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Sustainable Living News

Creating awareness on the importance of sustainable practices.
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5 Good Reasons to Replace Plastic Cooking Utensils

Most of us don’t think twice about the kitchen tools we use to cook our food. Because cooking utensils are so accessible and available in many stores, sometimes we choose based on affordability because there is very little that differentiates one set from another. They all typically have the same tools in the tool kit. 

For me, as long as I have a spatula for my eggs, a whisk for stirring pancakes, a ladle for my soup, spaghetti server to drain out my pasta and a spoon to stir solid food, then I often don’t care what the tools are made of – that is until I started seeing pieces of plastic in my food.

For most of us, we make buying choices based on affordability and safety with respect to how they are used with our pots and pans. Would they scratch the surface and damage the pan? Would the cooking utensils burn at high temperatures if left in the cooking pot? Is it hard to clean after use? Do they absorb bacteria? All very good things to consider when buying a set of cooking utensils. 

However, there is something even more important we need to consider when choosing cooking utensils – the raw material it is made of.  Remember, these are the tools that will touch your food which, in turn, you will ingest. So, we shouldn’t overlook the potential health risks posed by the cooking tools  we use.

 

The Dangers of Plastic Cooking Utensils

Plastic cooking utensils are the cheapest types in the market. We unknowingly purchase them because many of us are unaware of the dangers they pose to our health and our environment. Most of the plastic utensils we use are made with polystyrene and when heated, release toxic chemicals that produce all types of health issues and illnesses for humans. In addition, there are a host of other issues posed by plastic products that extend beyond our bodies and into our external environment that affect future generations. Here are the top five reasons why we should eliminate plastic use in our cooking.

 

Reason #1: Plastic Utensils Melt with Persistent Contact with Hot Pots or Pans

Despite the fact that plastic utensils made of polystyrene melts at a high temperature of 100 – 120 degrees celsius or 212 – 248 degrees fahrenheit, they do chip, crack and get brittle with frequent hot pan contact. So, even though you make your best effort not to leave your plastic utensil in constant contact with the hot pan, the frequent short touchpoints on the hot surface will still cause pieces to melt.

 

When they chip and fray, pieces of plastic will end up in your food and will, no doubt, end up in your stomach. Within months of buying a dollar store cooking plastic spatula, you will find that, after repeated use, the tips  begin to melt, fade and fray. Eventually, you will need to replace them.

 

Reason #2: Plastic Utensils have a Shorter Life Span of Usability

As a safety precaution, it’s better to dispose of an overused, chipped plastic cooking tool than to allow them to  contaminate your food  with toxic materials. When you first purchased your cheap plastic cooking set,  you may have saved money in the short term. But, in the long run, you will have to replace them more quickly because using them for an extended period of time will expose you to dangerous doses of plastic material. 

 

In comparison to other types of cooking tools, like stainless steel or bamboo, plastic utensils have a shorter life span. They may last as long as a year if not used frequently, but frequent usage will definitely shorten its lifespan.

kitchen cooking utensils ecoluxe bamboo sustainable

Reason #3: Eating Plastic causes Serious Illnesses

When heated, plastic releases harmful toxic byproducts called oligomers which are formed during plastic production. For years, scientists have warned about the dangers and risks of consistent exposure to plastic products in our kitchens.

 

When plastic pieces are ingested through the food we eat, high doses of these over time can cause serious illnesses including liver and  thyroid diseases, infertility and cancer. The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), an independent group of advisors to the German government,  claims that  ingesting as little as 90 micrograms of plastic material from cooking utensils can pose serious health risks like those mentioned above.

 

Black plastic utensils are especially dangerous because not only are they made from computer and electronic parts or e waste that often contain flame retardants like bromine and other heavy metals like lead, cadmium and mercury that affect the nervous and immune system, kidneys, liver and lungs.

 

Reason #4: Plastics can’t be Recycled

Plastic utensils, especially the black ones, are not recyclable because of their color. During the recycling process, the infrared technology that is used to sort plastic can not detect the black color. So, many of the black plastic products are diverted to the landfills, incinerators or end up in our waterways. 

 

Reason #5: Made in China Plastic contain Carcinogens

Plastic additives are necessary in the production of plastic products because these chemicals help produce the right properties that make plastic flexible, durable, water repellent and heat resistant – almost ideal for their cooking purpose.

 

Plastic additives like phthalates are used to make the product more flexible but unfortunately, phthalates are endocrine disruptors that have been linked to causing asthma, developmental disabilities, obesity and breast cancer. To make plastic utensils heat resistant and more durable,  brominated flame retardants are used as additives.

 

Up to 4,000 various plastic additives, such as chlorine, PVC, chromium and antimony can be added during the manufacturing process. One of the main chemicals used in forming plastic is benzene, a known carcinogen. Long term exposure to high levels of benzene can cause leukemia and other cancers. With all these potential hazards is it really worth saving a few bucks to risk your health? 

kitchen cooking utensils ecoluxe bamboo sustainable

What are your options? 

With the high potential for health problems and environmental hazards, we need to replace our plastic man made products with better, more natural alternatives. Bamboo utensils are great alternatives to plastic. They are eco-friendly, organic and healthier for humans. Bamboo is a renewable resource, a carbon sink and 100% biodegradable. Because of its natural, durable and resilient properties, it requires no harmful chemical additives. It may not be the most flexible or versatile tool in the kitchen drawer, but it is still very practical and useful.

 

Unlike stainless steel, bamboo is gentle on the surface of your non-stick pans and will not scratch them. Bamboo is also a low conductor of heat which means you won’t burn your hand if you leave it in your pot while cooking.. Another advantage that bamboo has over stainless steel is its more affordable price.

