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Posts published in “Lifestyle and Design”

Trader Joes toothpaste Deodorant & Soap

Three personal care products from Trader Joe’s Shine

Three products from Trader Joe’s stores have found their way into my life on a daily basis. Now mind you these may not be the most exciting products but I use each of them every day and collectively they all cost less than $9 and last me a long time. The three products are Trader Joe’s All Natural Anti-Cavity Toothpaste, Trader Joe’s unscented deodorant and Trader Joe’s Pure Castile Soap.

Trader Joe’s All Natural Anti-Cavity Toothpaste with Baking Soda & Fluoride uses natural ingredients like hydrated silica and Essential Oil of Peppermint to form a gentle great tasting tooth paste that doesn’t harm the enamel of your teeth. Made with no artificial sweeteners (like saccharin), No Sodium Laurel Sulfate and No Propylene Glycol this toothpaste is safe, basic, effective and cheap what else do you want?

Trader Joe’s unscented deodorant is hands down the best natural deodorant I have ever used. I have tried many of them believe me in my quest to get away from the large amount of chemicals found in most of the conventional deodorants on the market, especially antiperspirant deodorants. This deodorant is paraben and aluminum free and is actually made with cotton fibers to fight wetness by absorbing moisture. Hands down this is my favorite product I just love it and its made in Canada.

Perhaps the best overall bargain is Trader Joe’s Pure Castile Soap which comes in a 16oz bottle for $2.99 try finding Dr. Bonners for that. TJs Pure Castile Soap has a peppermint scent to it containing oils of peppermint, olive and coconut as well as aloe vera. Contains no animal products of any kind – I use it every day in the shower its just fantastic. It can also be used as a regular hand soap, shampoo, fruit wash, general use cleaner in the kitchen for scrubbing pots and pans etc. I cannot recommend this product enough and at the price its one of the best values out there.

Now good news – Trader Joe’s stores are located across the country these products are available nationwide so check them out.

Boxed Water from Boxed Water is Better

Boxed Water is the latest in water packaging trends from Michigan-based Boxed Water is Better.  The company produces well designed milk carton style boxes for its water.  The cartons are shipped unfilled and filled on demand as needed dramatically reducing transportation costs and environmental impact.

The boxed water packaging is made from up to 90% renewable resources.  It features a solid white carton with the graphic design done in black creating a sharp, highly effective package design that reads “Boxed Water is Better for the Earth.”

The company said the concept for the Boxed Water started with the simple idea of creating a new bottled water brand that was more environmentally responsible and gives back a bit – they found that it shouldn’t be bottled at all, but instead, boxed. So they looked to the past for inspiration in the century old beverage container and decided to keep things simple, sustainable, and beautiful.

Boxed Water is Better says their carbon footprint is dramatically lower as the boxes are shipped flat to their filler and filled only as demand is created, opposed to most bottled water companies that ship their empty bottles across the globe to be filled, then shipped back for consumption.

As a comparative example the flat, unfilled boxes they can fit on 2 pallets, or roughly 5% of a truckload, would require about 5 truckloads for empty plastic or glass bottles.

Their cartons can also be broken down to their original flat state, are recyclable in most areas, and will be everywhere shortly. We’re also giving 20% of our profits back to the resources our product is composed of – water and trees. Not only does it simply make sense, but we really enjoy supporting water and forestation organizations as it’s part of our company’s ethos and way of thinking to give back and participate. All that and an over-arching focus on simple and beautiful design that compliments our brand as well as the spaces it’s sold and consumed in.

Currently Boxed Water is Better is available at a number of retailers in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area though I wouldn’t be surprised to see the concept expanded to other metro areas around the country.

Me and Goji Custom Cereal

Me & Goji is an interesting new company based in New Hampshire that makes custom made cereal for its customers.  Me & Goji focuses on using high quality organic/natural ingredients, an innovative web-based cereal creation system, simple effective design and environmentally friendly packaging to make the whole experience of creating custom cereal as easy as possible for its customers.

Adam Sirois, Me & Goji’s founder told me about the unique name of his company.  “Goji comes from goji berries which are pound for pound probably the healthiest food on earth,” said Sirois.  “They are found in the high altitude of the Himalayas in Tibet.  The “me” in the brackets allow for interpolation which invokes the theme of customization: anything or anyone can be inserted.”

