13 Ecology Ablazingly

Replace Tissues with Handkerchiefs

woman using handkerchief

I am always looking for new ways to live a greener lifestyle, although some of the habits I have adopted (or am trying to adopt) are unpopular – even considered extreme. One of the more recent consumer goods I have all but completely dismissed is the facial tissue. Although I historically have gone through dozens of boxes a year, my recent switch to handkerchiefs has decreased my tissue usage to little more than what I need for my husband and guests.

I have to admit, when I first made this change, I was a bit tentative in public. However, on a recent trip I was encouraged and validated to see several other women using handkerchiefs rather than single-use tissues. Here’s why this makes so much sense.

Handkerchiefs are Cheaper than Tissues

Before I made the switch, I easily went through one box of tissues a week. At an average cost of $2.25 per box, that’s $117 a year. Inexpensive handkerchiefs cost about 70 cents each. Two a day for two weeks – a total of 28 – are enough to get me through until I do laundry. That’s $19.60. And because they will last for more than a year, the savings are quite substantial.

Handkerchiefs are Better for the Environment

Facial tissues are a wood product, and of course, wood comes from trees. Once the trees are cut, they must be transported to the factories, and that transportation burns a substantial amount of fossil fuel. Next, the processing and manufacturing process burns even more fuel, while at the same time releases noxious gasses and pollutes our air. Since there are now fewer trees to absorb the carbon dioxide from these processes, this air pollution has a compound effect.

Once the tissues are produced, they must be packaged – using more wood, as well as plastic – which releases even more pollution. From here they are transported yet again to distribution warehouses, and finally to individual stores. Once used, tissues are discarded, often in plastic bags, and transported (again) to a land fill where they will litter our landscape before they finally biodegrade.

But what about germs?

One of the first things I hear when I speak to people about using handkerchiefs is, “Yuck – that’s so gross.” Actually, it really isn’t. I find that my hands (and face) stay much drier and cleaner when using a handkerchief than when using facial tissues. You obviously should not share your used handkerchief with others, and good handwashing practices are a must regardless of which product you choose. As a matter of fact, the Centers for Disease Control specifically mention handkerchief use in their handwashing guidelines, where they put handkerchiefs in the same category as single-use tissues.

Be a trend setter

Regardless of whether you swear off tissues completely or just start carrying a handkerchief in your purse or pocket for emergencies, you’ll be part of a fast-growing trend which contributes to the environmental health of our planet.

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