How to break the tissue habit

I don't know how it happened. In our house we have become reliant on tissues. We've a box in virtually every room. Little plastic travel packs in most bags and pockets. We've got them in cars. Take them with us on days out and holidays. We have spare boxes in cupboards because we can't bear the idea of running out. And I don't think we're the only ones!

So when I suggested I'm concerned about the single-usage nature of tissues, I was met with consternation - including from myself. Our issues included childhood memories of soggy hankies, trying to find a dry section to use, bogie-riddled hankies in pockets, and used hankies boiling on the hob in their designated saucepan. Why would we choose hankies?!

Nevertheless I went out and bought a load - in fact about 35 white cotton ones.

And they sat in a pile on the cabinet in the bedroom. And sat. And sat. Unused.

Until I decided to spurn the childhood horror memories and use one. D'you know what? They are lovely! They feel nice against your face. They don't cause sore noses. They are big enough for a proper nose blow. And because we have loads, we can throw them in the wash and grab another. It took Stewart longer to try one - and some pushing and shoving from me - but he did and he's a convert too!

We both now have hankies in various bags and pockets.

As for cleaning them, we don't need a special saucepan for them to boil in - instead we add them to the wash with towels and bedding. They come out fine. And they don't break up into a million pieces if you forget one in a pocket and wash the garment the pocket is part of.

Keeping them in our bedroom wasn't convenient for sudden sneezes in the lounge, so I looked for hankie containers. I found some similar to tissue boxes. Apparently you fold the hankies in a special way so one is pulled out a bit when you pull one out the box. Well, I don't have time for that! I kept looking and eventually found some rather charming 'hankie boxes' on eBay. I've bought two so far. It seems in the good ole days (early 20th century), people had hankie boxes. One I've got was made in the 1930s by an apprentice using aluminium as an example of their expertise, and the other is suede tourist kitsch from Mt Clemens, Michigan.

The point of this blog though is to review our lifestyles for sustainability. Tissues ultimately originate from trees, take a lot of water and energy to create, are bleached, are transported, used once and are not recyclable. Could be composted but who does that?! Cotton also takes of lot of water and energy to grow and process; however cotton hankies take less transportation as fewer are needed and they can be reused dozens or even hundreds of times. They need cleaning whereas tissues don't. Google gives us lots of information on the carbon footprint of tissues and hankies - a single tissue beats a single hankie. But ..... used multiple times, the carbon footprint of hankies drops and over their lifetime they beat tissues.

This isn't totally the point though. I want my family to move away from single use products. I will look for natural fabrics to make hankies from (or buy them) - eg organic cotton - which have a much lower carbon footprint. Making hankies from scrap fabric (eg Southampton Scrapstore) or buying them second-hand from charity shops have an even lower carbon footprint and are more sustainable.

Our experiment into fabric hankies instead of paper tissues was successful. We aren't going back.

Let me know if you've tried fabric hankies - are you a convert?

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