Creating a custom made cereal is simple.  Me & Goji offers five different cereal bases to begin with and more than thirty individual ingredients to add in order to create a your own unique blend.  Pricing is individual based on what you add to your custom blend.

I put together a blend which I aptly named “Rider’s Cereal Blend” which consisted of Artisanal Cereal blend base (multigrain oat bran, rye, spelt, barley, amarath and wheat germ) cacao nibs, granola, goji berries and pumpkin seeds.  The blend was delicious I loved being able to put exactly what I wanted in my cereal – what a cool concept.

The cereal comes in a canister with a custom nutritional label to match your own cereal blend.  Sirois designed the look and feel of the canister which is a very functional container for the cereal.

The cereal is shipped in a cardboard box made from 100% post consumer recycled material.  The shipping boxes Sirois uses are made by Chicago-based Globe Guard and are custom sized to fit his cereal canister which allows Sirois to further reduce waste and keep his environmental impact as low as possible.

“We are extremely happy with the packaging,” Sirois said.  “Functionally it has suited all our needs, especially in terms of getting our product safely in good shape to the consumer, which should not be overlooked since our product is shipped directly.”

If adding high quality organic items like Maine Blueberries, cacao Nibs, Goji Berries, Hunza Raisins, Goldenberries and many others sounds good then I’d suggest checking out Me & Goji.

Boxed Water Hits Marketplace Nationwide

AQUA2GO is a new boxed water now available in many locations.  The company claims its water is much more sustainable than bottled waters and touts its packaging as a key component in its sustainability.  AQUA2GO  is purified through a reverse osmosis process.

AQUA2GO is packaged in Tetra Brik Aseptic packaging made by Tetra Pak Inc.  The company claims their product is 96% water and 4% packaging compared to a typical 80% product and 20% packaging.  The Tetra Brik packaging is made from 74% wood (paper), 20% plastic and 6% aluminum.

The company says because of its packaging its water has a five-year shelf life and is not susceptible to environmental factors like temperature and light like bottled water.  Their water requires no special storage, is compact and lightweight and the package can easily be flattened after use.

AQUA2GO is available nationally thanks to a deal with the large organic distributor Tree of Life.  AQUA2GO was  initially launched in Whole Foods’ Louisiana stores, Winn Dixie (100 stores along the Gulf Coast), Rouse’s, Langensteins and several other local New Orleans stores.

The new national distribution agreement with Tree of Life has expanded AQUA2GO’s presence across the country now making it available to other national merchants who do business with Tree of Life (such as WalMart, Krogers, Hy-Vee, Wild Oats, Roundy’s and more), as well as the remaining Whole Foods regions.

It will be interesting to track the reaction to this product in the marketplace.  AQUA2GO does not appear to be available in my region yet.

Despite the company’s claim its packaging is a better option in terms of the environment it should be noted that point is at the very least debatable.

Newton Running Packaging Fits the Shoe

Colorado-based Newton Running is using packaging that is very simple and cost effective yet at the same time the packaging is highly functional and very chic.

Using molded paperboard packaging in the shape of their shoes Newton has created something unique in their packaging. The packaging not only reduces waste by eliminating the need for interior tissue paper and other material commonly used in shoe packaging but it also provides a shell that is easy to stack and transport.

The company worked with TDA Advertising and Design on this packaging design. Instead of using additional paper and materials the shoes are stuffed with a pair of socks and reusable shoe bag.

Newton’s packaging reminds me of the egg carton style packaging Pangea Organics uses for its bar soaps.

McDonalds Sweet Tea Styrofoam Packaging

While most companies and a number of municipalities are phasing out the use of #6 polystyrene (commonly referred to and known as styrofoam) in fast food packaging one of the largest fast food companies in the US, McDonalds, is using it for its popular Sweet Tea drink.

McDonalds is heavily promoting its Sweet Tea, offering a large sized cup for just $1

The large #6 styrofoam cup was developed specifically for McDonalds by Dart.

While most disposable fast food cups including those made of paper are not easily recyclable, McDonalds choice of a styrofoam cup for a new product promotion is significant.  Does the company consider styrofoam a better option than paper?

The topic has come up on McDonalds Corporate Social Responsibility blog Open for Discussion.