 

Like stainless steel utensils though, bamboo is durable, hygienic and easy to clean. Bamboo utensils can last a very long time and when you are ready to dispose of them, they will naturally decompose in a matter of months. When choosing your next set of cooking tools, consider buying a bamboo set for your personal health and the environment.

bamboo farm ecofriendly

Everything You Need to Know about Bamboo

For those of you who are interested in learning more about bamboo, this is a fact sheet that answers the most common questions people have about this unique grass. 

 

Can bamboo grow in pots? 

Yes, some species of bamboos are best grown in pots. Clumping bamboos are more suitable to grow in pots. Unlike running bamboos that are considered invasive, clumping bamboos like Himalayacalamus, Otateae, Sasa and Pleioblastus, will only grow a few feet tall vertically and their roots tend to stay contained in flower pots.

 

Can bamboo grow indoors?

Though bamboo is best grown outdoors, you can grow certain species of bamboo indoors in a pot. The best species to grow indoors include: Bambusa ventricosa “Buddha’s Belly”, Bambusa multiplex “Tiny fern striped”, Pleioblastus fortunei “Dwarf whitestripe”, Otatea acuminata “Mexican Weeping Bamboo”.

 

Can bamboo grow in the shade?

Though some bamboo species can grow indoors, most are best grown outdoors in full sun. The genera of bamboo that grow best in the shade are those belonging Fargesia and Borinda.

 

Can bamboo grow in water?

Lucky bamboo can grow in water and doesn’t require planting in soil. However, technically what we know as lucky bamboo is not really bamboo but in fact a type of water lily. So, the real fact is there is no real bamboo that can grow only in water.

 

How does bamboo grow?

Bamboo starts from a seed. Seed is best kept in water to prevent them from drying. Bamboo is typically hardy but preparing the soil with the right mixture can help them grow healthier and faster. Within 1 – 2 weeks, the bamboo will start to sprout to the surface. Once they have sprouted, you can transplant them to a much larger area so they can grow to their potential.

 

What bamboo grows the fastest? 

The Moso bamboo is the fastest growing plant in the world. It grows nearly 3 feet (1m) in a day for a few species. There are 45 genera of bamboo that can grow up to 35 inches per day.

 

How fast does bamboo grow?

Some bamboo can grow as fast as 0.00003 km/h or 36 inches per hour. Not all bamboo species can grow this quickly but the Moso bamboo is considered the fastest growing species.

 

How does bamboo reproduce?

There are two ways bamboos reproduce. Most reproduction happens through rhizomes that spread underground and grow new shoots. The other way is through flowering and producing seeds.

 

Why are some bamboos invasive?

Some bamboos are considered invasive because their tenacious and aggressive roots spread out as far as 20 feet from their original clump and generate new culms quickly. Bamboo uses roots instead of seed propagation to grow and can often be a nuisance for those trying to tame its growth.

bamboo forest biodegradable ecofriendlyHow many types of bamboo are there? 

There are more than 1600 species of bamboo in the world. Moso and guadua are the most common types used for construction and household items.

 

Which species live in North America? 

Most bamboo species are found in Asia, Africa and Latin America. But one species that can tolerate North American climate is the Arundinaria which can be found in Eastern and Southeastern United States from New Jersey south to Florida and west to Texas. The Phyllostachys or the Fargesia genus of bamboo can also withstand temperatures as low as -10º to -20º.

 

Which country has the largest bamboo farm?

The country with the largest amounts of bamboo is China with large tracts of land also found in India, Myanmar and Thailand.

 

Where does bamboo grow?

Most species of bamboo are better suited for tropic and subtropic climates, like Asia, South and Central America, Africa and Australia but temperate bamboos like Phyllostachys can grow in cold hardy temperatures.

 

What types of bamboo are used for household products? 

The guadua bamboo is the most common species used for furniture and other household products because they are durable and versatile. 

 

Which type of bamboo does not spread?

The clumping type of bamboo does not spread because they are sympodial and have shorter rhizomes that don’t expand like the running bamboos. 

bamboo forest ecofriendlyHow does bamboo biodegrade?

Bamboo starts the biodegrading process when moisture, heat, oxygen and microorganisms are introduced to it and it will typically take a few weeks. 

 

Can bamboo be recycled?

Bamboo can be composted naturally and doesn’t require to be recycled.

 

Is Bamboo considered sustainable? 

Bamboo is considered sustainable because it grows quickly (renewable), absorbs large amounts of CO2 and produces more oxygen than other plants.

 

Is bamboo cheap?

Bamboo grows with minimal inputs and requirements and takes only 5 years. They are grown and harvested economically and take only five years to mature, so bamboo is naturally inexpensive.

 

If you have questions about bamboo, please send us an email and we will add the answers. Stay tuned. In the meantime, don’t forget to subscribe to our enewsletter to learn more about our products and services.

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Some terms:

Rhizomes – A continuously growing horizontal underground stem which puts out lateral shoots and adventitious roots at intervals.

Clumping Bamboos – The type of bamboos with very short root structures and are generally not invasive. Their roots will form circular clumps that prevent them from growing horizontal aggressively. 

Running bamboosRunning bamboos are monopodial and have long rhizomes that are quick to spread horizontally. Clumping bamboos are

CulmThe hollow stem of a grass or cereal plant, especially that bearing the flower.

NodeThe connective points along the hollow bamboo poles where the culm becomes solid.

GerminateWhen a seed begins to grow and puts out shoots after a period of dormancy.

 

bamboo roots rhizome

Choosing Bamboo Products can Mitigate Climate Change

How Choosing Bamboo Products can Mitigate Climate Change

Bamboo is green gold. Many countries around the world rely on bamboo for economic sustainability. For thousands of years, bamboo has played a significant role in Asian culture and economy. Bamboo represents the character of moral integrity, resilience, modesty and loyalty.  In Chinese culture, bamboo symbolizes strength due to its tensile strength characteristic while in India, bamboo represents luck, prosperity and wealth.

Its practical applications in our everyday lives are vast. With thousands of uses from furniture and construction to personal care products, bamboo is one of the most versatile, resilient and widely used materials. Belonging to the grass family, bamboo is often overlooked and undervalued. Often considered a nuisance because of its invasive nature when planted in a garden.

