I first saw EcoChallenge mentioned on my Facebook feed when I read a status update that said a friend of mine had completed a challenge. Used to seeing updates from FarmVille, Sorority Life and a host of other games that I'm not particularly interested in, I didn't pay much attention to the update and continued scrolling down the page.
A month or two later, when I was having dinner with the friend in question, he dazzled me with an eco fact that I had never heard before. When I asked where he learned it, he told me Eco Challenge, and I then inquired as to whether it was a green trivia game or something of that nature. With a laugh, he went onto explain the purpose of this unique app developed by a team at the University of Applied Sciences Potsdam in Germany. Intrigued, I decided to give it a try. Here's a summary of my experiences and some background about the app:
- Available for Phone, iPod touch and iPad models with iOS 3.0 or later. As of the date of this post, there is no version available for Android devices
- Free to purchase from the App Store
- Offers English and German versions
- Provides environmental facts around a specific green theme with topics changing weekly
- Includes a calculator that allows you to determine your own personal contribution to a specific environmental issue
- Offers two challenges that can allow you to make a change in your lifestyle and help with the week's eco concern
- Allows you to share your progress with friends on social media and complete challenges together
Reducing your eco-footprint can be overwhelming. Sometimes, I feel like the little changes that I can make couldn't possibly help, but EcoChallenge makes the change that I can affect very tangible. For instance, the calculator showed me how much carbon dioxide the non-organic cotton in my closet had released into the environment. Once I saw the number, I was anxious to do better, and the challenges immediately made it possible for me to do so.
For each challenge, the app gives handy tips that help ensure your success, and the social media capabilities make the challenge more fun. Even if you can't commit to taking a weekly challenge, the app allows you to participate in the green tasks whenever you're able, making going green a little bit easier.
At Paperless Kitchen, we're always looking for ways to make it easier to go green and eliminate paper from our kitchens. During our own attempts to decrease our eco footprints, we've tried out the products that we carry and have realized that many of them work together. That gave us the idea to offer a simple way to set up a paperless kitchen--Paperless Kitchen kits.
Paperless Kitchen kits contain sustainable kitchen products and paper towel alternatives grouped together and sold at a discounted price. To start, we've introduced three Paperless Kitchen kits:
- Paperless Kitchen Starter Kit - Designed as an introductory package for those just beginning to add paper towel alternatives to their kitchens, this kit contains 5 SKOY towels, one PeopleTowels Reusable Hand Towel and one roll of the Bambooee Bamboo Towels. Priced at just $24, the kit is 30 percent off the price of purchasing the products separately.
- Paperless Kitchen Go Paperless Kit - This kit brings together 5 SKOY Cloths, a 6-pack of Full Circle Cellulose Cleaning Cloths and a Twist Loofah Sponge. Priced at just $34, this set is excellent for expanding your green cleaning products beyond basic paper towel replacements.
- Paperless Kitchen Party Kit - With this set, you'll get everything you need to set a green table for a party of eight and wipe it up when the party's over. Available for the low price of just $46, the kit includes the PeopleTowels 3 Day Supply, 8 Bambu Bamboo Veneerware Plates and the Bambu Veneerware Utensils Pack.
Halloween is a fun time for kids, but when you think about
all that waste generated from your kids' trick-or-treat loot, the holiday can
be downright scary. Finding something constructive to do with all that waste
can help make a small dent in what goes into the landfills in the days
following Halloween, and when you use those wrappers to do something fun with
your kids, the activity can be a great opportunity to teach kids about
An easy, fun craft that you can make is a candy wrapper pencil case, which is perfect for boys or girls. You'll want to start out with a plain pencil case, either the soft kind with a zipper or the hard kind. The most important thing is to choose one that has a flat surface. Here's some easy instructions for you to follow for your recycling craft.
1. Cut your candy wrappers open and then wash them to remove any bits of chocolate or sugar.
2. Switch your iron onto low and then run over the wrappers to remove creases.
3. Let your kids experiment with placing the wrappers onto one side of the pencil case. They can trim or cut the wrappers to create patterns or random designs.
