Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Saving trees or softer touch for the butt?

It seems that this is the question consumers have to ask themselves if they're considering using toilet paper made of 100% recycled paper. You can guess the answer most of us will give..

The New York Times had an interesting article today on Marcal Small Steps, a company that is selling for 60 years toilet paper that as they say is made 'from paper, not from trees'.

They have now a new marketing campaign and it seems that they're doing well - in any case, much better than the market in general.
But they still have a very small market share in paper product categories ("low single digits"). The reason? Their products are not soft enough for the American consumer.

There is some trade-off here and no matter what the reason is (Darby Hoover of NRDC suggest it's "decades of advertising promoting softness"), most of the consumers will prefer to wipe their tooshie with a softer paper even if it comes on the account of trees.
Trade-off has always been an obstacle in the efforts to green up consumers' behavior. It is very unfortunate, but we have to face reality and think what can be done to get more green paper products purchased.

Right now, according to NRDC, just 10% of the paper products for home contain recycled content. This is very low. Too low.
Some companies look for middle ground, like Kimberly-Clark (remember their new relationship / partnership with Greenpeace?) that is selling Scott Naturals’ products, which are "only partly made of recycled content, with the toilet paper using the least at 40 percent and napkins the most at 80 percent."

Aric Melzl, senior brand manager for Scott explained on the article that “you can have a product that’s 100 percent recycled with a smaller following or you can have Scott Naturals, where you choose to deliver the quality that folks are expecting with more mass appeal and a bigger business and more impact on the environment than a business that has a smaller following."

He definitely has a point and this is a good way to convert consumers gradually to use greener products, but this is still a partial solution. The other part that I'm missing here is innovation - Can't we really find a way to make sure there won't be any trade-off at all?

I mean, in a day like this, when we are so happy to see the rescue of the 33 Chilean miners, you wonder how we know can save miners captured 2,000 feet below the ground, but have no idea how to make toilet paper from recycled paper that will be soft enough for the American tooshie? (by the way, does anyone know what toilet paper the miners used on the last 69 days?)

Raz @ Eco-Libris

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