Toilet Paper (from trees) is back in the Headlines. ‘Is Wiping our Bottoms Wiping out Forests?’

Back’side’ to the Future | Trees or Bamboo?

Toilet Paper: It’s not (as the panic buying highlighted) about shortage. It’s about sustainability.

When you wipe your bottom you may be unintentionally wiping out forests. In last week’s post we wrote about supporting renewable energy that protects our world. The focus was on Biogas as a sustainable energy source, using cattle poop mixed with food waste as the basis of our article. However, fortunately cows don’t use toilet paper/tissue as do such an increasing percentage of the human race. The reason we mention it is the world’s biggest manufacturers use a lot of trees and a lot of water to make toilet tissue. We’ve all been made aware of, and many countries are beginning to react about, the destructive use of plastics which are proven to be damaging to both land and sea. But, why would we necessarily think that toilet tissue, ‘That flush-away daily cleanser we simply pop in the toilet and it disappears,‘ would be anything for us to be remotely concerned about?

Meanwhile, the Amazon burns and Forests are being cut down at an Alarming Rate. The really important issue here (rather than the recent occurrence of toilet paper panic buying) as WHO recently pointed out, is ‘The world has lost 178 million hectares of forest since 1990.’ That’s seven times the area of the UK! With that staggering statistic in mind – add to that how much devastation can be historically, and presently, aligned to cutting down trees for toilet paper production (let alone the amount of water and chemicals used in the process.) We can clearly see that we have reached a crisis point in regards to the impact on our forests, the amazon and our planet. This leads us onto the introduction (if you’d not heard of them already) to an organisation that is kicking up about the use of trees for TP [toilet paper] and we wanted to give that some publicity and their findings an airing…

Trees or Bamboo… and gallons of water too! In this brief article we have no intention of sending you to sleep with reams of information, facts and figures, but we wanted to flag up a few things that may be of interest, or an influence on your choice of which toilet tissue and certain other products to use [e.g. kitchen towel, face tissues, and even wet wipes.] As a comparison, let’s take a quick look at the key ‘need to knows‘ regarding toilet paper/tissue and the advantages of bamboo for sustainability and similarly the environment. We’re focussing on ‘Bamboo vs Trees.’ But in regard to their importance on earth – Trees are essential for our planet and exactly why they have to be saved and protected, not used for toilet paper. Trees are vital, as the biggest plants on the planet they give us oxygen, store carbon, stabilise the soil and give life to the world’s wildlife.

‘Bamboo instead of Trees for Balanced Sustainability. The Benefits.’ Bamboo is a very fast growing, renewable and an easy-to-grow resource. It is an extremely versatile material with countless uses, including; construction, clothes, food and fuel. Bamboo shoots are used in Asian food preparations and in Japan, the antioxidant properties of bamboo skin can prevent bacterial growth and are used as natural food preservatives. Bamboo is well-known for being a Panda’s favourite meal. No fertiliser, pesticides, or herbicides are needed for them to grow, as unlike most crops bamboo requires no agricultural chemicals to thrive. Bamboo absorbs carbon dioxide and releases 35% more oxygen into the atmosphere, more than a similar community of trees. The list is endless and the more we learn about bamboo it’s obvious as to why, ‘it’s a true miracle of nature.

The Natural Resources Defense Council [NRDC] are moving and shaking regarding TP from trees, as it’s not on most peoples radar or list of priorities, but ought to be. A number of you in the know may be following Shelley Vinyard from the NRDC, a campaign expert who has written many articles on the subject of boreal forests. Shelley provides a clear and well-researched view. For further reading, and to expand on the focal points we’ve made above, here are a few sources of useful information from NRDC to check out: ‘All Your Questions About Toilet Paper Answered‘ from June 24 2020, ‘The Issue with Tissue.’ Another useful resource is Mongabay who frequently comment on deforestation with their, ‘News and Inspiration from Nature’s Frontline.’

