RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Despite the fact that food, clothing, and gas prices continue to climb, there’s a growing segment of the population who are willing to spend a bit extra to buy organic and nontoxic products for their families. Nowhere was the health of the organic market more visible in recent weeks than at Natural Products Expo West in California, where buyers who decide what appears on store shelves were flooding the aisles to find the latest and greatest organic and green products.
So what does this mean? Go to most mainstream stores, and yes, you’ll still likely find lots of products made of harmful plastics and additives, and foods containing genetically engineered ingredients and pesticides. But more than ever, you’ll also have truly healthy food and green product options, thanks to innovation at almost every level of retail, from large corporations with a moral backbone to mom-and-pop start-ups. The trend to package food and goods in sustainable packaging was on grand display at Expo West, as were the increasing number of fabrics being made from certified-organic cotton.
Here are some of our favorite green products from Expo West:
Blue Lotus Reusable Grain & Produce Bags
In this bum economy, we’re being advised to buy in bulk to save mega-money, particularly on organic goods like beans and produce. To reduce your plastic load at the same time, shop co-ops and farmers’ markets using these stylish organic-cotton reusable bags, perfect for grains, beans, and rice. Use the mesh bag for things like onions and apples, and if it ever wears out, you can toss it on the compost pile!
ECO lunch wrap from Eco Lunchbox Gear
Take your lunch, or your child’s lunch, back to more sustainable food-packing principles with products like stainless steel containers and the Japanese cloth Furoshiki lunch wraps free of toxic chemicals. (See how to use the wraps in a Furoshiki Japanese Wrapping Video.) You can also use these techniques to wrap presents in reusable fabric.
With all the news about how harsh chemicals like BPA and phthalates harm childhood development, a group of concerned mothers banded together and developed these reusable sandwich and snack bags. And with that, we can ban single-use plastic baggies forever! Although they are made of plastic, it’s a food-safe European material that tests free of those harmful compounds. Plus, the designs are cute and sure to inspire your kids to eat the healthy food packed inside! (Note: We always recommend avoiding heating any plastic in the dishwasher or microwave.)
Back to the Roots Mushroom Growing Kit
Two UC–Berkeley frat boys bound for banking and business careers became sidetracked by a mushroom experiment that led to this DIY home oyster mushroom growing kit. The grads, now urban mushroom-growers in Oakland, use formerly landfill-bound coffee grounds as the base for the mushrooms’ growing medium. (They’re actually paid to cart the coffee grounds out of the café. Sweet deal!) All the home mushroom-grower has to do is open the box, slit a hole in the bag holding the mushroom spawn and soil, and add water. In 10 days, you get a hearty supply of healthy oyster mushrooms. It’s a great experiment for kids, and for anyone who has limited gardening space outside. The best part? Once you’re done growing your ’shrooms, the coffee-grounds-based growing medium is an amazing soil amendment for your outdoor plants.
So, you have your reusable shopping bags and lunch containers. Take it to the next level and replace paper towels with these reusable ones. The average person uses 2,400 to 3,000 paper towels outside his or her home every year, contributing to 3,000 tons of paper towel waste produced in the United States every day. Knowing that, it’s no wonder paper is among the leading sources of landfill waste. These People Towels are great to keep in the office or to carry on the run to use in place of throwaway hand towels in public bathrooms. Best of all, these are made from organic cotton—that’s important because chemically grown cotton uses more pesticides than any other crop.