Following the latest news about the environmental impact of
plastic, I wanted to do a
short series of posts related to recycling plastic and ways that sustainable
kitchen products manufacturers are helping with the plastic problem.
One of the biggest barriers to plastic recycling at home is knowing just what's acceptable to add to your curbside recycling bin and what's not. Unfortunately, waste management companies often end up throwing away plastics that have been incorrectly disposed of in curbside bins, undermining your recycling efforts without you even knowing.
Plastics manufacturers use specific symbols to help signify the type of plastic from which their products are made. If you understand these symbols, you can make smart recycling decisions and do your part to help with the plastic problem.
- Type 1 Plastics Marked PET or PETE, polyethylene terephthalate plastics are incredibly common and are used for the clear or slightly tinted plastic bottles that hold foods and personal care items like mouthwashes. PET or PETE plastics are the standard plastics accepted by curbside recycling programs and are used to make new bottles as well as upholstery and carpeting.
- Type 2 Plastics HDPE or high-density polyethylene plastic is typically translucent or opaque and used for products that can degrade or spoil if exposed to light like detergents and milk. Curbside recycling programs generally accept HDPE plastic, which is made into everything from plastic lumber to toys.
- Type 3 Plastics Labeled as PVC, plastic containers that fall under type 3 are fortified with chlorine, which makes recycling them difficult. PVC is often used with products that are exposed to abrasive, corrosive materials. PVC is not widely recycled; however, more and more companies are finding ways to reuse old PVC to make construction materials like decking. To recycle PVC, you'll have to find a company or specialty center that accepts it. I recommend using iRecycle (link to blog post) to find locations in your area.
- Type 4 Plastics Most plastic bags, squeeze bottles and other flexible plastic packaging are made from low-density polyethylene or LDPE. Although curbside services generally don't take LDPE, many grocery stores now have plastic bag recycling containers outside their doors. Many communities have additional LDPE recycling centers, which you can find using iRecycle.
Typically, the recycling symbols are placed on the bottoms of plastic bottles, though in some cases, they may be on the back or neck. Having trouble identifying a type of plastic or finding a PVC or LDPE recycling center near you? Post in the comments, and we'll do our best to help!
After hearing so much about Bambooee bamboo towels, I was anxious to try them out for myself. In particular, I was curious to see if it really was possible for one roll of 20 towels to be the equivalent of 60 rolls of ordinary paper towels. With the help of a trusty assistant, I decided to kitchen test the towels, and I'm pleased to say that Bambooee towels really do deliver on their promises.
One thing about paper towels that's hard to give up is how easy they are to reach for and use in a pinch. I love that Bambooee towels come in a roll with perforated sheets just like paper towels. They fit right onto my paper towel holder, and they're really easy to tear.
Although they look like paper towels on the roll, you can tell Bambooee towels are different from ordinary paper just by touching them. The feel of the bamboo is soft and silky. It almost feels like fabric to the touch.
I find that paper towels are the first things I reach for when someone spills something, so I had to do a spill test to see how Bambooee stacked up against paper. I spilled a full 6-ounce glass of cranberry juice on my counter and then placed the towel on it. Immediately, the bamboo fibers began absorbing the spill. I let the towel stay in place for a couple of minutes and when I lifted up the edge, there was hardly any juice on the counter. The towel was so absorbent that it didn't drip when I lifted it, and all I had to do was fold the edge over and wipe once and that was the end of my mess. I went to the sink and rinsed the towel, and to my amazement, the juice just started to wash away. After just one rinse, the towel was almost completely clean, and it now has only a very faint hint of a pink stain.
Dirt and Window Film
I typically clean with a reusable cloth, but I know many people reach for paper towels to do dusting, so I wanted to see how well worked on messes. I used it wet to clean up potting soil and also to wash the glass on one of my pictures. In both cases, I used only water to wet the towel. With the soil, the particles were immediately attracted to the towel, so it was really easy to wipe them away. On the window, my assistant was able to get a streak free finish with just water. He didn't have to do any vigorous scrubbing either. Just gently wiping was all it took to eliminate the dirt.
One of the features of Bambooee towels that I found hardest to believe was that you could wash them in a washing machine, and so I decided that laundering should be my final test. I washed my towel in cold water with no fabric softener and then hung it up to dry as suggested by the manufacturer. My towel came out wrinkled, but otherwise as good as new.
