Every month or so, once I've mastered my current zero waste/plastic free goal I start on a new one. Usually it's a goal that's been on my mind for awhile but takes a bit to actually get into action. Compostable dog poop bags have been on my list for awhile. Tuffy, my girl poops at least twice a day and since we visit our local dog park almost daily that's a lot of plastic poop bags.
READ THE LABELS
I first decided to try and buy compostable dog bags locally and visited our local pet store. I asked the clerk for compostable bags and she looked at me blankly. She did walk me over to the dog waste section and recommended a product that had "eco-friendly" on the label. Well, the container the bags came in was packed in cardboard made from recycled paper but the bags were your ordinary plastic bags. The product was more expensive than others because it was geared to a dog owner who was environmentally conscious and who most likely had forgotten their reading glasses. You have to read the labels when shopping for eco-friendly products. There is a tern called "green washing", it's labeling cleverly designed to make products look as environmentally responsible as possible. If I hadn't carefully read the label I would have assumed that the bags- the item I wanted to purchase were eco-friendly.
My next stop was the internet. There are quite a few choices on the market I wanted a smaller company, a plant based bag and one that could be composted at home. bioDOGradable Dog Poop Bags fit the bill. As I learned more I realized how complicated biodegradable bags are (not a big surprise). On their FAQ page the question "Are these bags degradable/biodegradable?" was answered yes and no. The bags are made from a material called "bioplastic" which is plant based- corn not fossil fuel based-plastic and when it breaks down it produces non-toxic byproducts such as humus. The FTC has guidelines as well as California which has laws about the claims and marketing of what exactly is biodegradable. The take away from this is consumers should be wary of products that claim to be 100% biodegradable.
THE FINE ART OF COMPOSTING
There are two ways to dispose of your poop bags. The best is home composting. I'm lucky to have a large backyard so I'm adding my poop bags to my large pile of slow composting. I'm not filling my food/garden waste compost bin with bags of poop. The next choice to to find a facility with a biosolid composter, compost made from sewage sludge. I would guess biosolids composter are few and far between. Finally, simply putting you poo bags in the dog waste receptacles is an option- because at least the corn based bags will decompose.
WHAT ABOUT EXPENSE?
So, with all the complications is it still worth using compostable poo bags? In my opinion, yes. Even when added to traditional landfills the bags will compost at the same rate as food waste, paper or lawn clippings. It's not perfect but it is better than traditional plastic bags because in the end they will turn back into a natural material unlike plastic which simply hangs around forever. Another benefit is the manufacturing process and lack of chemicals. These particular bags are manufactured in India and I don't have any info about the actual factory. Finally they are free from chemical dyes and additives.
The bags are more expensive. One consumer change I've made is to buy better and buy less. I'm definitely spending more on poo bags but the feeling of satisfaction I get from not adding plastic pollution to our planet is worth it.
My only complaint was the mailer my package arrived in. I would have preferred a mailer without any plastic. There was some extra packaging inside the package, everything was in one of their dog bags, it was wrapped in brown paper and I got a info card (which I turned into a sign) as well as a few free samples.
Dulse & Rugosa has a bundle package right now, with every purchase of our Dog Shampoo Bar will include a sample biodogradable dog poo bag.
And for the foreseeable future purchase of our Mama Earth Shower Shots will go directly to support Houston and possibly FLA SPCA.
Back to School Season means shopping. It's a tradition to start the school year with brand new clothing, backpack and school supplies. The truth is many purchases are unnecessary, expensive and create loads of trash. Save money and save the planet with some simple tips to help you go Zero Waste.
Let's start with clothing. The first day of school is exciting and everyone wants to look their best for the photos but... " fashion is the second dirtiest industry in the world, second only to oil." This was a statement made by clothing designer Eileen Fisher in an EcoWatch blog post. There are a lot of issues involved- raw materials, production, distribution and finally disposal of used clothing. One strong philosophy of zero waste is to buy quality that will last. When purchasing new clothing buy garments that are fashionable and well constructed. When your child outgrows their clothing pass it along to a friend, neighbor, resell or charity shop. Shopping at consignment boutiques and charity shops is both budget and eco friendly. The problem with buying trendy and cheap clothing is they rarely last through multiple washing and the abundance of cheap, worn out clothing is literally clogging up our earth. For more info on this serious topic check out 1 Million Women's Fast Fashion blog.
Next the backpack. Buy the sturdiest backpack you can find, either at a resell shop or from a good quality outfitter- think L L Bean, Land's End, Jansport. Look for a company that has a genuine guarantee. While the initial purchase will be pricier than a discount backpack, you want a backpack that will last for years. But you can't buy a large backpack for your child to grow into because to be comfortable it needs to fit properly. The perfect fit is below the shoulder blades and ending right around the waist. This means a backpack or bag for the preschool years, one for primary and perhaps another larger one for the elementary years. Any big growth spurt means time to buy another back pack. That's why it's so important to buy quality- your outgrown backpack will be perfect for another student. Another tip is to launder the backpack regularly. It's best to turn the backpack inside out before putting into the washing machine. Of course, as time goes on it will show signs of wear but keeping it clean will extend the life and appeal to the next owner. You can add a bit of excitement each school year by applying patches, cool pins or zipper pulls.