But as you will read below, bamboo offers so many benefits. One of the most significant is the role it plays in fighting climate change. It plays a critical role both directly and indirectly in fighting climate change. 

Choosing Bamboo Products can Mitigate Climate Change

Understanding the Basics of Climate Change

Climate change occurs when greenhouse gases such as water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and other synthetic chemicals, retain the heat in the Earth’s atmosphere. The heat trapping causes an imbalance between the radiant energy received from the sun and the heat emitted from the earth. 

The gases act as a blanket allowing the sun’s light rays to penetrate through, but not allowing the heat from the sun to release. This imbalance of atmospheric pressure causes seismic weather pattern changes and the rising temperature in the Earth. The more greenhouse gases produced, the more intense the effect will be, the more frequent and catastrophic the climate change we will experience.

Human activities contribute to climate change. Our sustained demand for plastic products is met with more fossil fuel extraction and production which, in turn, releases more nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, mercury and other hazardous air pollutants. This process contributes to the greenhouse gas effect. 

 

Choosing Bamboo Products can Mitigate Climate Change

Plastic Contributes to Climate Change

Aside from the harmful effects and negative impact of plastics in our landfills, they also contribute to climate change. As mentioned above, petroleum or crude oil is a key ingredient in making plastic. Other ingredients include coal, natural gas and salt. 

The process of making plastic involves drilling and fracking for oil or petroleum, then transporting it to a refinery where it is distilled (separates liquids from gases). All the compounds then go through the polymerization and polycondensation process before manufacturers can use it for their purposes. Throughout every step of the production process, harmful chemicals are emitted into the earth’s atmosphere. The immense amount of electricity and power required to operate a plant also requires more  natural gas, coal and water.  

 

Bamboo as an Alternative to Plastics

Bamboo, on the other hand, is a simple organic material that can substitute for many of the plastic products in the market. Not only does bamboo neutralize the carbon footprint generated by plastic production, but it actually gives back to the environment by releasing 35% more oxygen than the same density of trees. 

 

Bamboo’s high tolerance for surviving on marginal land, make it an ideal candidate for afforestation, carbon sequestration and climate change mitigation.  Bamboo farms are referred to as carbon sinks – an area that has the ability to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to reduce greenhouse gases. Bamboos are hardy grasses that don’t require a lot of resources like water, electricity or power to maintain. So in contrast to plastic, bamboo contributes rather than pollutes the environment.

 

To create bamboo material that is usable for production of goods, it requires harvesting the stalks, cutting the hollow culms into strips, treating and preserving the plant with a solution of boric acid and lime to extract the starch that attracts termites and beetles. Relatively harmless, boric acid is an EPA approved product commonly used in agricultural products.

 

Once the bamboo is converted into a mushy mass, it can then be manipulated, formed and manufactured for products like kitchen utensils, cutlery, toilet paper, textiles and more. 

Bamboo mitigates Climate Change ecofriendly

Bamboo as the Most Renewable Resource

Unlike wood, bamboo takes only 5 years to be eligible for harvestation, while trees will take 50 years making it a more renewable resource than wood. We don’t need a large amount of land to grow bamboo and because of its quick regrowth, the earth does not lose the positive effects that plant life offers climate change. 

 

When trees are cut, the deforestation that results from this slow regrowth phase, means we are losing the opportunity to absorb the effects of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. So one hectare of bamboo is going to provide 30% more positive impact on climate change than trees. The more we use, the more it grows. 

 

Noted by the Guinness Book of World Records as the fastest growing plant in the world, 45 genera of bamboo have been found to grow at up to 91 cm (35 inches) per day or at a rate of 0.00003 km.hour. bamboo grows an average of 1.5 inches per 30 minutes.

 

How Bamboo Mitigates Climate Change

The choice for bamboo products is a step in the right direction. The production of bamboo products requires little resources and produces no negative externality to the environment. On the contrary, bamboo actually contributes to mitigating climate change by acting as carbon sinks. 

 

When choosing household products that can be offered in both plastic or bamboo, remember to consider how plastic is made and the pollutants it emits before making your decision. Bamboo is strong, biodegradable, ecofriendly, durable, antibacterial and very versatile. It’s a much healthier alternative to plastic and its process produces positive externalities. 

 

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Bamboo Plastic Utensil Disposable Cutlery EcoFriendly

Disposable Plastic Utensils Can’t be Recycled

It’s everywhere – plastic utensils! They are cheap to produce, convenient to use, and accessible everywhere. In restaurants, cafes, eateries and grocery stores, plastic disposable single-use cutlery are distributed to you with your take out food. We happily accept them because many of us have been misled to believe that disposable plastic utensils can be recycled. 

Every year, more than 100 million pieces of plastic utensils (spoons, forks, knives) are used and disposed of in landfills by Americans every day. These plastics take thousands of years to decompose and they are not recyclable. 

Why Plastic Cutlery Are Not Recyclable

One reason plastic utensils can’t be recycled is because they are too small and their shape is inconsistent making them difficult to be sorted by the recycling facilities. The second reason is that plastic utensils are made with different plastic types including plastic #1, #5, #6 or bioplastics which are not universally recyclable.

Plastic 5 is made of polypropylene (pp) – a tough, lightweight material with high heat resistance that is often used to make containers for yogurt, sour cream, straws and margarine. Plastic 5 is petroleum derived but it is considered by the EPA to be a safer plastic choice than many others in the market.

It’s glossy finish when used as plastic utensils make it grease resistant and easy to clean. Although some curbside local recycling facilities will accept plastic 5 containers, utensils are far too small to recycle so they are tossed into the garbage.

Plastic Utensil Disposable Cutlery

Plastic 6 is made of polystyrene (ps) – an inexpensive, lightweight and sturdy plastic with many purposes and uses. Aside from plastic cutlery, polystyrene is commonly used for take out containers, egg cartons, peanut foam chips for packing and disposable cups and plates. 