4. Once they have the perfect layout, use craft glue to adhere the wrappers to the pencil case.
5. Help kids flatten out any wrinkles that have formed in the wrappers.
6. Coat the entire finished surface with decoupage gel, which you can purchase at any craft store.
7. Allow the decorated side to dry for 20 minutes or more and then decorate the remaining side or sides.
If you have lots of candy wrappers, you can use this process to decorate a lot of other things, including purses, folders, barrettes, pencil cups--virtually anything that has a flat surface.
In previous posts, we've focused on the enormous problem of plastic waste and on new ways that waste plastic is being put to good use. The majority of the plastic recycling and repurposing that we've talked about is the work of small companies, but recently, a major American manufacturer announced a large project that will put old plastic bottles to new use.
Levi's has announced that a new line of jeans is in the works that will incorporate recycled plastic. Each pair of the new jeans will get roughly 20 percent of its fiber content from plastic and the remaining 80 percent from cotton. To make one pair of jeans, Levi's will make use roughly eight plastic bottles, and the entire collection will keep more than 3.5 million bottles out of landfills.
The brand promises that its new line of recycled plastic fiber jeans will be every bit as soft and comfortable as your current favorite pair of Levi's. The plastic fibers have a unique green-brown hue, which will introduce a variety of new colors into the Levi's jean collection. The new collection, called Waste‹Less, was introduced on October 16, and should be making its way into stores across the United States later this year.
Levi's has long been committed to greening its operations. The jeans company conducted extensive sustainability studies on its manufacturing processes and took steps to reduce water and energy waste at is manufacturing facilities. Most notably, the company developed a distressing process for denim that uses no water at all, saving roughly 45 Liters of water for each pair of jeans made with the Levi's name.
Paperless Kitchen wants to know, will you be buying a pair of Waste‹Less jeans? Let us know in the comment section.
For me, one of the biggest challenges to going green and leading a healthier life is trying to decide what items to buy when I’m in stores. As I push my cart up and down the aisle at the local market, I find myself looking helplessly between the items on the shelf, trying to decide which is the better choice for the planet and my body. I know that there are dramatic differences in the safety and eco-friendliness of even natural and organic products, so often I find myself just hoping for the best and selecting whichever product has the most convincing spiel on its label.
The Good Guide App was developed with uncertain, yet green-eager shoppers like me in mind. I had read about its features in the “New York Times,” so I was anxious to try out this app. To give it a thorough test, I took it along on a recent shopping trip. Here’s a brief summary of the app and the results of my “grocery aisle road test.”
- Works with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad products with iOS 4.0 or later and with all Android products with Android 2.1 and up
- Free purchase from https://itunes.apple.com/app/goodguide/id294447660?ign-mpt=uo%3D6&mt=8 for Apple products or https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.goodguide.android.app for Android products
- Only available in English
- Allows you to scan bar codes on any item. The app then searches through a database and displays information about products.
- Rates products on a scale from 1 to 10, assigning scores for their effects on health, the environment and society as well as an overall quality score. The products are rated by the Good Guide based on ingredients lists and public financial information.
- Provides ratings on personal care products, household cleaners, food, pet food, paper products, cars, cell phones, appliances and apparel. In addition to scanning bar codes, you can also browse a category to see all of the rated products.
- Has additional features like product lists and online shopping capabilities
My feelings about the Good Guide are mixed, and I think that how useful the guide is will depend largely on where you're shopping and what you're shopping for. As an example, I scanned Lysol and instantly saw that the product had only a fair rating. With the touch of a button, I was able to see alternatives to the product, one of which was conveniently positioned just one shelf over. It was easy, green shopping success.
I had a much different experience when I tried to scan both a bottle of olive oil and a Hershey's chocolate bar. The olive oil came up with a different company name at the top. From reading the information about the ratings, I wasn't convinced that I was actually reading about the olive oil at all. There were also no recommended products. I was confused and not confident enough in the information to use the app to help me select the brand of olive oil I purchased.