My assistant and I agreed that you could use Bambooee towels for everything that you use paper towels for and more. The towels are absorbent and great to use both wet and dry for cleaning. They're easy to rinse and definitely can be machine-washed. I would highly recommend them as paper towel alternatives. I can easily see how using these towels again and again would take the place of multiple rolls of paper towels. In short, Bambooee towels live up to their promises.
This week, European Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik released some shocking facts about the use of plastics throughout the European Union. After announcing that he is launching a new initiative to help the European plastic industry reinvent itself by incorporating more recycled materials in their products, Potočnik emphasized the importance of a new approach to plastic by sharing that:
- Only 24 percent of all plastic in the European Union is recycled
- 50 percent of all plastic used in the European Union Ends up in landfills
- The amount of plastic that ends up in dumps in Europe is the equivalent to 2 million tonnes of crude oil
How does the U.S. compare to Europe? According to the Clean Air Council, 7 billion pounds of PVC plastic alone are thrown away every year in the U.S. Of that, only 25 percent is recycled.
Plastics manufacturers are not the only ones to blame for the huge plastic problem worldwide. Each of us has personal responsibility for the issue. It's our demand for convenient, durable products that drives the production of consumer plastic products, and the waste produced from many of these plastic goods is almost unfathomable.
For example, the Clean Air Council reports that the paper and plastic cups, forks, and spoons that Americans alone throw away each year could circle the Equator 300 times.
Both the news from Europe and these facts from here at home are a powerful reminder of the importance of greening your kitchen and living a paperless, plastic-less lifestyle.
Paperless Kitchen wants to know, "How are you working toward building a greener home by cutting back on paper and plastic use?"
For part two of our Paperless Kitchen Twist product tests, I decided to give the Twist Ravioli Scrubby a whirl. Twist reports that the scrubber was made to clean the toughest baked-on messes like lasagna and pasta, so I decided to put it to work on one of my biggest kitchen messes. Typically, I let the baking dish from this particular recipe soak for 30 minutes in hot water and then still spend as much as 5 minutes scrubbing it with a cloth or a metal scrubber. My mission was to see if the Ravioli Scrubby could make cleaning up from this kitchen nightmare quicker and easier.
The Twist Ravioli Scrubby is shaped just like the pasta from which it gets its name. Like a little pillow, the scrubber has a raised, padded center with a thinner perimeter. The natural hemp burlap casing gives the scrubber a rough texture, but it's finer than that of a metal scouring pad.The Dish
Warning: just reading about this dish may put you into calorie overload. The messy masterpiece that I chose to make for this test is a recipe that my butter-loving, Polish grandmother (who was affectionately known as Babcia) loved to make: pirohi casserole. The dish consists of layers of lasagna noodles, mashed potatoes, bacon, mushrooms and cheese, which are baked until golden and delicious. To make the casserole bake evenly, I use Babcia's baking dish, which I was lucky enough to inherit, but its cranberry glass surface is very hard to get looking spotless. I was certain that if the Ravioli Scrubby could handle this mess, it could stand up to virtually any difficult pot or pan.
To really see what the Ravioli Scrubby could do, I decided to just clean the dish right away without any soaking. I filled the sink with hot water, added my regular green dish soap, plopped the dish in and hoped for the best. The minute I started scrubbing, I turned to my kitchen assistant and exclaimed, "It's coming RIGHT off!" And it was--the hemp fibers lifted away the baked on cheese with very little effort, and the shape made it easy to even get the tough stuff in the corners.
I lifted out the dish and rinsed both it and the Scrubby and then ran the scrubber over the dish again out of the water. That and a second rinse were all it took to get the traces of grease off the sides and leave the pan picture perfect. I also used it to clean my Teflon spatula, and it didn't leave a single scratch on its surface.
Babcia's pirohi casserole didn't stand a chance against the ravioli scrubby. Once I dried the casserole dish, I got on my phone and started looking for where I could recycle my metal scrubber. I'm quite sure I won't be needing its help any more.
Boric acid or Borax is hardly a new chemical. Anthropologists have found evidence that suggests the Ancient Chinese were using boric acid in ceramic glazes as early as the 10th century. By 1702, the secret to producing boric acid in laboratories had been perfected and by the late 19th century, the first cleaning products that contained boric acid or Borax were being manufactured.
As a cleaning agent, Borax's benefits are undeniable. Boric acid has the ability to amplify the effects of bleach and other cleansing agents and is capable of eliminating bacteria. With its proven effectiveness, Borax is a commonplace ingredient in many kitchen cleaners; however, the more we learn about the effects of boric acid on the body, the more the safety of its use becomes questionable.
