This past Friday, I had to make a trip to Costco for some cost-effective food in bulk. I was making my way through the cavernous warehouse and my shopping list when I got to the wall of “tissues” on my list. I stood there for quite some time crunching numbers between the Costco brand and Kleenex brand tissues, trying to justify spending the extra couple of dollars on the facial tissue with lotion. Mmmmmmm . . . those are my favorite, so soft and so nice on my nose. You see, I have what my husband calls a tissue “problem.” It really is just that I have genetically bad sinus plumbing and/or allergies that cause me to sneeze and have a runny nose. And so, I blow my nose upon waking and usually a good three or four times after that in the mornings at least every day. I’ve done this as long as I can remember, and so, I’ve developed a tissue habit you could say, and I prefer the moisturizing ones. I also have two little boys who have perpetually runny noses, either due to the snotty genes they’ve inherited from their mother, or because they are constantly subjected to rampant germs out in public places.
After standing in front of the wall-o-tissues for about, oh, five or ten minutes, I suddenly had to ask myself, “Am I even allowed to buy facial tissues under our new No Buy New resolution?” They are not food. They are obviously not utilities, or vehicle/home maintenance, or business supplies. They are not from Santa (yet). So, I come to the determination that they could fall under the “personal hygiene” exception. But, I had to actually ask myself, “Are they really necessary?” Before boxed tissues, all of our ancestors got by just fine on cloth hankies, reusing clothes that were worn and stained, or buying pretty, embroidered, dainty ones in the department stores. I do have some cloth hankies, some handed down to me, a few pretty ones I bought at a garage sale, and a few I made myself out of old dress shirts. I have used them on and off through wavering periods of environment-related guilt. It has admittedly been awhile though. And, as I weighed the pros and cons to using cloth hankies, I came to the conclusion that there were two very good reasons for using cloth and only one real con against it. First, and foremost, paper tissues cost money that I don’t need to spend, and two, they are wasteful and end up in landfills or floating around in the ocean. The Green Yours website has some pretty staggering statistics regarding our purchase of paper products: “Americans consumed a staggering 654 pounds of paper and paperboard goods each in 2005. Fifty-five pounds of that total was tissue products, such as toilet and facial tissue, paper toweling, and napkins. The paper industry consumes 35 percent of all harvested trees every year, accounting for the felling of nearly 4 billion individual trees yearly.” The only saddening con is that cloth is just not as soft as the tissues with lotions. But, is that worth the environmental (not to mention financial) impact?
So, I ultimately did not put the giant block of tissue into my cart. I will pull out those cloth hankies and use them. Some of them are so beautiful I almost don’t want to blow my nose into them, but doesn’t my nose deserve something beautiful and dainty and vintage and with a history? In the extreme cases of very bad colds and sickness, of course, I will reconsider making an exception to this purchase, especially for my little ones. But this was a good lesson in stepping back and asking myself whether this item we just consider a necessity is really, really necessary. I am sure that there will be many more moments like this in the grocery stores in the coming year. So far, this resolution is an eye-opening experience, and it’s keeping me honest!