Because polystyrene is structurally weak and ultra-lightweight, it breaks up easily and disperses throughout the natural environment. Products made of polystyrene may leach styrene, a toxic human carcinogen, into food products when heated in a microwave and eventually ingested by humans.

Recycling is not widely available for polystyrene products. Because most curbside collection services will not accept polystyrene, this material accounts for about 35% of US landfill contributing to the growing waste pollution.

In addition to its impact on landfills, plastic manufacturing utilizes a large amount of power and petroleum which, through its extraction process, releases gases and chemical byproducts harmful to people and our environment.

 

So Why Do Businesses Still Distribute Plastic Utensil

With all the plastic waste that is polluting our environment and affecting our health, why do businesses still distribute plastic cutlery? 

Because of the attractive properties of plastic – durable, lightweight, easy to store, accessible and inexpensive, they are the preferred choice for many businesses in the hospitality sector. They are functional, practical and versatile. 

Plastic is easy to produce and widely available. By achieving economies of scale, the cost of plastic per unit is very affordable and allows businesses to keep their costs down. 

Many business owners continue to distribute plastic utensils because they have been misled to believe that they are recyclable. While some simply are not aware of the environmental impact they have on the planet. 

 

EcoFriendly Bamboo Cutlery as the Ideal Alternative

There are other options and materials available as an alternative to plastics. One of the best eco-friendly materials is bamboo. It is fast growing, durable with tensile strength, versatile and most of all biodegrades within months. 

Without all the toxicity that plastics emit, its organic, antibacterial nature makes it a safe hygienic alternative to plastics. Because of its natural fibres, utensils made of bamboo are typically not uniform in color and consistency. They are, however, durable, lightweight and recyclable – characteristics that are desirable for utensils.

Bamboo Plastic Utensil Disposable Cutlery EcoFriendly

Disposing of bamboo cutlery should not make one feel guilty. Bamboo is a natural fiber that you can compost. Later in the composting stage fungi break down the lignin that’s in bamboo into less complicated elements which can then be broken down by bacteria. From leaves to stem, 100% of the bamboo can all be composted within 2 months or up to 4 years depending on the soil conditions.

Unlike plastic, bamboo does not derive from petroleum and doesn’t require a large amount of power and nonrenewable resources for its production. Though it may dry out if put in extreme heat (like a microwave), it does not emit toxic carcinogens and is safer for your body. 

 

Make EcoFriendly Choices with Bamboo Disposable Cutlery

Bamboo Plastic Utensil Disposable Cutlery EcoFriendly

While governments begin to ban single use plastics all over the world, we can still do our part in helping with the transition to less plastic waste in the environment.

What We Can Do

  • We can decline to accept plastic utensils given to us by restaurants when we order take out
  • When buying utensils at the grocery store, we can choose biodegradable ones
  • We can also choose to use silverware at home 
  • We can buy reusable bamboo utensils that can be used for the next picnic, travel or outdoor adventure

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What Businesses Can Do

  • Consider alternatives to plastic cutlery by purchasing bamboo disposable cutlery
  • Do not freely distribute plastic utensils for your take out customers
  • Start to offer bamboo utensils instead of plastic ones at grocery stores

Start making the switch and replace your plastic utensils with more biodegradable bamboo cutlery for your next outing.

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Are Bamboo Cotton Swabs Any Better than Q-Tips?

Cotton Swabs, or as we know them, Q-tips (which is actually a brand), are commonly found in many bathrooms. They are used regularly as part of our personal hygiene routine. Many of us think that they are completely harmless for us and the environment. But, the truth is depending on what type you are using, they can actually be quite harmful to both humans and our planet. 

 

The Origin of the Q-Tips

Q-Tips were invented in 1923 by Leo Gerstenzang, a Polish American inventor after observing his wife use cotton on a toothpick to clean her ears. He manufactured these Q-tips® as part of his baby care accessory line and the product was originally called Q-tips® Baby Gays. In 1926, he dropped the word Baby Gays and just marketed this line as “Q-Tips”.

 

The “Q” stands for quality while the “tips” describes the cotton swabs at the end of each wooden stick. Originally, all Q-tips® were made of wood until around 1958 when the company acquired Paper Stick Ltd of England, a manufacturer of paper sticks for confectionery goods. The bonded paper and paperboard Q-tips® stem was then introduced as an alternative to the wooden sticks.

 

In 1998, Q-tips® antimicrobial cotton swabs were launched. The q-tips were dipped in boric acid in the factory during the manufacturing process so they can be promoted as “personal hygiene” products. Boric acid provided the antiviral and anti-fungal properties. 

bamboo, cotton swabs, q-tips, biodegradable, ecofriendlyDo Cotton Swabs do More Harm than Good?

As far as health is concerned, many people believe that cotton swabs actually do more harm than good. Some say that the cotton pushes the ear wax even further into your ear canal and can possibly damage sensitive tissues. If improperly used, the cotton swab can actually compress the wax even more and cause damage to the sensitive ear organs. If you are using cotton swabs or Q-tips® for other purposes, like cleaning tight crevices, they are extremely helpful and harmless. They are a simple invention with multiple practical uses. 

 

For the environment, cotton swabs made of paper or bamboo are generally safe and harmless when disposed of. Paper and bamboo are both 100% biodegradable and compostable. They typically decompose within months. 

 

Are Cotton Swabs Recyclable? 

Cotton swabs are not recyclable. They are too small and lightweight to be sorted through the normal recycling process and may end up causing more environmental harm because they will pollute the waterways.

 

Regardless of whether they are made of bamboo sticks or paperboard, unfortunately, they will all end up in the landfill. So the best option we have is to buy and reuse ones that are 100% biodegradable made of natural cotton and bamboo or paperboard sticks in order to minimize the environmental impact. If either the cotton tip is made of synthetic or the stick is made of plastic, then the whole piece is not considered eco-friendly and will take years to decompose.

bamboo, cotton swabs, q-tips, biodegradable, ecofriendly

Why Switch to Bamboo Cotton Swabs?

