Marilyn Monroe with a handkerchief

It’s the symbol of old-timey movie chivalry: “Here, ma’am, take my handkerchief.”  Aw. Yes, people really did carry folded pieces of cloth around for dabbing dewy eyes or snuffing the sniffles, for centuries. (Heck, probably even millennia.) They were even handed down through the generations—after all, what could be more intimate than Grandma’s handkerchief?

But, by the mid-1920s, Kimberly-Clark’s Kleenex brand was building post World War I momentum with its disposable facial tissue, virtually wiping out the reusable handkerchief. They even insinuated that carrying a cloth handkerchief was akin to “carrying a cold in your pocket”! Now, the brand is so symbolic of the product, we call virtually any facial tissue “Kleenex” even if it’s made by another manufacturer. And while we may have fond memories of those soft tissues comforting us through grief, cold and flu season and sentimental old-timey movie scenes, seeing how damaging the products are to the environment will give you more reasons to dab your eyes. Thankfully, the reusable handkerchief is making a comeback for lots of valid reasons. Here are seven.

1. According to PeopleTowels (manufacturers of eco-friendly reusable hand/face towels), to make one ton of paper towel/tissue products requires killing 17 trees.

2. That same ton of paper tissues will use 20,000 gallons of fresh water in processing!

3. Every day, just in the U.S., more than 3,000 tons of paper tissue products are sent to landfills producing methane gas, which is a major contributor to climate change.

4. Paper products take up more room in landfills than any other trash item.

5. You’re always covered when you carry your own handkerchief rather than hunting for a tissue or resorting to toilet paper to blow your nose. No more dripping panic!

6. You can reduce your risk of spreading germs by having a hanky handy rather than using your hands.

7. By regularly using a reusable handkerchief/hand towel/whatever-you-call-it, you remind people that they can do it too, thereby spreading the timely message that paper facial tissue products are about as necessary as plastic bags.

Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

image: ky_olsen