, which makes Kleenex, dismiss the campaign on several grounds.

Most of its products are made with sawdust and wood chips left over by the timber industry, Kimberly-Clark says, and consumers have already decided that you can’t beat virgin fiber for softness.

“The options are out there for consumers,” says Kimberly-Clark spokesman Dave Dickson, referring to the fact that recycled products are on store shelves but have only won a 2 percent share of the market. “They have voiced their preferences through their purchases.”

Even though most hotels and offices use paper with 40 percent to 60 percent recycled content, Kimberly-Clark believes that consumers would rebel at even adding a small percentage of recycled fiber to home products, Dickson says.

Come to think of it, I don’t remember seeing recycled products in the paper aisles. At least, I don’t remember recognizing specifically recycled products. I don’t use tissues because everything I own has sleeves – kidding! Paper towels work better for me and efficiently exfoliate the tender nostrils at the same time. Yes, I’m a brute. I use regular kitchen towels, sponges and mops most of the time but for what I use paper towels, I could switch to recycled. In fact, bring it on! Llanos enlisted his family in comparison tests:

Toilet paper: Here too, my wife and daughter were quick to pick the non-recycled brand out of the five tested. Gabriela had one word for her favorite: “Beautiful.” In equally dramatic fashion, Alexis worried about getting paper cuts from the recycled brands. I agreed the non-recycled brand was softer in one’s hand, but insisted it made no difference on the receiving end of the transaction. We did agree on one thing: Every recycled brand, all of which were double ply, beat the single-ply paper we’ve been using in our guest bathroom.

Eek! They must not like their guests much. I hope they didn’t skimp on the soap.

Next time I’m in the store, I’ll forage for recycled paper towels and see about the toilet paper. On that point, I’m a little less certain. I mean, really. Paper cuts on my sweet patootie are a sacrifice too far.

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