Kimberly-Clark Disposable Hand Towels for the Home Belie Sustainability Promise


Image: Kleenex Hand Towels

"Kimberly-Clark has long recognized the importance of corporate responsibility and integrated the concept of sustainability in our business practices," the FAQ on Kleenex Hand Towels reassuringly announces. "At Kimberly-Clark, we take concern for the environment and conservation of natural resources seriously," it continues. Of course, "because of the superior softness consumers expect from KLEENEX® Brand, KLEENEX® Brand Hand Towels are made with 100 percent virgin fiber." Now, I don't like to bang on companies that are making efforts to leave old mindsets and find a place in a new paradigm. But, come on: Do the product development geniuses at Kimberly-Clark think disposable towels for the bathroom at home exemplify sustainable business?Perhaps they rationalize that a fraction of the cost of every box sold will trickle down to a conservation group to the benefit of the Brazilian rain forest? In that case, why not ask consumers to send $2.99 directly to the conservation group of Kimberly-Clark's choice and cut out the middle man?

Or are they just riding the wave of germ paranoia to convince people that they are putting their loved ones at risk by continuing to hang those soft, fluffy, re-washable cotton towels on the towel bar at home? Kimberly-Clark lays the blame at the door of the CDC.

The CDC does recommend to use a single-use towel or air dryer, if available. But the CDC is in the business of stopping the spread of pandemics in public places. Their recommendations do not address the towels that you share with the other members of your family and close friends--for use drying hands that have been washed and are clean!

No, we cannot let Kimberly-Clark off the hook for abusing CDC policies to perpetuate the germ paranoia sweeping this planet in the interest of selling another too-convenient consumer product. After all, if you have an issue in your home with an illness that requires extra measures, you can always turn to old-fashioned paper towels. We hope people know enough to use common sense and up their hygiene measures in the face of a true illness in the family, while keeping their everyday practices appropriate for the human immune system -- which needs a few challenges to stay in tune, just like your muscles need a fitness program.

No, these disposables are not being marketed for special use in health care situations; the intention is to take over the home bathroom all the time, everywhere. Kimberly-Clark even offers a sappy sing-a-long so you can brainwash your toddler. We can't share the preschool tune, but the lyrics speak for themselves:

My hands are gonna be clean
When I wash and dry with Mommy and sing
This song that's exactly two clean hands long
Warm water and soap and bubbles that shine
A Kleenex Hand Towel that's mine all mine
And a song that's exactly two clean hands long
No yucky old towels gonna ruin my day
I dry my hands the Kleenex towel way
So if your a fan of clean hands too
Roll up your sleeves and I'll sing with you.

There is only one way to shut this product down: don't buy it. Tell your friends not to buy it. And if you really need to deal constructively with the anger this is causing you, write Kimberly-Clark and tell them that you are not buying their "corporate responsibility" or "integrated concept of sustainability" palaver as long as this product remains on the market.

More on Kimberly Clark:
Kimberly Clark Adds High Recycled Content "Scott Naturals" Product Line
Hot Air Over Drying Hands
Greenpeace vs Kleenex: More Than a Feeling (Video)
Greenpeace Catches Kimberly-Clark in a Chain of Lies

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