April 24, 2008
Greenpeace USA sent us an email to let us know about their new spoof Kleenex site, called Kleercut they have set up. I didn’t realise but the largest stretch of ancient forest in North America is being clearcut for disposable paper products.
For those outside of the USA who might not know how big Kleenex is in the USA, it’s used instead of the word tissue by people I know, as in “Pass me a Kleenex”.
Their website states that “Did you know that it takes 90 years to grow a box of Kleenex? That’s right, every time you use a Kleenex tissue, you are blowing away ancient forests. And every time you use Scott or Cottonelle toilet paper, you’re flushing old growth trees down the toilet. That’s because Kimberly Clark, maker of these products, all but refuses to use recycled paper in its products.”
[Update: Please check the comments below for some interesting discussion and what virgin tree fiber is]
March 18, 2008
Naples, Italy, has run out of landfill space. They have failed to implement plans for recycling, leaving 250,000 tonnes of waste in the streets. “… although the city centre has now been cleaned up and had most of its waste removed with the help of the army, the emergency continues. Firemen answer an average of 20 calls each night as blazes of rubbish light up the countryside.”
I’ve been to Naples and it does have amazing views. This is one view you may wish to avoid though. Read more at the BBC.
March 7, 2008
According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, by 2010 worldwide coffee drinkers will drink almost 7 million tonnes of it every year. This means a heck of a lot of spent grounds to dispose of somewhere. Rather than throw the nitrogen-rich material (and acid-rich!) – coffee grounds have a carbon-nitrogen (C-N) ratio of 20-1 – into landfills, global chain Starbucks has found a greener solution by giving it away to consumers with gardens.
Starbucks’s Grounds for Your Garden program actually began as a grassroots initiative back in 1995. After growing steadily for almost a decade, it was officially launched in 2003, offering up free spent coffee grounds to North American customers year-round on a first come, first serve basis. Grounds are packaged in reused coffee bags and sealed with simple directions for using them in the garden or compost pile, where they can help improve soil quality.
“Coffee grounds are a valuable source of nutrition for the garden,” explains Ben Packard, director of environmental affairs for Starbucks. “Reusing coffee grounds in the garden is a great alternative to disposing this rich resource from our stores. It’s a win for gardeners and a win for Starbucks.”
February 20, 2008
Potato Pak offers a wide range of 100% biodegradable plates and bowls made from potato starch. The products are non-toxic and of course, very environmentally friendly. The current available products range from ‘dinner-sized’ plates, to small bowls and even ‘take-away style’ punnets with secure lids.
The green-credentials of these products look to be fantastic. As mentioned above, being 100% biodegradable means that these products will quickly break down in your compost heap or even a worm farm. The packaging that the products arrived in is known as pop starch, a starch based cushioning product which eliminates the need for polystyrene filling in the package. I dropped one of these starch balls in some water and it dissolved away almost instantly. The product did, however, come with minimal plastic wrap. I assume this is out of necessity as the product will need to be kept secure to prevent damage during transport.
According to the information sheet you can even eat the plate if you feel the inclination, although this isn’t recommended. I ran a taste test on one of the plates and while edible, there isn’t really much of a taste beyond a papery/cardboard one!
As you can see in the photos, most of the products come in a beige-cream colour, although coloured varieties are also available. The coloured plates and bowls provide an excellent alternative to their polystyrene counterparts used in events such as birthday parties for kids.
Potato Pak also offer wooden utensils to go with the plates and bowls. These are a good, eco-friendly alternative to the usual plastic forks, spoons and knives. As their website correctly mentions, plastic products require oil during their manufacturing, which is not only environmentally unfriendly, but a limited, non-renewable resource as well. The wooden utensils are also a lot stronger than your typical plastic one.
The plates and bowls are a bit thicker than polystyrene plates and bowls which means that the amount of heat transferred is reduced. This means you can hold onto a plateful of hot food a lot easier than you can do with a polystyrene plate. Currently, the products are not capable of holding hot liquids, such as coffees and soups but Potato Pak does mention that they are conducting research into making a product that can handle hot liquids. If this is achieved then they will be able to branch out into replacing things like the typical polystyrene coffee cup with a green alternative.
