Bringing hanky back

Photo by hownowdesign | flickr.com

Photo by hownowdesign | flickr.com

Cold and flu season is upon us! Having had a runny nose for the past few days, I ended up with an accumulation of piles and piles of tissues – all full of snot of course. Two tissue boxes later, I couldn’t help but feel bad for using so many trees, so I decided to relive the days of the ever-so-classy handkerchief.

It seems these days that no one in their right mind would be using one of these. In this case, it appears that germophobia has given the environment a swift defeat. Nowadays, there is a stigma associated with the handkerchief.  Possibly for hygienic reasons – after all, I suppose it wouldn’t be too appealing to carry around a snoot-drenched cloth in your pocket. But it is your snot and it can’t really get you any sicker.

And if you wash your hands after handling it (as you should after you handle a fist full of facial tissues), you shouldn’t be transmitting germs to anyone else either. It folds nicely so that all the snot can be kept on the inside, and it still feels nice on the nose. Use a fresh one each day. Give it a wash with warm water when you’re done with it and pop in the laundry basket at night with your clothes.

It’s practical and you’re doing the forests a favour by ditching the tissue box.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, the wood fibres that are used for disposable tissues come from forests all over the world (Canada, Russia, Latin America, US, South Africa, Asia and Europe). In some of these countries, illegal cutting, social conflicts, and unsustainable practices threaten forest biodiversity as well as human rights.

 In Canada, Kimberly-Clark, the manufacturers of Kleenex use 1.1 million cubic meters of trees/year from Canada’s boreal forests to produce 465,000 metric tons of pulp. Only 19 percent of the pulp it uses to make home use disposable paper products comes from recycled sources.

 This is because tissue manufacturers tend to avoid recycled fibers because they lack in softness and durability. Buying recycled facial tissues from the grocery store is one solution - look for brands like Seventh Generation, 365 (Whole Foods), and other 100% recycled house brands. However, even recycled tissues are single-use (disposable) which means they must be thrown out (hopefully composted!) after use.

 The handkerchief is a better solution.  They can be reused over and over again and can be washed with your clothes.  Therefore, it is unlikely that you will be using any extra energy or water than you are already using (vs. the water and energy used to harvest wood and run pulp and paper mills!).

Give it some thought. Consider taming your runny nose with an old school classic. Save some trees and carry your hanky proudly.