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Earth Day products getting greener with envy

Time was, releasing a product with less pacakaging or recycled materials was enough for a flurry of publicity about a company's "commitment to sustainability." The field was less crowded, and a token effort woulw make you stand out. But with more jumping on the crowded "green" bandwagon, the bar is being raised.

Well, tomorrow's Earth Day, so here's Part Two of our E2P roundup - a bunch of items related to the holiday from products to events to food and film!

Time was, releasing a product with less packaging or some recycled materials was enough for a flurry of publicity about a company's "commitment to sustainability." The field was less crowded, and a token effort would allow you stand out from the mainstream crowd. But with more jumping on the crowded "green" bandwagon, the bar is being raised.

"How high?" you might ask, but the question is really "how low?" when you're talking about compostable Toothbrushes!

Yes, I have indeed tried brushing my teeth with one, so that I can report to you that the handle did not bend or break, nor did the head suddenly snap off - something that apparently will become more likely (keep reading). I didn't want to throw it out after one or two uses, though, so I can't personally verify how well it composts. Here's what the makers, World Centric, have to say, though:

World Centric provides high quality compostable food service disposables and food packaging products ... made from annually renewable resources like corn, sugarcane, and wheat straw fiber, some of which are by-products of the agriculture industry. We use these materials to make sustainable alternatives to plastics and Styrofoam.

Our BPI (Biodegradable Products Institute) certified compostable toothbrush and compostable travel case are made from Ingeo™ (derived from plants), instead of petroleum based plastics. Bristles are not compostable. You can break off the head to compost the handle and travel case within 6 months in a commercial composting facility. You can also send us your old toothbrush and travel case for composting.

Here's the thing, though: Bristles are a key part of a toothbrush, no? If you can't make them compostable, it's a stretch to call it the whole unit a "compostable toothbrush." Though of course any compostability is a net gain, I'm left wondering why World Centric doesn't restrict the "compostable" line to things that really are.

Another entry from the past year is the Hydros Water Bottle. Frequently described as "like a Brita pitcher on the go," this is a reusable bottle that filters your water while you carry it. That's pretty neat in and of itself. But these days, it's not enough:

Your Hydros Bottle is designed to eliminate the need for bottled water and can be used at water fountains, kitchen sinks, and bathroom taps here in the US. Hydros is the movement to fight the Global Water Crisis worldwide. Your bottle purchase funds water projects through Operation Hydros and can provide clean water for one person in need for an entire year. $1 from each purchase helps fund sustainable water infastructure projects.

I will take Operation Hydros on its word as to the global benefit of its bottle. It did seem to filter as well as our Brita pitcher as far as I can tell. I put pure Shuylkill River tap into it and didn't suffer any ill -- AAAAAKGAAAAK!! Ha. Man, that joke never gets old.

In contrast to Hydros, both a bottle and a movement, SnapSac bags from One Bag at a Time are pretty low-tech and low-key, but they're handy and roomy for your groceries. They're made out of Non-Woven Polypropylene (NWPP), "a remarkable technological fabric that is recyclable, non-toxic, non-allergenic, and machine washable."

The something extra that this bag offers to green-minded consumers is scientific backing. In a page on its site, "Scientists Recommend NWPP Bags," the company declares that "in order to truly affect the environment, we need to make choices based on science. Studies show that recycling is good but reusing resources is better. NWPP bags combine very low resource use and high reusability rates, and are recommended by scientists around the world."

After that follow three links to scientists around the world, or at least part of the world, saying yes to NWPP. But the folks at One Bag at a Time know to bring it all back to the coffee drink: "We see SnapSac™ as the next evolution in reusable bags.  We created it to renew excitement about what a bag could be and should be.  Our goal was to give you style, quality, and responsibility—all for about the price of a latte."

Depending on the latte, that's a pretty good deal. But for me the "next evolution in reusable bags" would be one that beeps when I'm leaving the house to go to the grocery so I don't wind up remembering them when I'm standing in line at the store. I am absolutely sure scientists would also endorse this. Your move, One Bag at a Time.

While we're talking Earth Day, if you're reading this on Saturday, you might check out Moore College of Art & Design (20th Street and The Parkway) today between 11 am and 3 pm, where they'll be doing a presentation called MOOREcycle.

It's an exercise "aimed at creating environmental awareness and encouraging camaraderie across all majors at Moore. Students have been working hard all semester upcycling 'waste' donated by TerraCycle into functional pieces for class assignments and a design competition held by Student Services. On April 21, Moore will showcase all class assignments and competition entries, and will also offer craft activities as a way to involve the rest of the community during the MOOREcycle event.

And lastly, remember that as wonderful and creative as all of these are, you don't have to participate in craft activities or buy a new product to get in the Earth Day spirit. You do have to go meatless, though. No, it's true, I read all about it in this week's V for Veg. There's plenty of good deals in there from places that you should visit all year round. One event that's only on earth day is a screening of the documentary Vegucated at the Rotunda, starting at 2 p.m.

There's no time like the present to start making changes, or even making more changes, to live more lightly on the planet. And there's no time like Earth Day to get Vegucated! Don't be late!