Look, no Kleenex: Way to blow our noses without blowing our planet

In the Fall of 2004, I was on a Cathay Pacific flight from Hong Kong to Toronto. The flight across the vast Pacific was 13 hours long, and half way into the flight my nose started playing up.

Being in cold placed for many hours sometimes triggers my catarrh, but I was prepared. I always carry one or more handkerchiefs with me, especially on flights. And also some anti-sneeze pills from my homeopathy doctor.

Blowing my nose and popping the small, sugary pills hardly ever draws anyone’s attention, but on this occasion it did. Our friendly flight stewardess was quite amused to see me using a hanky.

“Oh, Sir, you’re such a gentleman!” she exclaimed.

It took me a few seconds to figure out what she meant. Then she added, helpfully: “You still use a handkerchief. That’s so charming. No one uses them anymore…”

There wasn’t the faintest tone of sarcasm in her voice. She was genuinely impressed that I carried a hanky.

Image courtesy Boeing Co

I was reminded of this incident when reading Time magazine’s recent reflective essay on ten years after Princess Diana’s death.

At one point, it quotes Dickie Arbiter, a former press secretary to the Queen, Charles and Diana who was responsible for the media arrangements for Diana’s funeral: “The Queen was always going to pay tribute to Diana….There was a furor because she was at [the Scottish castle] Balmoral and not down with the sniveling mobs in London. [But] William and Harry needed her more than hundreds and thousands of people keeping Kleenex in business.”

Indeed, Kleenex and other tissue paper manufacturers must have done very nicely that week. A few days later, the death of Mother Teresa in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) would have profited the Indian peddlers of the flimsy paper that more and more people seem to find indispensable.

Tissue paper vs. Handkerchiefs is an on-going debate that’s far from resolved. Both items have pros and cons; they also have their defenders and promoters. Some of them air their views on the Bottledguy blog

I have always been a handkerchief user, so I’m naturally biased in their favour. Yes, I have to be careful in using and storing them; yes, I have to wash, dry and keep track of them. And no, I don’t mind these chores at all.

And everything I read tells me it is more environmentally friendly to use hankies.

Here’s an interesting story from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (3 Sep 2007): Can Australian sisters bring back hanky’s heyday?

It’s about two sisters in Australia, one in Sydney and the other in Brisbane (that I passed through only a few days ago) trying to revive the use of handkerchiefs.

They market them as “both useful accessories and as markers of the bonds between people.”

Image courtesy Hanky Schmanky

Their company is named Hanky Schmanky. I don’t know them, but applaud their initiative. They are trying to make hanky use ‘cool’ again.

We need many more people like Jennifer Moran and Angela Galgut – co-founders of this small company – to help us blow our noses without blowing the planet.

Hankymania page from Hanky Schmanky website

Nothing to Sneeze at: Umbrak Fisk gives environmental advice to all nose blowers at Grist.org

One Response to “Look, no Kleenex: Way to blow our noses without blowing our planet”

  1. Sandra Says:


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