I also recommend purchasing a good quality water bottle. In fact depending on the age of your child you might have to buy more than one. Hydrating keeps us at our physical and mental best. You might need a water bottle for the lunch box, one to stay at school and one to keep in the backpack. Again, it's quality over price. Avoid cheap plastic water bottles that contain nasty toxins. You want a water bottle that is leak proof, insulated, non-toxic and dishwasher safe.
For school supplies start with a hunt around your house. I know I have drawers, tins and cups full of all kind of writing supplies. I think it's fair to say to our kids that before we buy new we're going to use up what we have. It's a good life style policy to instill as early as possible. You might even donate a box of found supplies to your child's classroom. When walking down the back to school aisles look for paper products that contain some percentage of recycled paper. Purchase from companies that are working for a better future. Crayola has an easy four simple steps marker recycling program called colorcycle.
There are many other ways to be more green when going back to school including lunches which is the subject of another blog.
Are you ready to join the Plastic Free Produce Movement? It's an easy step on your Zero Waste Journey because Mother Nature has been so generous in her packaging of most fruits and vegetables. Bananas, winter squash, avocados.....the list goes on.
Of course, if you have a garden you understand the joy of plastic free produce. It's also possible to buy produce plastic free with just a bit of effort. The first thing to do is either bring your own produce bags or have a basket to put all you produce in for easy weighing. I was so proud of my first set of produce bags made from an old sheet but found they weren't perfect for produce as the checker didn't know what was inside each bag. It could hold up the checkout line if the store was crowded. My plan is to make some bags out of tulle but honestly I've gotten so use to simply placing most produce right in my basket or cart. You do need a bag for peas, beans, etc.
One important reason to switch to plastic free produce is plastic is not biodegradable while our produce is. It just keeps breaking down into smaller and smaller pieces. Those teeny tiny pieces often end up in the ocean where they are eaten by sea creatures. If you think about it, these minute pieces of plastic resemble tiny and delicious critters in the ocean food chain.
Also plastic is made from oil, a non-renewable resource. One day we will run out of oil. We need to conserve and use our natural resources rather than squander it covering fruits and vegetables that Mother Nature has already packaged perfectly.
Once you make the switch you do have to be mindful with your produce in the fridge- especially if your bags are not clear. I've had a few very yucky bags of forgotten produce to clean out- but remember it's a process. One change I made was to shop more often but I totally understand if your busy life doesn't allow this. I keep my salad greens right in my salad spinner. I use cloths to keep carrots and beets fresh and try to pay attention to what I have and eat it while it is fresh and tasty.
Anita Horan- a plastic free produce activist from Australia has some great tips on her FaceBook page https://www.facebook.com/anita.the.writer/ and she has started a Plastic Free Produce campaign. She has a template for cards to scatter around the produce department to help raise awareness if you want to become a give up plastic activist- No plastic needed cards.
Going #plasticfreeproduce is a small but important step on the Zero Waste Journey.
This month- there is a world wide movement- Plastic Free July with the goal of raising awareness and challenging people to do something about single use plastic. Single use plastic is plastic that is essentially used one time and then discarded. Straws, coffee cups, lids, take out containers. Basically anything that is convenient, quick and saves time.
It's not that plastics are inherently evil. The Plastic Free July organization has a really interesting perspective on plastics- "Plastics were developed in the early 20th century and were environmentally important, replacing ivory, tortoiseshell, horn and other plant and animal products. By the 1960's plastic had gone from being used in durable items to widespread use including disposable plastic packaging." When you think about all the plant and animal products that have been saved you realize plastics have a place in our society and often especially with medicine and agriculture the benefits of plastic can make life better.
The problem is we have too much of a good thing. We are simply using way, way, way too much plastic- it's everywhere and it's created a host of problems. "Everypiece of plastic ever produced still remains somewhere in the earth today. In the last half of the 20th century over 1 billion tons of plastic was produced. This figure has already doubled in the first ten years of this century." One of the biggest culprits is single use plastic, in the USA over 500 million straws are used daily.
And while many people recycle household plastic, single use plastic is the least likely to be recycled. We tend to use these plastic products at events, concerts and while traveling. Often our recycled plastic is sent to a developing country where we can't see it but it's still there. There may also be health issues related to plastic especially with food stored or cooked in plastic. And finally just the trash that is filling our land and oceans. Plastic pollution in the oceans affects all sea creatures. According to the Ocean Conservancy the biggest source of ocean pollution is plastic beverage containers. They break down into smaller and smaller pieces and are often mistaken for food by hungry animals.
The best way to get started on your Plastic Free Journey is to visit Plastic Free July and take the Pesky Plastic Quiz. Answering the questions will give you a great starting place to make a change in your life. I guarantee once you get started you won't look back.
Resources to get you started-
Another resource from Treading My Own Path has Enough is Enough- 18 Ideas for Embracing a Life With Less Waste and Less Stuff. She also writes great blogs with practical tips, her latest is How to Buy Milk, Yogurt and Cheese Without Plastic.
Follow Australian writer and activist Anita Horn on Facebook, her page is devoted to Plastic Free Produce. It's an easy one to start because many of our fruits and vegetables are beautifully packaged by Mother Nature.