Notes from Catherine Rowett, former Green Party MEP for East of England and deputy coordinator of the Eastern Region Green Party*(UK). Biographical reflections on life as an MEP. Longer reflections and discussions on issues relating to policy, the good life, justice, equality, anti-austerity economics and the future of the planet. This is also a forum for exchanging ideas on how to tread lightly on the planet and avoid supporting exploitation and corrupt practices. Here we go...

Friday, 23 March 2007

Paper handkerchiefs

I apologise for the long silence which was due to being ill (the flu) and then being so behind with my work (and so weak after being ill) that I haven't had any time left for time-wasting activities like the Blogs.

It seemed appropriate after being ill to make some remarks on illness. This time it's about how to blow your nose in an environmentally friendly way.

At Norwich I used to have a box of 3-ply man size tissues (that is, paper handkerchiefs, Kleenex in american speak) which had been on my bathroom shelf for some years. In the Autumn I loaned out my cottage to a couple we know from Church (this was part of an auction of promises to raise money for the new organ, and I offered a weekend break in Norwich).

When I returned, the cottage had been well cared for, all was in order, except for one thing: the tissue box was empty. Now that's interesting, because I'd had it from before I moved to Norwich, maybe three years. I don't remember it being very near to empty. It made me wonder whether other people use such things rather more than I do.

It's not that I don't ever have a runny nose. Of course I do, and I had a terrible one last week, one of those that runs like a tap. The Professor also has an allergy of some sort which means that he sometimes has a runny nose for days at a time. But we don't use former trees to mop our noses, for the most part.

Here is a list of four kinds of things I use for runny noses:

1. Elegant ladies' handkerchiefs in pure cotton. These are small and usually embroidered or trimmed with lace. I use these for everyday use and for going to a weepy movie. They fit in a pocket without causing any ugly distortion.

2. Larger hankies, man size. These are useful for the after-a-cold period, when there's quite a lot of catarrh and a small hankie would be quickly used up. One dozen pure cotton white hankies costs £5 on Norwich market.

3. Bits of old sheet. These are the best thing for a seriously runny cold when you're in bed at home. The sheet needs to have been made of pure cotton (brushed cotton is especially soft and comforting) and should have worn thin and ripped. The result is unbelievably soft and absorbent. You tear off a piece the size you need (very large if the cold is seriously streaming) and when it's a bit damp you can either throw it away or put it aside to be washed and used again (the edges fray but that really doesn't matter). These cost nothing of course, and the laundry is normally just a minor addition to the usual load of white washing.

4. Muslin nappies. An excellent use for the nappies so little used by newborn babies. They are soft and extremely absorbent (you'd probably get through a whole box of tissues before one muslin nappy is too wet to use). The professor (who has some kind of rhinitis allergy) generally carries several muslin nappies in his briefcase in case of an attack of the runny nose—on a bad day he gets through two or three. In fact the muslins our girls had when they were newborn have all now worn out and become disreputable, so a new pack had to be purchased recently. 20 muslin squares cost £22.99 from Mothercare.

Here's a list of the advantages of using these real cotton products over the disposable wood fibre products that they call "handkerchiefs" or "tissues".

1) the cotton ones are much more absorbent than woodchips

2) they cause less soreness than woodchips,

3) they're always there even if you're too ill to go to the shops

4) they don't end up in the landfill (or, if eventually you throw away the rags, they were going to waste anyway and have had a useful recycled life first).

5) BEST OF ALL they don't deposit a white fuzz all over everything in the washing machine if you accidentally leave one in your pocket!


Anonymous said...

You're so right...But do you have any suggestions for sanpro? Perhaps you've blogged about this but I've missed it...

Catherine Rowett said...

Well it took me a while to work out what that word "sanpro" was. I assume it means sanitary protection. No I haven't done a post on that yet. What should I say, I wonder?
Of the various options, I have to say I think the "Mooncup" sounds rather good, but I admit I've no experience of it. See

Anonymous said...

Your usual "Anonymous" here, rather than the new one who asked the original question!

I bought a Mooncup from the Ethical Superstore (who I believe have an easily guessable website given that information!) a month or so ago, but didn't dare use it whilst on holiday and travelling round a lot. Instead I used the organic, all-cotton tampons that Waitrose sell – and had far fewer and much less severe cramps than usual (I have to admit that I was expecting this, so it might have been psychosomatic). I'll try the Mooncup next month and report back.

A caveat wrt the Ethical Superstore – they send a follow-up postcard a fortnight or so later, customised with the details of what you bought, so both you and postie might get a little embarrassed. They did include a bar of chocolate with the Mooncup, but sadly it had soya lecithin in it, so no good for Catherine!

Anonymous said...

Althought this post is months and months old, I thought I would add my 2 cents. I tried "The Keeper" (like the Mooncup, but American made; I am American) and I love it. It's a little hard to remove, but overall I think they're great.