Environmental Protests Against P&G Toilet Paper Continue; 'Santa' Arrested

The demonstration was the latest in a series organized by the National Resources Defense Council and Stand.earth — with the help of local activists — around deforestation the environmental groups say Charmin bath tissue contributes to.

click to enlarge Protesters outside P&G headquarters in downtown Cincinnati - Nick Swartsell
Nick Swartsell
Protesters outside P&G headquarters in downtown Cincinnati

Dressed as elves and reindeer and singing Christmas carols mocking Procter & Gamble's Charmin brand toilet paper, roughly two dozen local and out-of-town environmental activists assembled downtown today to protest the use of Canadian forests for the production of P&G's bath tissue.

P&G has said it takes sustainability seriously and has made efforts to ethically source material for its products.

Before the protest was over, a North Carolina man dressed as Santa Claus ended up in handcuffs facing misdemeanor charges he trespassed on P&G property as he attempted to deliver 100 pounds of coal to company leadership.

Police arrested David Freeman when he attempted to enter the company's lobby about an hour after the start of the protest, which involved elves, reindeer and Santa marching around P&G's downtown headquarters singing parodies of "The 12 Days of Christmas" and "Santa Claus is Coming to Town." 

No other demonstrators were arrested. Cincinnati Police tweeted about the incident.

"@ChiefEIsaac confirms that @CincyPD arrested an impostor Santa today," CPD tweeted from its official account. The City of Cincinnati retweeted the tweet. "Everyone knows the real Santa’s address is the North Pole, not Siler City North Carolina #FakeSanta #BadElfsBadElfsWatchaGonnaDo."

click to enlarge A protester dressed as Santa Claus was arrested at a demonstration against P&G Dec. 5. - Stand.earth
A protester dressed as Santa Claus was arrested at a demonstration against P&G Dec. 5.

The demonstration was the latest in a series organized by the National Resources Defense Council and Stand.earth with the help of local activists. 

Protesters gathered outside the company's headquarters on Halloween dressed as grim reapers, priests and dead caribou bearing tombstones with messages like "RIP Forests." 

Earlier that month, two activists stood silently with signs inside P&G's annual shareholders meeting as another two dozen protested outside. 

NRDC in February gave Charmin the lowest possible rating in a report called "The Issue With Tissue." The environmental group said Charmin received its "F" grade because it is made with virgin, non-recycled fibers from trees it says are often clear-cut from places like the Canadian boreal forest, one of the largest in the world. 

Scientists say the forest, one of the last intact old-growth forests in the world, helps sequester carbon, which, when released via the burning of fossil fuels and other materials, contributes greatly to the earth's ongoing climate change. Large forests like the Canadian boreal can absorb some of those emissions — as long as they're not cut down.

"Because the Canadian government claims that only 0.02% of Canadian forestry results in deforestation, companies that purchase boreal wood products from Canada have been led to believe that Canadian forestry practices are sustainable and deforestation-free," Stand.earth said in a statement today. "This myth further incentivizes companies that have committed not to contribute to deforestation through their supply chain to choose Canada for their wood fiber needs."

NRDC also highlights the impacts clear-cutting has on indigenous communities, which continue to rely on the boreal forests. 

The Canadian government says the country has lost roughly 1.2 million hectacres of forest since 1990, but points out that that is a small percentage of the country's 347 million hectacres of overall forest. A report by the government does acknowledge that caribou herds in some parts of the country have been reduced to "unsustainable" levels by "natural and human-caused habitat loss," however.

While protesters were chanting outside P&G's shareholder meeting in October, P&G CEO David Taylor told roughly 200 shareholders in attendance about efforts the company has made on environmental issues. 

P&G has said it has met with the NRDC and Stand.earth to try and come to agreements about new environmental commitments it can make. The company says that it replaces each tree it cuts down with at least one new tree, has helped replant 2 million trees destroyed by the California wildfires this year, has invested heavily in research strengthening the fibers making up its toilet papers so that people can use less and has continued to research fibers not derived from trees and those from fast-growing varieties of trees certified by environmental organizations. 

NRDC and local activists, however, say that the company isn't doing enough, that other toilet papers don't use the virgin tree fibers made from old-growth forests and that Charmin should follow suit. Charmin, along with other popular brands like Quilted Northern and Angel Soft, received "F" ratings in the NRDC report. Meanwhile, some brands using recycled elements — like 365, Green Forest, Natural Value and Seventh Generation — received "A" grades.

"Procter & Gamble's Charmin toilet paper is from 100 percent fresh-cut trees," Stand.earth climate campaigner Mary Zeiser said at the protest today. "Toilet paper shouldn't be made from trees, especially critical forests like the boreal forests in Canada. What a waste. It doesn't have to be this way. Toilet paper can be made from sustainable fiber like recycled content or bamboo." 

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