There is, as Pete Seeger once sang, a time to gain, a time to lose, a time to rend, a time to sew. And so on. There's a time for a lot of things. But rarely, friend, rarely is there a time to say "yes" to tissue paper at a department or clothing store.

Did you know that every year, Americans rip through about 7.4 million tons of tissue papers?  That means a lot of toxic byproduct from manufacturers. It's also the reason that many US forests been have turned into sterile tree plantations, completely lacking in biodiversity. Every little tissue-paper-saving action is important.

So the next time, friend, the next time the store clerk reaches under the counter and begins to make those disarmingly familiar crinkly sounds, take a stand. Don't let him swath your new fall sweater in the 20 billion sheets of paper that will just clog your recycling bin. Instead, gently set your reusable canvas shopping bag on the counter, and ask him to hold the tissue paper, please. If you must, borrow Seeger's immortal words; tell him there's "a time to plant, a time to reap," and that the idea is to do more of the former, less of the latter.

This article originally appeared in Plenty in September 2007. The story was added to in July 2009.

Copyright Environ Press 2007