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Can You Spare A Square?

Muppet philosopher, Kermit the Frog, originally decried the difficulty in being green, though I’d bet he wasn’t talking toilet paper. Our triple-layer, super-soft, squeezable, cloud comfort TP, as it turns out, is not environmentally friendly.

The science: Each sheet is a web of wood fibers, and fibers from old trees are longer, which produces a smoother and more supple web, which builds the softer stuff. Fibers made from recycled paper (in this case magazines, newspapers or computer printouts) are shorter; the web is rougher, leaving you with a less comforting creation.

The stat: According to market analysis firm RISI Inc, upwards of 96% of all toilet paper purchased for personal use is taken from newly cut trees – a credit to our ongoing call for a cloud-like experience.

The quote: “That’s a segment [of consumers] that is quite demanding of products that are soft,” says James Malone, a spokesman for the paper-product powerhouse, Georgia-Pacific.

Sales figures support the sound-byte: Quilted Northern Ultra Plush, the three-ply stuff, sold 24 million packages in the past year, bringing in more than $144 million in squeezable sales.

Contrast this with the statistically significant call on the part of consumers to purchase products in the name of green. After all, despite the dismal economic record of 2009, quantitative studies suggest 82% of all people still prefer purchasing green products.

At first glance, the cry to create eco-friendly goods should lead to stronger sales of the scratchier, but eco-sound recycled TP, right? But the danger in dealing solely with statistics is missing the second-level learning – the little truths that come when you peel back posturing.

A voting question can only argue for or against a pre-conceived point; it’s honest conversation which works in the why. In the ongoing quest to understand our consumers, sometimes we need to be a little softer and put comfort first.

As you look at your ‘honey-do’ list for the weekend, don’t forget to include a moment to stop, drop and just be. Happy Columbus Day all!

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