April 3, 2008

Ecological Tableware: Disposable Plates, Cutlery & Cups

by Steve Garvey

This category includes products used in food service and for informal dining such as picnics. [The information below applies in cases when washable and durable tableware are not utilized or practicable.]

One way to reduce one’s ecological footprint is to use plates, cups, and napkins made from recycled paper. Another way is to use products made from recycled plastics (such as the Preserve brand). Another is to use less durable but reusable tableware such as that made from bamboo. Bambu Veneerware® is a popular brand, and widely available (

Disposable paper products products can also be made from bagasse, a natural by-product of sugarcane processing. Two manufacturers of bagasse products are StalkMarket (available through and EcoWare (through

StalkMarket products seem to be sturdier than Ecoware, and a 9 inch plate costs 10-15¢, depending on amount purchased. Here is a blurb from

Bio-degradable, recyclable, and home compostable

• Made from 100% bio-degradable, compostable sugar cane fiber (Bagasse) that is a by-product of the sugar refining process. Supplies of this material are virtually unlimited worldwide and the use of Bagasse products eliminates the dependence of traditional wood fiber based materials in disposable tableware. Diversion of the Bagasse into the making of the tableware saves harmful air pollution from occurring due to the open burning of this formally thought of waste product from the sugar refining process.

• Each item is press-formed at 200º Celsius (392º F) forming a rigid platform and sterilized piece at one time. In addition, each item is sanitized a second time utilizing UV light prior to packaging.

• Product is capable of handling boiling water or oil up to 212)º F and is both microwavable and freezer safe.

• After use, product can be recycled for the making of paper, or 100% catabolized as compost.

• Cost effective and earth friendly products for both the home and institutional use.

• Packaging with house brand in the size, style and package quantity of your choosing or bulk pack for institutional use.

• Variety of sizes, shapes and uses.

• Cut proof resistant.

Besides products made from bagasse, the other innovation in ecological tableware is in the field of bioplastics, which can be used in the manufacture of cutlery and cupware. Here is a blurb from (an online fair trade and eco store):

Bioplastics are a new generation of biodegradable & compostable plastics, derived from renewable raw materials such as starch (e.g. corn, potato, tapioca etc), cellulose, soy protein, lactic acid etc., that are not hazardous in production and decompose back to carbon dioxide, water, biomass etc. in the environment when discarded. Cornstarch is currently the main raw material being used in the manufacture of bioplastic resins. Mater-Bi (main component corn-starch), and PolyActide (PLA) (made from corn-starch as well) are currently the 2 main resins (raw materials), being used today in the production of compostable & biodegradable plastics and are certified for compostability under standards set by international organizations. However, other resins are coming into the market made from potato starch, soybean protein, cellulose etc. Most of these are currently not certified for compostability, though some are for biodegradability. The field of bioplastics is constantly evolving with new materials and technologies being worked on and being brought to market.

The following information is also important. From

Biodegradability & Compostability

Bioplastics can take 90-180 days to totally compost based on the material and are meant to be composted in a commercial composting facility where higher composting temperatures can be reached. Most existing international standards require biodegradation of 60% within 180 days along with certain other criteria for the resin or product to be called compostable. It is also important to make the distinction between degradable, biodegradable, and compostable, as these terms are often used interchangeably.

Compostable According to the American Society for Testing & Materials, in order for a plastic to be called compostable, three criteria need to be met:

1) Biodegrade – break down into carbon dioxide, water, and biomass at the same rate as cellulose (paper).

2) Disintegrate – the material is indistinguishable in the compost; that it is not visible or needing to be screened out

3) Eco-toxicity – the biodegradation does not produce any toxic material and the compost can support plant growth.

[Note that “home compostable” is a further degree of compostability, not applied to bioplastics.]

Biodegradable Plastic will degrade from the action of naturally occurring microorganism, such as bacteria, fungi etc. over a period of time. Note that there is no requirement for leaving “no toxic residue” and as well as no requirement for the time it needs to take to biodegrade.

Degradable Plastic is plastic that will undergo a significant change in its chemical structure under specific environmental conditions resulting in a loss of some properties. Please note that there is no requirement that the plastic has to degrade from the action of “naturally occurring microorganism” or any of the other criteria required for compostable plastics.