So many may be wondering what’s the benefit of buying bamboo stick cotton swabs instead of the paperbonded applicator. The key benefit is that when using bamboo, there is no chemical, like adhesive, used to bond and stiffen the paper into a stick. Therefore, composting the bamboo variation is easier and faster. 

 

Bamboo is far more renewable than wood. It regrows to maturity within 5 years whereas wood will take 50 years. Bamboo is the fastest growing plant and can be found throughout the world. With very little agricultural input requirements, like pesticides, to grow, they are hardy, low maintenance plants considered to be one of the most eco friendly resources.

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Bamboo cooking utensils

Why Plastic Cooking Utensils are Toxic

If you love to cook, chances are you have cooking tools like spatulas (of all sizes and styles), ladles, spoons and more. If you’re on a budget, like me, you probably went to the dollar store to buy your basic necessities. After all, you probably don’t cook every day, so there’s no need to buy top of the line cooking tools at a specialty kitchenware store.

 

So you decide to buy the most affordable and practical utensils – the plastic ones. Packaged for convenience, you get all the basics including the ladle, two or three types of spatulas, spoons and maybe one or two specialty tools. They are flexible and thin enough so you can actually flip your burgers and eggs. They are gentle on your cookware and don’t scratch the surface of your non-stick frying pans. 

 

They are practical and easy to clean except you might realize that the more you cook with them, the more plastic pieces end up in your food. When plastic has persistent contact with heat such as on the surface of pans, it will melt. Perhaps you think it’s not such a big deal so you carry on and use it. But at a certain temperature, these plastic compounds break apart into simpler molecules and some of which are toxic and harmful to our health.

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The Health Effects of Plastic Utensils

The harmful effects associated with plastics can come from 3 sources: the actual ingredients of the plastic used to make the finished goods, the byproducts used during the manufacturing process and the chemicals that are absorbed from the environment. Plastic utensils and other plastic products are made from a cocktail of substances such as pesticides, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). All of which have toxicity levels that will have a long term impact on our health.

 

PAHs are a class of chemicals that occur naturally in coal, crude oil and gasoline. High temperature cooking will form PAHs in our food especially when using plastic utensils. The long term health effects of continued exposure or large amounts of exposure to PAHs may include cataracts, kidney and liver damage, and jaundice.

 

On the other hand, PCB’s are a group of man made chemicals that are a very stable mixture resistant to extreme temperature and pressure. However, they are highly toxic industrial compounds and post serious health risks to fetuses, babies and children who will suffer neurological problems from repeated or prolonged exposure to PCBs even in small amounts.

 

Plastic ByProducts and Additives are Dangerous 

 

There are many more chemicals and additives that we don’t know about that are used in plastic manufacturing. Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and polybrominated biphenyls (PBBs) belong to a class of chemicals that are added to manufactured plastic products as a way to reduce the chances of catching fire – like a flame retardant. 

 

PBDE’s are known environmental contaminants and cause neurotoxic effects altering the function of the  thyroid hormone. Phthalates are estrogenic compounds that can disrupt endocrine function and reproductive systems of animals and therefore likely to cause the same effects in humans as well. 

 

A study was conducted by the Environment Science and Technology on the Toxicity of Plastic Products and tested 34 products made of 7 of the most common plastic substances including and an eighth material – biobased, biodegradable PLA (marketed as sustainable). 

 

The study found that 74% of the plastic products used for consumer purposes had high levels of toxicity. The issues of toxicity were widespread and toxicity was found in nearly all the plastic products tested. The chemicals added to the base material that give plastic its color and flexibility may contribute to the toxicity levels of the plastic.

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Replacing Plastic with other Substances Not a Better Option

 

Combining the ingredients and substituting one ingredient for another doesn’t necessarily eliminate or reduce the toxicity level of plastic. Sometimes, replacement chemicals used to substitute the hazardous ingredient, only creates a similar problem or outcome.

 

With so many unknown substances in the production of plastics, it is best to find other ways to reduce your exposure. Though many will not immediately feel the health effects of plastic exposure especially when it is infrequent in small amounts, persistent exposure will manifest itself as a form of disease or illness over a period of time.

 

Bamboo as the Safer Option for Kitchen Utensils

 

There may be other options like bamboo cooking utensils or stainless steel that are safer alternatives to plastic ones. Bamboo is sturdy, organic, durable and easy to maintain. It does not melt during your cooking process and doesn’t emit harmful chemicals because it is made of organic, plant based material that can be naturally biodegradable.

 

Although it is not as flexible and malleable as plastic and shapes and sizes tend to be limited, it is functional, practical, antibacterial and antifungal. Bamboo is heat, stain and water resistant and most importantly, it is gentle on the surface of pans and pots. It will not scratch your non-stick coating and it doesn’t conduct heat (you won’t burn your hand from it like stainless steel). So if you are looking for another safer alternative to the toxic plastic version of kitchen utensils, bamboo cooking utensils is a great option. 

 

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plastic toothbrush

Plastic Toothbrushes Contribute to Climate Change

When we buy a plastic toothbrush, we don’t often think about what they’re made of or how they are disposed of. From the various selections available at the stores, we pick out what we need without any thought as to how our choices can impact our environment.

 

Retail stores give us a large selection of toothbrushes with various handle designs, colors, sizes and styles at affordable price ranges. But what you may not have noticed is that the selections are all made of plastic. Three and a half billion (with a “B”) toothbrushes are sold every year worldwide and millions of plastic toothbrushes are disposed of every year. 

