If we can save 385,000 trees by swapping just 1 box of facial tissues from virgin to recycled paper fiber 1, imagine how many forests we can save by always blowing our noses with recycled paper tissues, treeless tissues, or cloth handkerchiefs.
A previous post delved into the history of paper facial tissue and its environmental impact. In this post we’ll evaluate green alternatives to facial tissue made from virgin paper pulp bleached white with chlorine.
I decided to experiment with facial tissues and cloth handkerchiefs. As a person with chronic post nasal drip or just a low tolerance for nasal dampness, I feel I am a qualified tester. My family will say I’m picky. I like to think of myself as discerning.
Facial Tissue Experiment
My habit is to stuff slightly used facial tissues in my pocket or purse and reuse them several times if possible. Our household goes through an upright box of facial tissues every 2 weeks or so.
Our small town grocery market has a limited selection of facial tissue so I picked up a few boxes while visiting my sister and niece and on a trip to the “big city”. The 8 brands tested don’t constitute an exhaustive study but do give an idea of what’s available.
The facial tissues tested (in random order) were: Kirkland Signature, Natural Value, Puffs Basic, Seventh Generation, Up & Up, Kleenex Expressions, Green2, and Softly. All tissues were white, 2-ply, unscented, came in a recycled paper box (except Green2 which contains no wood), and were deemed adequately absorbent. For the full results click Author’s Facial Tissue Comparison 2013-12-05.
Facial tissue material, softness, price, country of origin, and certifications were evaluated. To keep things simple each brand received a grade from 1 to 3 (high to low) in three categories: softness, environment, and price.
- Tissues made from virgin paper pulp scored highest on the softness test, but not all brands scored high.
- Natural Value was the only brand to bear the Totally Chlorine Free seal of the Chlorine Free Products Association.
- Green2 was the only treeless tissue. It’s made from bagasse, a byproduct of sugar cane production, and bamboo grass, both of which are rapidly renewable.
- Three brands made from virgin paper pulp (Up & Up, Softly, and Kleenex) carried the FSC Mixed label meaning they meet Forest Stewardship Council requirements for sourcing a portion of their wood from sustainably managed forests and other wood meets specific social and environmental conditions.
- Softly also carried the Rainforest Alliance Certified seal indicating it meets certain sustainable business practices and its wood complies with FSC requirements.
- The only product both sourced and made outside the U.S. was Green2 which is made in China.
- Of the two recycled paper brands, Natural Value was about ½ the price of Seventh Generation and had the same softness.
- Kleenex Expressions was the most expensive of all brands tested and cost 50% or more than virgin paper pulp brands Kirkland Signature and Up & Up which had equal softness.
The handkerchief experiment could not begin until I obtained some cloth handkerchiefs. I walked to one of the local antique stores and purchased 8 pre-owned handkerchiefs of various sizes and fabrics.
- Some fabrics felt soft in the store but not on my nose.
- Smaller handkerchiefs were less bulky when folded and stuffed in a pocket or purse (duh).
- Absorbency varied but was satisfactory for all handkerchiefs.
- Handkerchiefs tended to “dry out” between uses (unlike facial tissues that just got soggier).
- One handkerchief lasted all day.
My informal experiments demonstrate there are viable and low cost alternatives to buying paper facial tissues made from virgin paper pulp bleached white with chlorine.
It is not necessary to pay more for green alternatives.
Even virgin paper pulp facial tissue companies are beginning to focus on the environmental impact and sustainability of their products. Makes sense if ones product relies on a constant supply of trees, clean water, and energy.
I was surprised to find I preferred a cloth handkerchief to any brand of facial tissue. The small green bordered handkerchief in my collection was the softest and most absorbent.
A possible downside of handkerchiefs is their fabric. Cotton is an extremely water intensive and pesticide heavy (if not organic) crop and synthetics are often petroleum based.
Pre-owned handkerchiefs that are reused a lot seem the best choice. You never know, you might find some stuffed in the back of a drawer or tucked away in a chest in the attic.
Although I like the idea of Green2’s treeless paper, the environmental impact of shipping bulky boxes of facial tissue from China to the U.S. just doesn’t make sense to me.
At about half the price with same softness, I selected Natural Value over Seventh Generation for recycled paper tissues to have around the house.
I admit if I get a really bad cold, I’m blowing my nose with virgin paper pulp facial tissues (unless I find a more eco-friendly brand with equal softness). Out of the 5 brands tested, I think the best choice is Up & Up due to its softness, FSC Mix certification, and low price.
Try Your Own Facial Tissue Experiment
Now you’re armed with information and some choices for green alternatives to facial tissues made from virgin paper pulp bleached white with chlorine. The next time you shop for facial tissue, look for an eco-friendly brand and try one out. Or skip facial tissues and give hankies a try.
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Note: Kirkland Signature, Natural Value, Puffs Basic, Seventh Generation, Up & Up, Kleenex Expressions, Green2, and Softly are registered trademarks.
Disclaimer: The author conducted the above product evaluations for reader information only and did not receive any financial compensation for this post.