A plastic therefore may be degradable but not biodegradable or it may be biodegradable but not compostable (that is, it breaks down too slowly to be called compostable or leaves toxic residue)

Another manufacturer and brand is Cereplast Compostables™, whose “resins are renewable, ecologically sound substitutes for petroleum-based plastic products, replacing nearly 100% of the petroleum-based additives used in traditional plastics. Cereplast Compostables™ resins are starch-based, made from corn, wheat, tapioca and potato starches that primarily come from the).” (

An assortment of brands are distributed by Excellent Packaging (, as follows:


Biodegradable Cutlery made from 80% starch (potato or corn) and 20% soy or other vegetable oil. Able to withstand High-Heat!


Paper plates, cups, trays, bowls, and boxes made from plant fibers, either grown or recovered as crop residue. May be sugar cane, wheat bamboo or rice based pulps. Microwavable, ovenable and freezable, biodegradable, compostable and sustainable.


Made from bamboo, rice, or sugar cane and corn starches. Sturdy disposable food containers are microwave, oven and steamer safe. 100% biodegradable All natural, no bleach, chemicals or lamination. Oil and hot water resistant.

NatureWorks™ PLA

Made from corn grown in the USA, PLA (PolyActide) is used to make clear plastic cups, bowls, boxes, straws and can liners. Biodegradable, compostable and sustainable


Bags and can liners made from Mater-Bi, derived from cornstarch. Used for T-shirts bags and can liners. Biodegradable, compostable, recyclable and burnable.


Food films made from renewable wood-pulp. Suitable for wrapping and bagging food. Ovenable, heat sealable, biodegradable, compostable and sustainable.


Paper hot cups and soup containers made with a PLA lining, making them fully compostable, biodegradable and sustainable. carries Jaya brand bioplastic eating utensils, at 20¢ per set, for example.

Coop America’s Green Pages list the following resources in the food service category:

• Asean Corporation (Stalkmarket):

Biodegradable, compostable sugarcane tableware. Uses waste fiber from sugarcane. Raw materials renew themselves in 12 months. Home compostable. Sturdy and heavy duty.

• Full Circle Industries:

A wholesale company offering compostable dinnerware products as an eco-friendly alternative.

• Greener Earth Marketing:

Manufacturer of tree free, natural or white disposable food service packaging. Custom make various products with alternative paper and non-GMO starch derived biodegradable plastic.

Note: Many of the companies and brands in this article are manufactures and/or wholesalers rather than retailers. Their products and web sites are sometimes geared toward institutional use or re-packaging under a house brand.


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Water Filters

April 3, 2008

Water filters

by Marjorie Wyman

Charcoal water filters

These systems are easy to install, relatively inexpensive, and cover the basic functions of filtration. Water filter charcoal medium carbon is derived from coconut husk. This absorbs impurities as the water passes through. This form of filter comprises possibly 95% of those in use domestically. They are simple to install, relatively economical, and depending on micron level, will filter out the most deadly of contaminants, Cryptosporidium and Guardia.

Some charcoal filters are enhanced by the use of activated nano-silver, which provides extra antibacterial protection, killing around 650 known types of organisms. Minerals in solution can still permeate a charcoal filter. These minerals are essential to health.

In situations where sediment is a problem it is worthwhile to add a second separate in-line sediment prefilter. Otherwise the more expensive charcoal filter will become clogged up long before its normal lifespan.

Founded in 1984, KDF® process media are high-purity copper-zinc formulations used in pretreatment, primary treatment, and wastewater applications. KDF media supplement or replace existing technologies to dramatically extend system life, reduce heavy metals, microorganisms, scale, lower total cost, and decrease maintenance. They are 100 percent recyclable and contain no chemical additives. They are generally used in place of, or in conjunction with, granular activated carbon filters KDF Fluid Treatment’s combination of copper and zinc creates an electro-chemical reaction. During this reaction, electrons are transferred between molecules, and new elements are created. Some harmful contaminants are changed into harmless components. Free chlorine, for instance, is changed into benign, water-soluble chloride, which is then carried harmlessly through the water supply. Similarly, some heavy metals such as copper, lead, mercury and others, react to plate out onto the medium’s surface, thus being effectively removed from the water supply.

Ceramic water filters

At the core of the ceramic filter element is Diatomaceous Earth, a fossil substance, made up of tiny silicon shells left by trillions of microscopic, one celled algae called diatoms that have inhabited the waters of the earth for the last 150 million years.

