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Reusable handkerchiefs are nothing to sneeze at

If you read the blog for day 51, you probably had a pretty good idea we were going to revisit this topic, since we realized how many facial tissues we were throwing away. We know there is a high “ewww” factor with this topic, but we think it's worth investigating.

Chris (Gina’s husband) has been using handkerchiefs his whole life. It's something that is ALWAYS in the laundry. We wash them, fold them, and they're used again. Why can’t Gina and Marianna do the same? We have stacks of handkerchiefs that have belonged to numerous generations in our family, and all of them are in great condition and ready to be put back in action!

This all sounds like a great idea. But we needed to do some research and find out the facts. That’s when our plan took a turn that we weren't expecting. Ecosystem Analytics published a 50 page study in 2012 on the environmental impact of facial tissues versus handkerchiefs. They concluded that “switching from disposable facial tissues to reusable cotton handkerchiefs doesn't result in environmental benefits.” That surprised us, but if you read the report, they are presuming that you're buying new handkerchiefs that have been manufactured in China, which uses mostly coal produced electricity.

So we decided we're going to use the handkerchiefs we already have and if we need anymore, we will buy some at an estate sale or thrift shop. There's no need to buy new ones; people have been trying to give their grandmother’s handkerchiefs away for years.

We also don’t think we're going to give up disposable tissues completely when we have a cold or flu. We love the environment and want to do the right thing, but the thought of handling the germ-carrying handkerchiefs when we wash them doesn't sound very hygienic to us. Now, if we have allergies that's a different story (there's no virus that can be spread to other people). We're also going to continue buying disposable tissues that live in the guest bathroom, but we'll make sure to buy ones that are made from post-consumer recycled paper. That seems like a good compromise.


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