With the chocolate bar, the product wasn't found. I decided to just look in the snacks section for suggestions, and almost all of the products shown there were not available at this particular market. In fact, most of them I had never heard of before. I could have used the app to purchase one of the bars online, but that wouldn't satisfy my spontaneous chocolate craving.
For those in major cities with a wide variety of shopping options, the Good Guide App is likely a very helpful tool. If you’re limited in your shopping choices or in a more rural area, you may not find the app as useful if you want to do all of your shopping in a store. Still, the app can help anyone make small changes that can enhance their green lifestyle.
Since we launched Paperless Kitchen earlier this year, we've received a lot of feedback about our sustainable kitchen products and paper towel alternatives collection. One thing that we keep hearing again and again is that while our prices are competitive and our selection is great, paying shipping costs discourages prospective customers from buying from us. We want to thank everyone who has taken the time to contact us and let you know that we're listening.
In fact, we're pleased to announce that we are no longer charging shipping on orders from Paperless Kitchen.
Our new free shipping program is available on all purchases made in the US, regardless of their size, weight or dollar amount. This is not a special promotion that will be here today and gone tomorrow. With the current state of our economy, every penny saved helps, and our free shipping policy not only will save you on your orders with us, but will also spare you a trip to a brick and mortar store to purchase the paper towels, plastic silverware and cleaning supplies that you’re currently using.
When we launched Paperless Kitchen, we did so to help others protect the planet, and we hope that our free shipping program will help more people be able to do just that. Please help us spread the word about this exciting change at Paperless Kitchen by sharing this blog post with friends and family.
To finish out our mini “Greening Plastic” series, I thought it was important to highlight one of the new ways that plastic is being reused. In Part One of our series, I touched briefly on some of the ways that green companies are using recycled PET plastic or RPET.
One of the uses I find most incredible is weaving plastic fibers into fabric. The sleek, smooth surface of a soda bottle hardly brings to mind images of carpeting, upholstery or fabric, but numerous companies are now using plastic bottles to produce fibers that can be used for almost any application where synthetic fabrics like polyester might otherwise be employed.
Getting a plastic mouthwash bottle or other PET product into fabric form requires many steps. The plastic has to be washed, dried, crushed into fine pieces, purified, melted and then shaped into thread or fibers. But once the process is finished and the fibers are woven by hand or machine, the RPET fabric is almost indistinguishable from polyester.
In the world of paperless kitchen products, you can find RPET fabric in the sleeves that hold To-Go Ware's innovative bamboo utensil kits. In these kits, the colorful fabric sleeves are used to hold a set of plastic silverware alternatives and are outfitted with a carabiner for easy carrying.
When you're shopping for RPET products, it's important to keep in mind the post-consumer recycled content percentage, which many products provide, even if it’s only in fine print. This is the amount of recycled materials that are actually used in a given product. A product that is made out of 100 percent post-consumer recycled content like the RPET fabric sleeves made by To-Go Ware are made of recycled content, while products with a lower percentage mix recycled content with other materials.
Have a question about RPET products or want to share a great RPET find? Post in our comments!
October brings with it Halloween season, which every year seems to draw bigger and bigger celebrations. Like Christmas, Halloween is now much-anticipated with more people decorating their homes for the holiday than ever before. If you're anxiously awaiting the spooky season, here's some green tips for you to keep in mind to make the season friendlier to the environment.
1. Trick-or-Treat the Green Way Don't take along a disposable plastic bag or a chemical-laden plastic pumpkin for your kids to hold your kids’ trick-or-treating loot. The Eco Lunch Bag line has a great orange convertible bag available that is made from eco-friendly fabric. After Halloween is over, your kids can use it as a lunch bag for school instead of paper bags.
