Monday, August 27, 2007

Paper or cloth, honey?

I always think of tissue paper (or paper tissue if you like) as one of the best inventions in the history of man- and womankind (the other being short pants with college name on the back, don’t you think so?).

With tissue, you wipe out your sweat and throw it to trash bin. You sneeze on another sheet and trash it with all the germs inside. You clean your Coke can with another sheet. You can even write on yet another one when you get an idea for your blog. Tissue paper is great.

But some students from one high school in Jakarta disagree. I saw them on TV campaigning the use of ... (cloth) handkerchief! According to one of them, using tissue is not good for the environment. It was not clear why but if I heard it right, she mentioned something about against cutting off too many trees for producing my and your tissues.

Poor kids. How many handkerchiefs do you need in one day? I guess back in the seventies, one. What can you do with one cloth handkerchief in a day? You use it to wipe your sweat, fold it, and slip it back into your pocket. Then you take it out again, sneeze your germs out onto it, fold it again, and put it back inside the pocket. (I guess you don’t want me to tell you what you do with it when you’re having a runny- or stuffy nose!)

(And out there a high school girl is crying having learned that her boyfriend has been cheating big time on her. Look, that little jerk, trying to be romantic, is offering her his ... well, handkerchief!)

Dear environmentalist-wanna-be who campaigned against tissue on TV yesterday. Let me tell you a little secret about handkerchief: you wash it. For that, baby, you need detergent and water and time. Ah, I guess that’s not very environmentally friendly, too...?


  1. I wonder why they stop asking "paper or plastic?" every time you check out at the supermarket.

  2. you should consider bringing your own bag, save paper or plastic..

  3. This is indeed an interesting dilemma that is often overlooked. I've always wondered how people decide to do these different environment-related acts. Which act saves the planet more effectively? You intend to save tissue, but you consume detergent and pollute water by using handkerchiefs. You recycle cans, but again, you waste more water for rinsing the cans. Local governments that are proud to arrange recycling collection at your doorstep (I am afraid, this is not yet applied in Indonesia) need an additional truck to collect the materials in the recycling bin, and , surprise, surprise, this also adds to fuel consumption. It seems that any 'planet saving' initiatives we choose to do, the alternative act will also 'harm' the environment. Should we see this as indication that our planet is doomed, or should we, instead, approach the environmental issue differently. One approach is to take into account the economics of it. If it is too much effort, to costly, maybe it is not worth saving paper. If there's no real danger of land-fill shortage, maybe we do not need to separate our wastes into different recyling bins. I am genuinely puzzled. Any advice from the economists or environmentalists?