Snotty and eco

“Ah CHOO!” “You’re sooo good looking.” Who doesn’t think of Seinfield when they sneeze?

True – there’s nothing sexy about sneezing and it’s made even uglier when we churn through millions of trees just to deal with the aftermath.

What you’re buying in a Kleenex

We love our tissues soft and absorbent, that’s a lot to ask of a tree.

Tissues start out life as soft and/or hardwood chips from plantation or native forests. The chips are then mixed with water to make a pulp. Bleaches are added along with other stuff such as calcium, magnesium, ammonia, or sodium bisulfite.

The more enhanced a tissue is the more softening agents and lotion-type ingredients are used.


All sorts of additives go into tissues including mineral oils, ceresin (wax derived from minerals), isopropyl palmitate, dimethicone (silicon polymer), stearyl heptanoate (alcohol from whale oil or vegetables). These are added to help ‘keep skin soft and smooth’. Polyethylene is also added to thicken lotions. Anti-viral tissues contain sodium lauryl sulfate and citric acid.

Tissues with vitamin E can use tocopheryl acetate (acid added to vitamin E) which is a cheaper and longer lasting form of vitamin E. Aloe vera for aloe vera infused tissues and coconut oil are also used.

That’s a lot of processing and additives to blow into and bin five seconds later!

There’s ‘recycled’ and there’s recycled 

Even though some products claim to be made from 100% recycled paper; much of it can be waste from manufacturing – which hasn’t been used in the first place.

Look for a product which tells you how much post consumer waste it uses.

Sadly Quilton can come up with five different tissues such as printed, aloe vera infused and Eucalyptus but not one recycled option.

Australian paper manufacturers ABC makes two brands they call recycled

  • Earthcare is manufactured for the commercial sector and available through Eco office
  • Naturale is sold through supermarkets.

ABC wouldn’t tell Sustainable Shopper how much of the recycled tissue paper is actually post consumer waste. We had a few questions about its manufacture but the company claimed the answers were confidential and referred us to their website which has minimal detail.

Understandably this makes us more than a little suspicious so we like the following tissue.

Yes the company that gave a crap about improving sanitation in developing nations now makes tissues! They’re made from bamboo and sugarcane. Who Gives a Crap is an Australian business started by a cafe owner who wanted to develop a business selling a cheap product that we use everyday so that he could raise money for WaterAid. Like the toilet paper (which we have 50 rolls of in the garage!), you can buy the tissues in bulk (though at the time of writing this update their tissues were out of stock). Definitely a company worth supporting and they’re fantastic products.

Although made in the UK, Ecoleaf is a great option if you’re lucky enough to find it in your smaller independent supermarket, health food or organic shop. It’s a no frills product made by the Suma cooperative, using at least 60% post consumer waste. Contact Ecoleaf’s only Australian distributor Trialia Foods for more info.

BTW, don’t throw your used tissue in the recycling, best to compost it.

  • (And since first publishing this article) there is now No Issues tissues

They’re made from bamboo rather than trees and available from Coles, Woolworths and Harris Farm Markets.

Gorgeous hankies 

Sustainable Shopper dug up some handkerchiefs that are so cute you won’t want to snot on them. And they’re so cheap you can afford to buy organic.

Most organic options are certified by GOTS – the scheme designed just for organic textiles.

Australian company Blessed Earth has a few options, including a very cute yellow elephant printed hanky for just $5. They also have simple white or natural percale or nine different colours in sateen (we had to wash them a few times to increase their absorbency).

Organic cotton hankies

If you’re after something individual and handcrafted have some time-wasting fun on Etsy. It has gorgeous designs from creatives. Natural Linens has beautiful, unbleached muslin handkerchiefs with colourful edgings for $3.80 for a pack of 16 (great for gifts!). Plus there are lots of other more intricate designed organic hankies around $11.

The Linen Press is an Australian certified organic company. It has Australian-inspired organic cotton handkerchiefs for $7.40. Their Waratah and Blue Wren prints will perk up the most cold-depressed person.

Organic cotton hankies

Can you believe there is also an online shop dedicated to white, organic handkerchiefs – only (available) in America!

Main image: William Brawley, ‘Drip. run. achoo. blow”

1 Reply to "Snotty and eco"

  • comment-avatar
    Bridie August 20, 2015 (9:53 pm)

    Thanks for the great article.
    I’m now inspired to get my hankies out again!
    I didn’t realise that all those chemicals were added to make them softer…
    And then we throw them straight in the bin after a single use!

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