[KEEN TO BE GREEN] Some Issues with Tissues

Meher McArthur

My son and I recently had a miserable head cold that caused us to blow our noses constantly. Out of habit, I rushed to the drug store to buy paper tissues. After a few days, however, I was horrified at the quantity of scrunched-up paper tissues filling our trash cans and being scattered all over the house by our puppy, who loves pulling things out of the trash and ripping them apart. Soon he was sniffling too.

I have long considered paper tissues both hard on the environment and on the skin. Excessive nose blowing on paper tissues can rub a nose raw, while tissues softened with lotion contain such chemicals as Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and petroleum-based mineral oil that may actually cause allergies and skin disorders. But when the nose is running like a leaky faucet, it’s hard not to rely on the absorbency and ease of paper.

Photo by David Mulder / Flickr Creative Commons

Recently, I was sorting through a bag of old fabrics and discovered a collection of cotton handkerchiefs that I used as a child. Some were my mother’s; others I’d made myself and embroidered with my name, flowers or pictures of Snoopy. These charming—and very soft—handkerchiefs have been sitting around unused for years, while I have been blowing my way through hundreds of wasteful paper tissues. Perhaps this cold season, it’s time to revive the old cloth hankie. I’m not sure my family—or the puppy—will be up for it, but I’m willing to go retro when I blow my nose.

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