 

Many of us are unaware that our limited choices corner us into buying from the selection of plastic toothbrushes that contribute to the plastic pollution that is causing climate change. This is serious stuff. 

plastic toothbrush, dental, ecofriendly, chanelle dupre

Plastic Toothbrushes Contribute to Climate Change

According to Statistics Canada, just over one-third (37.5%) of Canadians brush their teeth at least twice a day and floss at least once a day. The average person buys a new toothbrush every 3 – 4 months. This amounts to millions of plastic toothbrushes disposed of every year. But why is plastic used for toothbrushes and do we know its impact? 

 

Plastics are durable, versatile and cheap and for this reason, they are widely used in many household products such as toothbrushes, floss casing and dental picks. Unfortunately, plastic is hazardous to our planet from the beginning to the end of its lifecycle. Nearly every piece of plastic begins as a fossil fuel, and greenhouse gases are emitted at each stage of its life: 1) fossil fuel extraction and transport, 2) plastic refining and manufacture, 3) managing plastic waste, and 4) its ongoing impact in our oceans, waterways, and landscape

 

We are treading on dangerous territory if we continue to consume at the rate we are going. Even if growth slows after 2030, plastic production and incineration could emit 2.8 gigatons of CO2 per year by 2050 and accumulate in the atmosphere over time. Projected growth in plastic production and incineration will consume more than ten percent of the earth’s remaining carbon budget and this needs to change.

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Changing our Lifestyle and Choices

A transition toward a “zero waste” lifestyle which involves the conservation of resources from responsible production, consumption, reuse, and recovery of materials without incineration or landfilling – is the best path to reduce emissions and slow down the pace towards climate change.

 

Knowing what impact plastic products have on our environment and its implications on our health now and in the future, we need to consciously make the right decisions. In our everyday life, we need to look at the various plastic products that we use and start replacing them with eco-friendly alternatives. It may seem like your impact will be small just by replacing your plastic use for biodegradable products, but your contribution will influence others to make changes in their choices as well.  

 

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Practical Implementation of Zero Waste Living

Our path to a zero waste lifestyle means being eco conscious. Here are rules to consider when trying to live a zero waste life:

  1. Refuse – do not buy plastic products
  2. Reduce – get into the habit of not buying things you don’t need
  3. Reuse – repurpose used products or buy products you are reuse versus dispose
  4. Recycle – separate your waste so it can be disposed efficiently including composting organics

You can start by choosing biodegradable bamboo toothbrushes instead of plastic ones. You can also offer the gift of biodegradable products to people on your gift list so they can be introduced to a new way of life that will be better for future generations.

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Is the Food Delivery Business Polluting Our Planet?

Since the pandemic, we’ve had to adjust our lifestyle, our habits and daily patterns. With the closure of many businesses including restaurants, we could no longer gather to socialize with friends and family. Instead, many of us who still wanted to enjoy dishes from our favourite local restaurants, opted for take out and food delivery.

Many flocked to online food ordering apps like Uber Eats, DoorDash, Ritual, Skip the Dishes, Fantuan and Chow Bus for convenience and access to the wide range of eateries during our quarantine period. 

By April 2020, restaurants saw a shift in their business model. For example, for full-service restaurants, 28% of their sales were generated by food ordering apps by 2020. These same shifts from dine-in to take out, delivery and pick up or drive thrus were experienced by all types of food service including quick service (fast foods). More people ordering take-out or food delivery means more demand for food packaging.

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Why the Shift to Food Delivery? 

For those who shifted from remote working during the pandemic, life just got so much busier balancing work, family and house chores. With school aged kids now doing online education at home and young kids using the home as their daycare and playground, suddenly life is chaotic with no time to eat, clean or even sleep. 

The separation between work and home became blurred and many of us found ourselves working later and longer hours. So, ordering food was a relief, providing more convenience and less cleaning. With all the money saved from staying home, most of us reallocated our budgets to buying food and groceries online or through delivery apps.

More demand for food delivery means more demand for food packaging. Though many restaurants have converted to more eco friendly food packaging and containers recently, some still use plastic and styrofoam. This became a real dilemma for our environment. 

The Price of Convenience 

Plastics production and manufacturing is a $35 billion dollar a year industry in Canada with packaging being one of the 3 major categories showing growth in demand. The hospitality sector which includes hotels, restaurants and resorts, are one of the biggest contributors to single-use plastic waste in our environment. 

In Canada, plastic packaging accounts for almost half of the 3.2 million tonnes thrown out each year. According to a study conducted by Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) in 2019, 86% of the plastics consumed end up in landfills and only 9% are recycled. 

food delivery, sustainable, packaging, plastic, restaurantPackaging creates pollution and governments, such as Canada, now consider and classify plastics as “toxic”. According to Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA), substances that harm the environment, biodiversity, human health or both are considered toxic and will fall under strict regulations in order to mitigate the externalities it creates on the environment. 

Why is Non-Biodegradable Packaging the Choice? 

The cost of convenience now will most certainly be a price the next generation will pay later. Plastic based food packaging is, indeed, a readily accessible, familiar and relatively cheap material that offers durability and practicality for the hospitality industry. But the harm that these choices make on our environment is multi-generational and far reaching. 

The restaurant industry is composed of many small independently owned restaurants. A good portion are likely family run and owners are not sophisticated business people. They may not even be aware of the consequences of their choices in packaging materials. Restaurateurs are only thinking about their bottomline and how much more profit they can make now with cheaper materials. 

Plastic based materials have been used for decades for food preservation and with this established network of suppliers and distributors, it’s no wonder plastic owns a large market share of the packaging industry. Its popularity and high demand creates economies of scale that reduce the price per unit and perpetually drives even more demand from buyers – the restaurant owners.

Why restaurateurs use plastic over biodegradable materials may also be attributed to the fact that they may not even know of alternatives. They may be choosing the food packaging only based on the limited options presented to them by distributors that knock on their door. These distributors and suppliers may be incentivized to promote sales of certain types of materials that offer higher margins and returns for their business.

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Is Sustainable Packaging The Best Choice?