2. Decorate Naturally Rather than purchasing plastic products to place in your yard, go for greener choices like bails of hay, cornstalks, pumpkins and gourds. You can leave these items up after the holiday, as they're also symbolic of fall. When the season finally ends, you can compost your decorations at home or drop them off at a commercial composting facility.
3. Light Responsibly If you decide to opt for lights, look for LEDs, which consume less energy than standard bulbs in strings of Halloween lights. You can also create dramatic, spooky lighting with natural candlelight. Opt for candles made from soy or beeswax rather than paraffin, as the latter contain non-renewable petroleum.
What are you doing to make things greener this Halloween? Share your story in the comments!
To continue our series about greening plastics, I'd like you to meet Bonterra, an innovative plastic product created by Full Circle, a green cleaning company.
When you ask people why they're cutting back on the use of plastic in their homes, most will say that they're concerned about the chemicals that plastic contains or that they prefer to use biodegradable alternatives that break down in landfills. Most people don't realize that 10 percent of the petroleum used in the United States ends up in plastic. This means that every time a piece of plastic is made, we're using up some of the nonrenewable oil reserves of the world.
Instead of being fashioned from blends of petroleum and other chemicals, Bonterra is made from cellulose. Nearly all starchy plants can be used to produce cellulose, making Bonterra production incredibly sustainable. Bonterra is also biodegradable and free of BPA and other toxic additives found in traditional plastic.
Full Circle uses Bonterra in the heads of their bamboo scrub brushes and bamboo dish sponges. The plastic is every bit as flexible and sturdy as petroleum-based plastic. In fact, it's hard to tell that the plastic is a greener alternative just by touching it. Bonterra means "good Earth," and it's a fitting name; the plastic alternative is proof that by using the best of what the Earth has to offer, we can enjoy conveniences in our kitchens while still protecting the world outside of them.
In previous blog posts, my helpful kitchen assistant and I have put three different Twist products to the test. During our most recent trial, my assistant said he was surprised that there were so many green cleaning options for the kitchen. After explaining that different types of green scrubbers and eco-friendly sponges were good for specific tasks, I found myself wondering how the three Twist products would work to handle one big kitchen mess.
And so without further ado, I give you the Ultimate Kitchen Road Test!
For this kitchen road test, I brought back the large Twist Naked Sponge, the Twist Dish Dumpling Scrubber and the Twist Ravioli Scrubber and used them to take on my least favorite cleaning task--the oven.
I make a good effort to keep my oven clean, but as you can see, it did have a few spots of baked on gunk on the racks and at the bottom of the oven. The inside of the oven door was also greasy and needed a good wipe-down. My kitchen assistant and I used all three of the Twist products on the racks, oven bottom and walls and on the doors, and we were surprised by the results.
Twist Dish Dumpling
The Dish Dumpling wasn't able to effectively lift away the baked-on grime on the oven bottom or walls, and it didn't seem to have much of an effect on the grease on the doors; however, the Dish Dumpling was the clear winner when it came to the racks. The shape and the layout of the fibers on the scubber made it easy to wrap it around the slats in the racks. We were able to remove dirt that I couldn't even see.
Twist Naked Sponge
I found it awkward to navigate the Naked Sponge between the small spaces in the racks, but I think the smaller sponge may have been up for this job. For the walls and bottom of the oven, the Naked Sponge was able to remove one spot without any soap, but the other two major baked-on spots were too tough for it. The sponge was perfect for cleaning the door. Its surface lifted away the grease and left the doors looking spotless.
Twist Ravioli Scrubber
We used the Ravioli Scrubber last and were both astonished when the two difficult burn marks on the bottom of my oven were instantly lifted away. With some elbow grease, I removed all of the burned-on food without any soap at all. The shape of the scrubber made it less well suited to the rack, and the section of the door that I tried to clean became streaked from the scrubber.
All three Twist products that I tried in the Ultimate Kitchen Road Test performed well for one particular task. For everyday dishwashing and cleaning, the three products have proved to be equally effective, but for big jobs, green cleaning teamwork is necessary.