The tissue is as commonplace today as the handkerchief was a century ago.

But as we become more aware of our impact on the planet, it may be time to wonder: is tissue paper eco-friendly? Are handkerchiefs better for the environment?

Today we’re going to take a closer look at the hanky or tissue debate. Our planet is precious, and people who believe in sustainability want to know how to live an eco-friendly life. We may have a slight bias towards the HankyBook, but we’re going to stick to the facts.  

The issue With tissues

Tissue paper is made from the timber pulp and while some of this timber is produced using renewable practices, with new trees replacing those that are cut down, much of it is not.

Kimberly-Clark, the producers of Kleenex, eventually buckled to a Greenpeace campaign (called “Kleercut”) to get the company to reduce the amount of virgin forests (old forests that have been untouched until now, and which are the home to many endangered species) being cut down to produce tissue paper.


However, on their website, they still note that they source 30% of their fiber from the Atlantic Forest – a UNESCO World Heritage site that has seen 85% of its forest removed. The plant and animal diversity in this forest are among the greatest in the world, but their home is being decimated.

Next time you blow your nose and immediately throw your tissue in the trash, spare a thought for the orangutangs, pumas, and the thousands of other species that are being pushed to the edge of extinction.  

Are tissues biodegradable and recyclable?

The problem with the tissue paper goes far beyond that of production. Did you know that most tissues cannot be recycled?

Toxic waste
Meanwhile, at Kleenex…

The additives used to reinforce the tissues means they should probably not be composted. They will eventually break down, but it can take months or longer, depending on how the tissue was reinforced.

You feel an itch on your nose, grab a tissue and enjoy a satisfying sneeze. Then it’s in the trash. The years it took to make that tissue ends in just a few seconds. Scale that example to the world’s populations and we’re creating mountains of tissue papers.

There are a few tissue brands that use recycled paper. I know: I tried them all. The problem with recycled tissue paper, and why they haven’t caught on, is that they are very rough on the skin. Not exactly a fun experience at all! 

Handkerchief Vs. Tissue – An Analysis

While the tissue dominates modern culture, the handkerchief is experiencing a resurgence. The question still lingers as to which option is better for the environment. A deep analysis and comparison of the problem was conducted by Greenlifestylemag, using data from Duke University research on paper and Cambridge University research on textiles.

They compared a 1 g tissue with a 15 g handkerchief. If you think that makes no sense because hankies are reusable, don’t worry, they also factored in an estimate of 520 uses for the full lifespan of a handkerchief — just marginally greater than the few seconds of life that a tissue has ?

They studied the effects of water footprint, energy, and waste. In every category, they concluded that the hanky was easily the more sustainable option.  

The Verdict

With the hanky being the obvious choice for those of us that want a more sustainable solution for sneezes and sniffles, we’re proud to say that the HankyBook is the best handkerchief around. It has practical functions to reduce the use of paper towels and is even more environmentally-friendly than the typical hanky.

Handkerchief blow

If you think that switching from tissue to HankyBook is going to be too hard; think again. In our experience, once someone tries the HankyBook for a few weeks they can’t imagine going back to disposable tissues. See for yourself.

You’ll find that the 100% organic cotton is soft to the touch, that the stitched pages and cover keep germs at bay, and that the stylish design makes it the perfect companion for everything from spill cleaning to nose blowing. When you factor in the environmental footprint and how many forests are being lost to create tissues, paper towels, and toilet paper – it really becomes a choice of significance.

Try your first HankyBook today and enjoy 10% off when you use the code HBSHOP at checkout.