Sustainable packaging has proven to be just as effective in keeping food warm or fresh as plastic or styrofoam. Just look at pizza boxes. Pizza outlets (including large chains like Dominos and Panago) have been using cardboard boxes, far more earth friendly and biodegradable than plastic containers, to keep pizza warm for food delivery for decades. 

food delivery, sustainable, packaging, plastic, restaurantSo you must wonder why some restaurants continue to use plastic when biodegradable versions do the job of keeping food warm and fresh during the delivery process (refer to the reasons outlined above). Access, cost, lack of education and convenience are factors that drive demand for non sustainable packaging. 

Key Takeaways

As an industry, the switch from plastic to sustainable food packaging has not been quick nor without resistance. Lack of awareness and education about sustainability contribute to the types of decisions being made by restaurateurs. 

Governments are stepping in to curb the demand for single use non recyclable plastic products. But we don’t have to wait for policies and regulations to be implemented before we can start our journey towards zero waste. 

Buyers (like restaurants) and end consumers (like us) have a significant role to play. We create the demand that drives the supply side to produce more. We can tackle the problem from the other side of the equation by demanding less of the bad stuff and more of the sustainable products. We need to be better educated about the impact our choices are making on our environment and educate more people along the way. 

At the end of the day, it is not the delivery companies that are the source of the problem. They are only the intermediaries providing the service from the businesses to the consumers. The source of the problem lies with the restaurant industry. Just as retailers need to pay attention to the materials they are offering their customers, restaurants need to be aware that every plastic container that leaves their restaurant on its way to the customer ends up in the landfill.

Interested in learning more about sustainable packaging? Contact us and we can help you find a sustainable solution for your business or help you find better ways to live sustainably every day.

 

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Are Bamboo Cutting Boards any Good? 

Cutting boards are an essential kitchen tool. A staple product when cooking. You need it to prepare your meat, vegetables, bread, cheese or anything else that requires cutting. Although many have grown accustomed to the convenience of just cutting their bread and vegetables on a counter, it is not sanitary. 

There are many important uses of cutting boards but the most important being sanitary and hygienic reasons. Bacteria and other germs can easily transfer to food when you are not safely preparing your meals. Cutting spaces are a source of bacterial and food borne illnesses. 

There are so many different types of cutting boards in the market. How do you know which one to choose to ensure your choice offers durability, affordability, convenience and effectiveness. The two most common types of cutting boards to compare are plastic versus bamboo cutting boards. 

There are many benefits to both but if you were to make an eco-friendly choice, bamboo, hands-down, the better choice. We’ll look at the comparison between bamboo and plastic cutting boards from various angles and you can decide what works best for you. 

Comparing Bamboo vs Plastic Cutting Boards Material

The first thing to consider when looking at the cutting board is the material it is made of. Bamboo is a fast growing, renewable, durable and eco friendly material. Because it is a grass, it grows with very little maintenance and energy requirements. It is a hardy grass, organic and naturally biodegrades in the environment without the need for further chemicals or effort to break it down. 

Plastic, on the other hand, although it is durable, versatile, accessible and affordable, it is a man-made petroleum based product. It requires the extraction of crude oil from the earth in order to produce the material. It requires vast amounts of energy, non-renewable resources from the earth and chemicals. At the end of its lifecycle, it is not biodegradable taking hundreds of years to break down in our landfills. 

Durability Factor of Bamboo vs Plastic Cutting Boards

When choosing a cutting board, like any other kitchen tool, you want it to last. No doubt, plastic is very durable and this is evidenced by the length of time it takes to biodegrade in nature. Both plastic and bamboo are durable materials. The key difference is that one is organic and the other is a man-made product and pollutes the earth. 

Bamboo is known for its durability. With its tensile strength, it is not easily destroyed with pressure and load. You can assure it will withstand the pressure of cutting all types of food. Bamboo is used in construction including flooring, scaffolding, structure and more. It is dense and durable, easy to clean and natural. 

cutting board, plastic, bamboo, ecofriendlyAffordability of Bamboo vs Plastic Cutting Boards

Depending on the type of cutting board you buy, they can range in price. There are a number of very artistic bamboo boards used both as kitchen decoration and a practical tool. Some bamboo cutting boards are multifunction with drawers to store your cheese cutting knives and other paraphernalia and other products come in packages with 3 or more different sizes. They can come in various sizes, styles and colors. You can spend as little as $4 at a dollar store for effective bamboo cutting boards. 

Equally as affordable, plastic boards are also pretty accessible and affordable. They come in various shapes, styles and colors. Though less aesthetically attractive as a kitchen decor, plastic boards can also be easily found in most department stores, discount stores and kitchen supplies retailers. 

Are Bamboo Cutting Boards More Bacteria Resistant than Plastic ones?

A very important issue to consider when choosing the right cutting board for your kitchen is the health and safety of the tools. Does it have the ability to transfer and absorb bacteria and germs to your food? Cutting boards can be a source of bacteria that causes food borne illness and food poisoning. Many of us have experienced this at one time or another at a restaurant. 

Bamboo cutting boards are dense and non porous. Bamboo also contains a natural anti-bacterial agent called bamboo kun that is effective in eliminating or preventing over 70% of bacteria that attempts to grow on it. Because of its antimicrobial and non porous characteristic, bamboo cutting boards are more bacteria resistant than plastic ones. 

Because of its porous nature, plastic will host bacteria and germs more easily and contribute to contamination and food borne illnesses. It will also absorb more moisture. If you are using plastic boards, you will want to ensure it is sterilized with hot water in the dishwasher and cleaned often.

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Are Bamboo Cutting Boards Higher Maintenance? 

Though bamboo cutting boards will require an application of mineral or coconut oil before first use to seal it and a few more times to keep it in good condition, it is natural, organic and healthy. The conditioning you do to it only adds to the aroma and flavour of your food. 