Is Bamboo the New You? or ‘What’s the most climate-friendly tissue paper for you and our planet.’ By way of an introduction. To find out about the hottest new influencers in the world of bamboo toilet tissue and our more eco-friendly household products + where you can buy them – here’s a list of links to just a few of the many game-changers (in no particular order) to get you started. Each offering alternates to TP from Trees [availability of brand may depend on your location]:

The Cheeky PandaWho Gives a CrapBumbooCabooNo. 2ReelTushyBim Bam BooPurePlanetClubSilknSoft

We’ll leave you with a few last thoughts to ensure we protect this precious asset. ‘How can we harvest bamboo in sustainable ways to save the bamboo eco-system, to plan not only a scientific but also a holistic approach to bamboo cultivation? Also, the impact of industry on the biodiversity, local peoples lives and those animals for whom it’s their home? These questions are crucial if we are to build a sustainable future and long-term access to Bamboo, an important resource but that, in harvesting it, we don’t destroy it as a habitat, or ignore its value as continuing climate change reboots the natural order.‘ This is a subject we’re going to return to, if you have any comments or want to tell us about your experience with bamboo and or sustainable toilet paper please get in touch. We’ll be back next week…

‘Six Million Chickens.’ As Tonga’s Minister of Agriculture aims to produce electricity from poultry manure. We learn about ‘The How’… from a Cow.

Companies like Vanguard Renewables are key to the future of our communities and Planet Earth.

The Potential of Poop. How to harness the powers of poop has been a topic of conversation for centuries, and although animal waste has been used as a form of agricultural fertiliser there’s a lot more waste (manure) these days and its use as an energy resource is a brilliant solution. It’s been gathering pace in Europe for over 10 years and over time around the world. One thing’s for sure, that it impacts our entire planet, our present, our future, and by default, ourselves. Today there’s a world of difference and plenty of new challenges in addressing an age-old problem. Forward thinking companies, farmers and governments have been figuring out and implementing clever solutions for the, ‘what to do… with so much poo?’ The benefits for you and I? More natural fertilisers mean more natural and nourishing crops, there’s a better use of our growing mountains of food waste, less landfill and turning animal poop into renewable energy helps reduce the planet’s greenhouse gases.

Redefining the Best Renewable Energy Resource. Although Solar power, Hydropower, Geothermal and Wind Power are perhaps the more familiar renewable energy sources. Bio-Power as a renewable energy source has recently been getting more and more attention. By comparison it has greater benefits for planet earth and its inhabitants as it uses waste. Manure and food waste provide a constant natural flow of ‘fuel’, and therefore a 24/7/365 solution. In other words it’s a resource that’s not dependent on the whim of the elements, sun, air, water nor digging up the planet to dip into its natural resources.

Bio-Power: Although we’re taking a look at an American company this week to tell the story, European countries have been on this for some while. Germany being by far the largest biogas producing country in the EU (over 10,000 plants (and the UK taking second place (1,000) (IEA Bioenergy.) But there’s a wide-ranging presence in numerous countries worldwide [WBA.] For example, the Chinese government’s recent development plan for biogas plant deployment is aiming for over 3,000 large-scale plants across China. Getting back to the subject of manure and just how much of it there is, according to ciwf.org and Statista: In the USA alone there are just over 9 million dairy cows (2 million in the UK) Europe 24 million, India has the greatest number iro 58 million and total worldwide figure is iro 100 million cattle.

The logistical challenges are a part of the collective thinking with that amount of manure, added to which, all of the burps and farts that are releasing methane into the atmosphere, are producing a potent greenhouse gas (approximately 30 times more powerful than carbon dioxide.) According to National Geographic, ‘About 20% of the warming the planet has experienced can be attributed to the gas.’ In case you’re wondering, we’re not going to start ‘counting our chickens’ in this particular post, cow poop is a perfect example in itself!

Greenhouse Gases. There are ways that destructive greenhouse gases (that would be escaping into the atmosphere) can be put to good use. By mixing manure (there’s plenty) with food waste (btw, much of our food waste fits the profile) in ‘digesters’ which can be used to produce natural gas. It’s an obvious expense to set up initially and to manage on an ongoing basis, but it offers a win-win for all. Tonnes of manure can be taken care of when, with clever logistical planning, it’s mixed with ground food waste from grocery shops, schools, restaurants, breweries etc. (ordinarily put into landfill.) The food waste once collected, is ground down and turned to slurry, then used in combination with manure to create (useful) methane.