Some ceramic filters incorporate nano-silver impregnated into a porous ceramic outer shell that can trap bacteria down to as low as .22 of a micron in particle size [1/100,000 of an inch].

Laboratories consider a filtering medium with an effective pore size of .01 micron to .45 micron to be bacteriologically sterile and .45 micron to 1.0 micron to be bacteriologically safe. Re-growth of bacteria that becomes trapped either on the outside of the element or in the ceramic’s pores is controlled by the silver which, on contact with water, releases small quantities of positively charged metals ions.

These ions are taken into the enzyme system of the bacteria’s cell and thereby neutralize it. The flow rate of the ceramic filter can be renewed by brushing its outer surface under running water. As the top layer of ceramic and contaminants are brushed off and flushed away, a new layer becomes available.

Doulton (of Royal Doulton Ceramics, England) established in 1827, at a time when the Thames was heavily contaminated with raw sewage; cholera and typhoid epidemics were rampant, have been manufacturing and developing ceramic-based systems for over 180 years. Their ceramic filters can be used in conjunction with other systems such as reverse osmosis and infra red.

Reverse Osmosis

Basically draws water through an extremely fine membrane. The membrane acts like an extremely fine filter to create drinkable water from contaminated water. The contaminated water is put on one side of the membrane and pressure is applied to stop, and then reverse, the osmotic process. It generally takes a lot of pressure and is fairly slow, but it works. The result is extremely finely filtered water. This is similar to distilled water where all the minerals are removed, which may lead to an even larger issue of its tendency to dissolve substances with which it is in contact. Notably, carbon dioxide from the air is rapidly absorbed, making the water acidic.

APEC, Advanced Purification Engineering Corp systems are designed and made in the United States. In business for18 years it is one of the few manufacturers whose materials and parts are entirely manufactured in the United States and certified by the FDA and NSF International (National Sanitary Foundation).

Single Flow Magnetic Filter

When water flows through a magnetic field (whether it is electrically induced or induced using magnetic media such as Magnetite), it experiences a polarization of minerals and a change in the ionization of these minerals. The result can be softer water, ‘smaller’ water molecules that may give far greater hydration, and a limited form of negative ionization of the water, imparting some antioxidant effect.

Although single flow systems certainly work to some degree, the fact that they do not split the water into magnetically opposite streams (acid and alkaline) means that they will reform within a short period and therefore must be consumed immediately.

Far Infra Red Systems

A number of systems include the use of Far Infra Red Energy. This is a completely natural form of energy that emanates from certain minerals, the most effective being the semiprecious gem, Tourmaline. Other minerals are used, often under proprietary brand exotic names, to enhance their perceived ability. Far Infra Red energy (FIR) has the ability to soften water, to negatively charge it, and to restructure it into smaller molecular clusters which may assist in hydration of the body. Most systems use FIR by including it in the replaceable filter.

Not yet available, but in the works a system from Aqua Technology Water that is so efficient it is the first practical solar powered distiller which can produce enough water for a small family during an 8-hour daylight period using a single, small solar panel.

Catalytic Conversion Water Filters

These systems convert heavy metals, chlorine, pollutants and viruses into harmless oxidized form, breaking them down to their basic elements. Because they do not filter the water, they need no filter. They also negatively charge the water and alkalize it.

Water Ionizers

As water passes between a series of magnetically charged plates and a ceramic separator filament, the magnetic field draws alkaline minerals to one side of the ceramic filament, and acid to the other.

Today alkaline and acid water is used in a huge number of hospitals and clinics, both for consumption and wound healing in place of expensive drug regimens. A water ionizer may be attached to the kitchen tap or installed under sink. It filters the water first, and then alkalizes and acidifies it via the ionizing chamber, creating the two streams of water.

Alkaline water is used for drinking. Acid water is used for dermal application. It may also be used for household cleaning because it is a powerful antiseptic. Domestic models will provide water at the same rate as a kitchen tap.

Your water must have minerals in to facilitate the magnetic process. For this reason water supplies that hold very little minerals may not be as suitable.

Go to , click on water ionizers and take their Water Ionizer Quiz. This will help decide which water ionizer will fit your needs the best. The site is for Healthrelated issues and they act as a co-op for purchases. They appear to be totally objective and not profit-driven.


