Enviro TP by the numbers

You'd think buying toilet paper and other household paper products would be pretty simple. But it's not.

Many toilet papers are made with "virgin" fibers — stuff directly from trees. So the obvious choice for someone who wants something greener is to buy products made from recycled fibers.

Environmentalists also say it's good to avoid chlorine bleaching and other chemicals.

The problem is that you can't always tell.

The makers of Small Steps paper goods recently announced their products will begin carrying an "environmental facts panel" on each package. It would be similar to the panels that describe the nutritional content of foods.

What the label doesn't show, however, is what kind of recycled paper is used in their products. This is an important distinction to some.

"Recycled" is a term that can apply to the paper made from the newspapers, magazines and other paper collected in blue bins at curbside.

This is called "post-consumer" and is considered the greener kind of recycled. The term also can apply to what's leftover on, say, rolls of printing paper. Or the paper left over from manufacturing envelopes. This is called "post-industrial."

Alas, it's probably too complicated for a company to go into on a label, and too off-putting for all but the most assiduous consumers to pay attention to.

So cheers for Small Steps for taking this additional step toward consumer education and awareness.

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