The plates and bowls are surprisingly durable. Compared to the typical paper plate option, these items are incredibly strong and sturdy. One thing we did notice though, if there is a small split on the sides of a plate or bowl, you’ll need treat it with a bit more care as they can split quickly from there. We tested how much weight we could load the plate (no damage) with before it broke. Holding the plate on one end, we loaded 600 grams of apples on the opposite end and the plate held up perfectly. Of course in reality you’ll most likely be holding the plate in the middle, but the test shows how strong these items really are.
Potato Pak products are really suited to ‘greening’ the birthday party, barbecue, outdoor social function type markets. Due to their short life-span it’s not very realistic to use around the home for everyday use. By providing an environmentally friendly alternative to temporary cutlery, Potato Pak products are helping to reach zero-waste targets which are landfills are currently trying to achieve.
All in all we were really impressed with the products offered by Potato Pak. I am also looking at the potential benefits of the light-weight products for use in tramping (hiking) trips. With new products on the horizon the product range looks to become even more practical and usable in more of our everyday cutlery and utensil needs.
February 14, 2008
Greenwoods Soft and Safe is a versatile cleaning product that is not only affordable but environmentally friendly as well. The list of ways you can use Soft and Safe is extensive, from fabric softening to the cleaning of greasy kitchen surfaces to being an additive in dish washing and even cleaning your car! The actual product is described as ‘washing soda crystals’ that are composed of sodium carbonate and water. The crystals can be dissolved in both cold and hot water which adds to its impressive versatility.
The green credentials of Soft and Safe look to be good. It’s 100% biodegradable, the container is recyclable and it is sold in a large 1kg quantity, considering that the weight of the crystals are minimal. It’s also a locally (Palmerston, Otago, New Zealand) produced product which makes it a fantastic buy for Kiwi’s, reducing freighting (and carbon emissions) and helping to support the local economy.
Soft and Safe performed well in all our testing. Obviously the crystals dissolve better in hot water than in cold, and both did require a little stirring. After a few seconds the crystals had completely disappeared in the hot water while a few remained in the cold water.
The cleaning power of Soft and Safe is fantastic. I tried it out in bathroom cleaning and included it in a load of dishes and found that it performed well in both of these areas. Of course with such a large list of potential uses I couldn’t try out everything, in fact, Greenwoods even offers to provide you with more suggestions for uses of their products.
The quantities required are consistent for their uses and comparable to that of other products, such as using a handful of Soft and Safe in your laundry load, this being roughly similar to the laundry powder cup.
Greenwoods Soft and Safe is available in most New Zealand Supermarkets and is very affordable. We always keep a bottle in the household and personally think it’s a fantastic product.
February 13, 2008
California based Skooperbox apparently spent a couple of years trying to find a green way of dealing with dog mess.
Skooperboxes are small, pop-open boxes made from 100 percent recycled materials. Complete with lid and a scraper, each Skooperbox apparently makes it quick and tidy to clean up your dog’s mess. The boxes are available in two sizes (not sure if one is big enough for a horse though – if not they should think of that….) and are completely biodegradable in a “few days” (more realistically less than a month, but much much quicker than plastic bags!).
You can watch a video of it in action, fortunately the dog has already finished (unlike some other videos I found on YouTube whilst searching for this…):
Skooperbox’s founders explain: “We at Skooperbox are ordinary pet owners who were dissatisfied with the choices available to us to clean our pet waste. We also knew plenty of good people who did not pick up because of lack of a good product. Picking up the warm squishy mess is gross enough, but when the bag breaks or if you find a hole in the bag while you’re picking up, it can really ruin your walk.”
We’d be happy to hear your experiences of using it, or any other suggestions you have.
[Partly via: Springwise]
December 31, 2007
Recently several stores, such as Target, have made their plastic gift cards out of biodegradable plastic (despite them costing 3x as much as regular plastic), and Innocent Drinks have tested a 100% biodegradable bottle. But what does biodegradable actually mean?
For something to be biodegradable it has to be a organic substance that can be broken down by microorganisms, a great example being a leaf. In the case of biodegradable plastic, which is usually made from petrochemical compounds, they often use a substance called Mirel which is a corn-based product. They describe biodegradable as “the degradation of material from naturally occurring microorganisms, such as bacteria, fungi or algae over a period of time. Source: ASTM“.
For more information, check out the excellent Worldwise biodegradable article.