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Bamboo Flooring

April 3, 2008

Bamboo Flooring

by Mariann Ilaria-Stackelberg

Bamboo flooring is an ideal flooring option and in terms of “green” building it has many attributes. From a design standpoint, it is very attractive because it is contemporary and classy, affordable, installs just like a hardwood floor and there are a myriad of choices available to the consumer. Bamboo is also very hard, strong, dimensionally stable and long lasting. It is considered an organic resource because it is generally grown without pesticides, herbicides and other synthetic chemicals. In terms of being “green” it is an excellent example of a highly renewable resource, harvestable only four to six years after being planted. Its low moisture absorption properties make it ideal for humid climates and applications where moisture might pose a challenge for other types of flooring. It also gets “green” points for being non-toxic when it is installed using low or zero VOC (volatile organic compounds). Since bamboo is rarely local, it is grown in Asia – China and Vietnam, it gets “green” demerits for having “high embodied energy.” This means that it is an energy-intensive product, because it is shipped on fuel guzzling boats from Asia before it is even manufactured into a product which requires more fuel. At this time, there is no fair trade certification for workers on bamboo plantations.

In researching the healthiest options or suppliers I came up with the following suppliers who offer low or formaldehyde- free bamboo flooring:

In terms of the company’s practice, the leading supplier of high quality wood products, EcoTimber, considers itself “the only pure player” in the flooring industry exclusively devoted to green values. EcoTimber, based in San Rafael, California claims to be “the first company in the world dedicated to selling wood products only from sound environmental sources.” CEO, Lewis Buchner states: “We don’t just have a green product line. We’re a green company. Our commitment to green issues goes all the way to the core of the company and our customers get that.” EcoTimber Bamboo flooring is made with a low-VOC adhesive that easily meets the strict European E1 standard for indoor air quality.


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Cordless Phone

April 3, 2008

Cordless Phones

by Maria Garcia Alvarez

Cordless phones are not all the same. They come in either analog or digital form and theyoperate in a range of frequencies, from radio to microwave. Common analog cordless phones that operate around 900MHz (the low end frequency of a microwave oven) are being replaced by new digital phones that operate at 2.45 – 5.8 GHz (microwave ovens operate around 2.5GHz) and with more power. Analog phones present health hazards, but the new, high-frequency Digitally Enhanced Cordless Telephones (DECT) seem to be much worse. DECT phones emit microwave radiation very similar to cell phones. But, a cell phone’s handset automatically turns down its output once a link is established, while a DECT always sends out the same strength signal. Moreover, while the power of the signal from older analogue cordless phones is at a constant level (10 mW), the signal from a DECT is sent in bursts – 100 bursts of high power (250 mW) per second.

If you use a DECT close to its main base unit, you are exposed to two separate doses of radiation – one from the handset and one from the base. When in use, DECT phone handsets emit low frequency magnetic field pulses into the side of the your head as well as high frequencymicrowaves, easily capable of penetrating walls. Meanwhile, the charger units give off high levels of low frequency magnetic fields along with pulses of microwaves 24 hours a day.

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Emissions from a cordless phone charger can be as high as six volts per meter (yard) – twice as strong as those found within 100 meters (yards) of mobile masts. Six feet away from the charger the radiation is still as high as 2.5 volts per meter (yard), which is 50 times the “safe” level; you have to be 100 meters (yards) away before the emissions drop to a “safe” 0.05 volts per meter (yard). (

Interesting studies about radiation and effects from DECT phones and baby monitors: ,,

Health Risks

The most common cancer caused by such radiation is leukemia. But breast cancer, brain tumors, insomnia, headaches and erratic behavior in kids have also been linked. Investigations (Hardell & Mild, 2003) of thousands of cases of brain tumors and mobile phones of all types has found up to a 50% increased risk of a brain tumor after five years, which doubles after ten years


Another Lennart Hardell paper on mobile phone use and brain tumors shows an increased brain cancer risk for long-term over 5 years of regular cordless phone use (

Radio wave sickness from all sources, including cordless telephones, has become widespread in the US over that last decade. Symptoms include: Insomnia, headaches, dizziness, nausea, memory loss, difficulty concentrating, irritability, respiratory illness (bronchitis, sinusitis, pneumonia), flu-like illness, asthma, fatigue, weakness, pressure or pain in the chest, increase in blood pressure, altered pulse rate (usually slowed), pressure behind the eyes, other eye problems, swollen throat, dry lips or mouth, dehydration, sweating, fever, shortness of breath, muscle spasms, tremors, pain in the legs or the soles of the feet, testicular or pelvic pain, joint pain, pains that move around the body, nosebleeds, internal bleeding, hair loss, digestive problems, skin rash, ringing in the ears, impaired sense of smell, pain in the teeth (especially with metallic fillings)

Electro-smog (a popular term for all artificially produced electrical and magnetic fields, including that coming from cordless phones) affects the body in several ways:

Energetic effect (thermal): it damages the organism by individual molecules, cells or organs being fed so much energy that they are totally or partly destroyed (principle of a microwave oven)

Signal effect: An organism can convert even the weakest fields into powerful biological responses which can result in disturbances in the hormone balance, biorhythm, psyche and the immune system.