Several studies have determined that Borax is a toxin that can have profound effects on the body. One 2009 research trial conducted at Thammasat University in Thailand, for example, found that the chemical has the ability to cause genetic defects and cellular toxicity in humans. A 2006 research study conducted by the USDA Forest Service showed the potential for boric acid to cause myriad reproductive problems from sterility to low fetal birth weights.
Still, proponents of boric acid state that high doses of boric acid are required to cause toxicity. Also, many studies focus on the ingestion of boric acid, not its use as a surface cleaning agent or detergent. Still, one can't help but wonder just how safe it is to bite into an apple that has been sitting on a counter top that was just cleaned with Borax scrub.
Many green cleaning companies now offer products that are free of boric acid, packaging them in biodegradable wipes that are easy to use. While the health effects of boric acid still remain in question, switching to chemical-free cleaning can give you some peace of mind.
What do you think about Borax? Do you know what products in your home contain it?
We recently introduced an expanded line of Twist eco-cleaning products, so I thought it was time we gave some of them a test spin to see just how they compared with other kitchen cleaning tools. Because of its slightly risqué name and its green design, I thought the Twist Naked Sponge would be a great place to get started. Normally, I don't use a sponge to clean my home, as I've never been happy with how well synthetic sponges work, so I was curious to see if I liked using the natural sponge any better.Getting Started
The Twist Naked Sponge is made from 100 percent cellulose rather than synthetic fibers, and you can see right away that it's free of dyes from its pure white color. When I unwrapped the sponge from its cover, I noticed that it had a slightly slippery or greasy surface. In comparison to most sponges, which are light and foamy, the Naked Sponge feels much more dense and heavy.The Spill
To get things started, my kitchen assistant and I spilled some strawberry-kiwi juice on my counter top. Before cleaning, I placed the sponge in the corner of the mess and watched at it instantly lifted the juice from the counter. The sponge proved to be very absorbent; after just 2 minutes, it had sucked up most of the juice, so it required only two wipes to get the counter clean. When the mess was gone, I rinsed the sponge, and it was as good as new without any staining. I did notice that the sponge produced foam when I squeezed it, even though I hadn't put any soap on it. I assume this is from the natural oils in the cellulose, which also gave the sponge that slippery texture.
My assistant had just been telling me that he wanted to get his car detailed, so we decided to head out of the kitchen and give the Naked Sponge a try on his dashboard. We started with the sponge just slightly damp and were amazed at how much invisible dirt the sponge picked up with just one wipe. We were able to easily clean the entire dashboard without having to rinse the sponge, and again, it came clean easily when the job was finished.
In my opinion, the Twist Naked sponge is definitely better at cleaning that synthetic sponges. None of the sponges I've tried at home in the past could have cleaned up a spill so quickly, and my assistant was so pleased with how it worked on his dashboard that he asked if he could take the second sponge in the set home with him. All in all, the Twist Naked Sponge earns the Paperless Kitchen seal of approval!
The back-to-school season is officially underway with most kids and teens already back in the classroom. Hopefully, you've already gotten your school supplies and the other essentials chosen for your kids, and everyone's falling into the routine of earlier bedtimes, homework sessions and after school activities.
With the daily grind now officially resumed, now is the perfect time for you to take a step back and evaluate just how green your child's lunches are. How many items from her lunchbox will she throw away in the cafeteria garbage can? What hidden chemicals are lurking in the containers that he's eating and drinking from?
If you don't like the answers that are coming to mind, our Top 5 Ways to Green School Lunches is here to help! This list features five of Paperless Kitchen's best eco-friendly solutions for kids' lunches that will help you cut back on waste and feel better knowing your kids aren't being exposed to BPA and other toxins.
1. Eco Lunch Bags - These hand-dyed, cotton bags are the perfect alternative to paper lunch bags. Reusable, these little marvels are made by free trade artisans and can be converted to a backpack or purse.
2. eco-Ditty Sandwich and Snack Bag Set - Colorful and fun, this duo includes two bags--one for a sandwich and one that's ideal for carrot sticks, crackers and more! A great substitute for plastic sandwich bags, the eco-Ditty bags are made from organic cotton.
3. Bambu Disposable Bamboo Sporks - Alternatives to plastic forks and spoons, these handy sporks are made with bamboo fibers. They're biodegradable and designed to be thrown away after use. Another plus—they’re the perfect size for little fingers.