Anaerobic Digesters. In simple terms that waste that is then processed in anaerobic digesters (i.e. with an absence of oxygen.) Biogas plants rely on anaerobic digestion, a fermentation process in which waste is digested by microbes to produce methane gas (biogas). The same process you or I, might use to make fermented sourdough, sauerkraut, kimchi and suchlike (yep, we make all of that stuff at home) and it’s all great for your digestive system, but we digress. To quote Power Technology, ‘The combined waste can be converted into biofertiliser and spread directly onto fields, or the biogas itself can be used interchangeably with natural gas as fuel. In other words, it can capture the methane emissions and be used to make renewable energy.’ In turn that can be partly used, for example, to power the farm where the digester is located, and the rest can then return an income by being fed into the national grid. The whole set up is more sustainable, environmentally friendly and certainly economically savvy.

Poop and Food Waste is Lighting up the World. Unsurprisingly from what we’ve written, so far in the USA (as is the case elsewhere in the world), there’s been a great deal of attention and enthusiasm about all this. A company called Vanguard Renewables are the leading the way for dairy waste and FoodWaste, organic food waste-to-renewable energy. in the north-east. Within just 5 sites, they are already recycling approximately 200,000 tons of on-farm and off-farm organics per year. As pictures speak louder than words, take a look at this ‘easy on the eye’ explanatory infographic and the youtube clip below:

Let’s put that in 3D – click here to see how it looks in situ!

Here’s a quote we received from John Hanselman, Chairman and CEO, Vanguard Renewables:

Dairy farmers are under huge pressure, and this thought that we can take their farm manure and combine it with recycled food waste, power the farm, send power to the grid or the renewable natural gas pipeline, and then power the farm’s survival, for me, is one of the best things that we do,” John Hanselman, Chairman and CEO of Vanguard Renewables said. “When Vanguard Renewables began, we saw ourselves as a renewable energy company that happened to be located on farms. We had that wrong. We’re actually a farm-based dairy manure and food waste recycling company that happens to make renewable energy.

Food Waste is Fuel. So before we wrap up on this topic we hope to have at least put this growing solution to a major problem on your radar.’ In a nutshell anaerobic digesters; reduce greenhouse gases, provide intelligent food waste recycling, create more natural fertilisers, support renewable energy, improve waste [manure] management, reduce landfill, reduce overheads at farms, and provide energy for the national grids and local communities. Bloomberg ran an article last week that perfectly illustrates many of those benefits as, ‘Millions of gallons of stale beer became a hangover from lockdown.’ Although as Power Technology reports, ‘Biogas production is not suitable for every location. As larger production relies on an abundant supply of waste manure or crop materials,‘ in other words it’s not so practical in urban areas and there are other small ‘corrections and improvements’ being made along the way, any of which are far outweighed by the list of benefits.

The Winds of Change. However, we feel that investment in Anaerobic Digesters for renewable energy vs Wind Turbines and Solar should be a strong if not the leading contender. First, wind only produces electricity, whereas digesters are three-fold, they can produce either renewable electricity or renewable natural gas, but also agricultural fertiliser. Digesters offer so much more in terms of environmental benefits. Also, importantly, digesters operate 24/7/365 and are not dependent on the wind (or the sun in the case of solar) so it’s a consistent renewable energy production. In the case of on-farm digesters, they help support farms that need a diversified income source to survive. Finally, food waste is such a huge issue [30%+ of food is never eaten] and of equal significance is food waste diversion from landfills. All of which should be,A big motivator for governments (as many have already) to be supportive of anaerobic digesters and schemes to facilitate their large-scale deployment.’

So far, as Power Technology pointed out… ‘investment into the sector is not particularly popular with certain governments, which are instead putting money into the more developed alternatives of wind and solar.’ We’re hoping ‘the winds of change’ will favour digesters, biogas and biomethane, as a global ambition and global solution in the near future – with climate change acting as a key driver. As a closing question on which to ponder, could it be that the likes of certain other renewable energy companies, are the ones that are actually… our biggest ‘waste’ product?

Please Note: This article is a personal take on Renewable Energy, ‘an introduction to the process and its potential.’ For more detailed research data and information, and/or to check the accuracy of any aspect of our post, there are links above, and any number of open resources to which you can refer. We’ll be back again next week.

Additional Related Press Article: ‘Warren Buffett & Pig Poop: Unpacking The Blockbuster Dominion Energy Pipeline Deal’ published 9th July 2020 by Steve Hanley for Clean Technica. YouTube RNG Also, worth checking out are TO-SYN-FUEL who demonstrate the production of Synthetic Fuels and Green Hydrogen from organic waste biomass, mainly sewage sludge.