Electro-stress: An enormous variety of tiny waves penetrates into the body. The human body comprises billions of particles, all of which wish to move or to oscillate with the waves like tiny compass needles. This is not possible, as the cells are part of a firm tissue and fixed cell structures. This fight to “break away” ends in a “physical long-term stress”.

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1. Stay away from 2.4 GHz and 5.8GHz DECT phones unless you know you can get a new generation phone that only transmits from the base when the handset is lifted. (Nothing is available in the US yet, but in Europe, I found Rowtex Limited, which distributes OrchidLow Radiation phones, and FRITZ!F, which makes a phone with an “eco-mode”.)

2. A better choice is to use the lower frequency (900 mHz) analog cordless phones. The transformer emits a constant EMF, and both the handset and the base unit of analogue cordless telephones emit detectable microwave radiation when making or receiving calls, BUT the base unit/charger on analogue cordless phones does not emit detectable microwave radiation when the phone is not in use.

3. If you use a cordless phone, keep the charger as far away from occupied spaces as possible, and definitely away from the bed.

4. Consider using only phones with cords (the old fashioned kind), at least as the only phone that is permanently connected. You can keep the cordless phones unplugged until you need to use them.


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Green Roofs and Living Walls

by Maia Holliday


The Resource Portal for Green Roofs

This is just what it touts itself to be: a portal to all things concerning green roofs. Included are: Forums / In the News / Upcoming Events / Classifieds / Students / Market Place / Research Links /Projects / TV / Greenroofs 101 / Directory

I knew next to nothing about the subject, (even though I’m a landscape contractor), before cruising this site. After a quick perusal of this website, I now know how much I’d want to deeply research this technology before I recommended it to a client or did my own roof.

There are enough pros and cons to require careful consideration to the question of its appropriateness to each site and whether the homeowner is the type of person who would be willing to monitor the plant materials and their needs over time. It’s not like roofing a house with conventional materials and then walking away without a care except for gutter maintenance. It’s alive and growing.

Green roofs are very beautiful and have many ecological benefits, some of the most important one: being, water holding sponges during large storm events and reducing the need for air conditioning in the summer and heating in the winter. Check out Greenroofs 101 on the site to get the lowdown on the up high.


I had no idea that vertical or wall gardens were going up all over the world until I happened upon this website while researching green roofs.

The slide show of these fascinating, botanical works of art had me melting into the monitor. They are stunningly beautiful.

The inventor of this particular technology is a French botanist named Patrick Blanc. He designs vertical structures on indoor and outdoor walls and other vertical surfaces, that hold soil-less growing medium, irrigation and plants.

The indoor designs combat sick building syndrome in the loveliest way imaginable. The outdoor designs have some of the same benefits as green roofs: insulation against cold and excessive heat and oxygenating chemical-laden urban air. It looks like there’s no stopping this trend. Cities all over the world will look more and more like Hobbit towns.


I’m not going to list which companies are the best for doing these installations. The answer to that question depends upon what type of roof or wall you need and who is available in your area to make it happen. I advise you to contact several contractors in your area. The technology varies quite a bit as do the planting designs. A contractor should provide references and a tour of some of their designs.

You should also look up the business on the applicable contractor website for your state to make sure that the business is current with it’s licenses, bonding and insurance. Before any work begins make sure you have a contract that stipulates the details of the work to be done, a list of materials, start and finish dates and guarantees. Happy Greening!


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April 3, 2008


by Loriann Smoak



Ecco Bella

Beauty Wise

Earths Beauty

Sante Cosmetics






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Baby Clothes

April 3, 2008

Baby Clothes:

by Loriann Smoak


Kate Quinn Organics

Under the Canopy

Under the Nile

Peaceful Valley

OhGeez Organics


Joli Bebe

Positively Organic

Go Natural Baby


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