4. Bambooee - Instead of a paper napkin, send along a bamboo-based, reusable sheet that can be laundered and used repeatedly. When the paper towel alternative is finally ready to be thrown away, it will break down within 5 weeks, so its environmental impact is minimal.
5. Eat Cleaner Wipes - Explain to your kids the benefits of protecting their bodies from chemicals and toss an Eat Clean wipe in their lunch daily, so that they can eliminate pesticides and germs from their apples or oranges before they enjoy them.
Remember that when you're taking the time to select eco-friendly lunch options for your kids that it's important to let them know about the products that they're using. Taking the time to explain your paperless philosophy can help them become good green citizens as they grow. It's never too early to start raising eco-minded kids!
On a recent trip to a burger bar that I love to visit for a much-deserved calorie splurge, I immediately noticed something was missing when I sat down. Typically, the first thing we do when we arrive is reach for the menus sitting inside of the carousel that bears the salt and pepper shakers, but on this trip, the silver menu holder was noticeably empty. Just as I was about to glance around and see if the other tables were similarly bare, a server arrived at our table with an iPad in hand.
With a smile, she explained that the restaurant had switched to a new electronic ordering system. After explaining how to work the app, she left us with the iPad and set us free to play and experiment. By the time we had placed our order and customized our burgers to just how we like them (with the help of photos and in-depth descriptions of the available options), I was pretty convinced I loved electronic ordering. When my friend discovered the iPad also was stocked with Angry Birds, he was, too.
While he tried his hand at hurling those colorful birds, I got to thinking about what a great idea electronic menus are for the planet. While most restaurants reuse their menus many times, I often see paper inserts in menu that list features and special events. Plus, our order was sent electronically to the kitchen, so no paper was needed. Apart from the brown paper napkins we used to dab the world's best hot pepper sauce from the corners of our mouths, our meal didn't use any paper until they printed our bill.
There are several companies out there that offer electronic menu systems, including Infinity Menu, Aptito, Elacarte and eMenu to name a few. In addition to the iPad-based type that I discovered at my favorite burger joint, there are also custom-designed tablets available for restaurants.
Restaurant owners who are interested in greening their businesses could benefit greatly from electronic menus. For those concerned about the effects on waitstaff, from what I saw at the restaurant I visited, the usual number of servers was working and as busy as ever. Ours stopped back more often to check on us, and we agreed when we left that the service was an improvement over what we had come to expect.
Have you been to a restaurant that offers electronic menus? What do you think about the idea?
For a while now, the Internet has been abuzz about the benefits of cookbooks versus cooking apps. Recently, the food editor at "Slate" magazine, Laura Anderson, sat down for a podcast interview with Marketplace, during which she predicted that our grandchildren or great-grandchildren will no longer rely on cookbooks at all, favoring apps instead. With the popularity of electronic readers and tablets, this argument could be made about all paper books as we know them, but the conversation is the more interesting when it comes to cookbooks because this publishing niche continues to grow, despite a weakening in sales in most other types of traditional print media.
Clearly, people are still buying cookbooks even with more and more recipe apps becoming available. So what's the appeal of a paper cookbook? I can think of a few things:
- A paper cookbook makes it easy to sit back and scan pages at your leisure to get inspired. For me, there's something different in the experience of folding down a page as opposed marking a section on an app or website as a favorite.
- Cookbooks are purchased by people of all ages, including older folks who aren't as likely to use app features on smartphones and tablets.
- Following along with a cookbook as you cook can be easier, as you don't have to worry about your phone or tablet becoming damaged or dirtied by ingredients.
- For some, cookbooks can be easier to see than the screens on smartphones and tablets.
On the other hand, there is a definite case for cooking apps and online recipe sites as well.
- Apps and websites are friendlier to the environment as they aren't printed on paper.
- Whatever you're in the mood to taste, you can typically find more than one recipe on apps and online to try. You can get access to recipes instantly without having to head to a bookstore or order a cookbook online.
- Many cooking apps and recipe websites include instructional videos and extra photos that make recipes easier to understand.
- Social media and review features found in many apps and on websites let you share recipes with friends and read about how well a particular recipe worked for others.
What are your opinions? Do you think future generations will look at cookbooks as nostalgia or ancient artifacts? Or will cookbooks always be around? Do you prefer cookbooks or apps? Why?