Plastic on the other hand, is easy to maintain and often dishwasher safe. But the drawback is that because it is porous, it can stain. For example if you cut marinated meat with sundried tomato oil, your plastic board can become discolored. Many will try to remove the stain by bleaching it because simply putting it in the dishwasher is not enough. The stain will infiltrate into the pores. 

Also, because every cut you make on the plastic board creates a scar that may host germs, you will need to be more diligent with scrubbing it thoroughly and not contaminating other kitchen tools with the same cleaning materials. 

bamboo cutting board, sustainable, ecoluxe productWhat are the Environmental Impacts of Plastic vs Bamboo?

As you may already be aware, plastic is non biodegradable. When they make plastic this durable and dense, you can be assured that the material will take hundreds of years to decompose. When they do start to decompose, the microplastics find their way into our ecological system harming many animals, humans and nature. 

Bamboo boards, on the other hand, will completely biodegrade within a matter of months. It’s eco-friendly quality is far reaching. Bamboo farms contribute to creating 30% more oxygen and absorb 50% more carbon dioxide in the earth. Often referred to as carbon sinks, bamboo rapidly sequesters carbon in biomass and soil, taking it out of the air carbon pollution faster than almost any other plant, and can thrive on inhospitable degraded lands requiring no harmful pesticides or fertilizers to grow. 

What Other Considerations are there with Bamboo vs Plastic Cutting Boards? 

Bamboo cutting boards will not get scarred as easily by your knives as plastic boards. They are more gentle and will not dull your knives over time. With plastic boards, if you have been using for a while, you will notice several scars of the years that your knives have made and eventually you will notice the impact it will make on the sharpness of your knives. 

Another important consideration is the impact that micro plastics have on our health as a result of using plastic cutting boards. With each cut you make into your plastic board, small pieces of the plastic can be absorbed by the food you are cutting and eventually make its way into your body. Micro plastics are known to cause cellular changes, genetic mutations, alterations in glandular functions and inhibition of hormones. The monomers that make up plastic are highly carcinogenic and can be traced to causing cancer.

What are the Key Takeaways for Considering the Best Cutting Board? 

Bamboo cutting boards are by far the more eco friendly and safe choice. It is durable, affordable and bacteria-resistant. It is multi-functional, natural and organic, practical and effective. Its environmental impact is positive and it does not cause negative externalities to our ecosystem. 

Perhaps you may think a cutting board is such a trivial choice to make, but many products in the market now have alternative options. Choosing the right one is important for the future of our planet.

 

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Why Bamboo Cutting Boards?

Your cutting board is an important kitchen essential. It’s where your food preparation begins. It’s likely that every household has one but do we know what the impact is of disposing of cutting boards? Many of us don’t think twice about the impact of disposing of housewares. 

Perhaps some of us donate them while others throw them in the garbage only to be piled onto the heaps in the landfills. When we make purchasing decisions, most of us are driven to make buying choices based on budget

If you look at the variety of cutting boards in stores, you will find that plastic ones tend to be up to 40% less than bamboo or wood cutting boards while glass are double the price. Many are attracted to the aesthetics of glass but are they really any good? Why is the bamboo cutting board the best choice in the market? 

Is Glass a Sustainable Resource?

Plastic boards, no doubt, are not the right choice to make when deciding on your most essential kitchen tool – the cutting board. It’s worth looking at other options and alternatives, like glass, in the market so you can feel good about your investment.

Choosing the right material for your cutting activities may sound trivial to many, but if you spend a lot of time in the kitchen cooking, it’s a pretty important investment to have just like your set of knives. 

Glass is considered sustainable because it can be 100% recyclable but only if it actually ends up in the right place and not in the landfill. Some may argue that glass is not a sustainable material if you look at the entire product development process of glass.

bamboo cutting board, glass, sustainable, ecoluxe product, ecofriendlyTo make glass requires sand, limestone and soda ash – resources that are non-renewable. Although glass itself can be reused over and over, its birth and end of life process requires a lot of energy to transform it to the material we can use. Also, its end of life requires more energy including human resources to sort and separate glass by color before it is ready for its next life.

Whether you think glass is a sustainable material depends on how you view the process of recycling. But if a finished product is made of non-renewable resources, the way glass is, it may be better than plastic, but still not the best choice for the environment. 

Glass vs Bamboo Cutting Boards

Beyond its sustainable properties, you need to assess glass cutting boards’ practicality and usability. Just as plastic boards have disadvantages, so do glass ones. It has a number of great advantages but the disadvantages far outweigh the benefits it offers. Below is a quick snapshot of the comparison between bamboo and glass boards:

EcoLuxe CuttingBoard Comparison

Why Bamboo is the Best Choice

You may have to spend a bit more money for the sustainable product, but it’s positive impact is worth the investment. Unlike wood boards which are more expensive, heavier and not as renewable, bamboo boards are cheaper alternatives with exceptional qualities that rival those of the classic wood blocks.

Plastic is by far the least environmentally friendly product in the market and can cause health issues because its porous surface hosts bacteria that can lead to foodborne illnesses and diseases. Its disposal is a problem for our ecosystem and its product development is harmful to our environment.

bamboo cutting board, glass, sustainable, ecoluxe product, ecofriendlyGlass can be sustainable and renewable if recycled properly but can you ensure that its end of lifecycle management is done properly? Though it’s attractive, low maintenance and typically anti-bacterial, it’s fragile, heavier, more expensive and has some serious drawbacks like dulling your knife or causing accidental cutting.

Bamboo is by far the smarter choice: it is affordable, anti-bacterial, 100% made of renewable resources, biodegrades in a matter of months, doesn’t dull your knife, attractive and comes in a great variety as a single product or in a bundle. With bamboo made cutting boards, you can find multi-functional designed ones that dub as a centerpiece for your wine and cheese party complete with compartments for your mini serving tools and a simple cutting board for all sorts of dry goods. 

Learn more about the types of sustainable bamboo cutting boards available. 

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