Responding to a comment from a reader who was concerned about the company’s use of styrofoam for its Sweet Tea drinks a McDonalds representative said the company looks at “life cycle impacts as opposed to only ‘end-of-life’ impacts.”

A McDonalds customer posted the following question on McDonalds CSR blog, “I was wondering why the new sweet tea is being served in styrofoam cups. I know you have responded to other styrofoam questions but I’m wondering why a new drink product needs to be served in styrofoam when the paper cups work for every other drink. While I know the paper cups most likely don’t get recycled, at least they will degrade in the environment unlike styrofoam. Why is this new tea using something that it proven to be so bad for the environment when there are much better choices already being used?”

McDonalds posted the following response to the readers questions which shed some light on their decision to use styrofoam.  “It’s true that in the U.S., food service cups of any material are not recycled significantly. We look to optimize life cycle impacts as opposed to only “end-of-life” impacts. This means that we’ll evaluate a package for impacts across many criteria (e.g., weight, resource use, recyclability) as opposed to only selecting the package based on its ability to be recycled. Also, environment is one of several criteria used for decision making; key amongst this is meeting our customer’s expectations. Others include functionality, cost and supply availability.”

McDonalds has worked globally on its environmental image, so their choice of styrofoam drink packaging for a new product warrants our attention.  What is McDonalds saying by making the choice to use this material?

Preserve Kitchen

Recycline has added a new series of products to its popular Preserve line.  The new products are called Preserve Kitchen and include two types of cutting boards, food storage containers and a colander.  Most of the products will be sold exclusively at Whole Food Market, several are available directly from Recycline.

“The idea behind the line was sparked over a year ago when Whole Foods Market approached us about our ideas for green housewares,” said Recycline’s Marketing Director C.A. Webb.  “Many of their stores have housewares sections and they saw an opportunity to better align that part of the store with the rest of their organic and natural offerings.”

The products themselves are the result of a partnership between Recycline and Connecticut-based industrial design firm Evo Design.

“We wanted our designs to take their cues from natural shapes found in the kitchen and to be eye popping and exciting both in shape and color,” said Webb.  Evo Design did exactly that taking their design cues from nature.  For instance, the food storage container gets its inspiration from an apple, the colander resembles a strawberry.

But beyond the simple organic designs, making sure that the design and the design process met environmental standards every step of the way was challenging. “We are working hard to ensure that the design supports sustainability,” says Aaron Szymanski, President of Evo Design

The Preserve Kitchen products are the first Preserve products designed by Evo.  “They’ve shown an amazing knack for understanding our brand and have a total commitment to helping us deliver on Preserve brand’s promise:  high performance, high design, eco-friendly products,” said Recycline’s Director of Product Development Ben Anderson.

“Whole Foods Market (WFM) has been one of our strongest retail partners and was a natural place for us to launch the Preserve Kitchen line,” said Webb.  “WFM sells the entire line of Preserve products -toothbrushes, razors, toothpicks, and tableware, all popular with their customers.  We also, of course, saw the synergies in launching our first foray into the kitchen with one of the most innovative food retailers in the world,” she said.

Most of the Preserve Kitchen line will be initially sold exclusively at WFM and hits store shelves this week in all regions except three (Midwest, Florida, and Pacific Northwest) but will roll out to all regions by spring.  WFM will carry a cutting board, food storage containers (large & small) and a colander all made from 100% recycled #5 polypropylene (PP) plastic – like Preserve’s other products.

We’ve had a chance to test out the new products and have nothing but praise for their design and material usage.  Recycline has become the master at making useful products from pure recycled #5 PP plastic, and Preserve Kitchen products are no exception.

Like other Preserve products the packaging is minimal to non-existent.  The food storage containers come in minimal paperboard packaging (100% recycled/ 35% PCW) while the cutting board and colander simply have a Preserve label affixed to them with no packaging at all.

 Preserve adds Paperstone Cutting Boards to Product Line Up

In addition to the Preserve Kitchen products made from #5 PP, the company  has added two new cutting boards made from Paperstone to its Preserve Kitchen product line.

Paperstone is a material that has been used in green countertops for several years now.  “We were also curious to explore a new material and developed a cutting board from Paperstone,” said Webb.

The Paperstone cutting boards are available directly from Recycline or at Whole Foods Market in two sizes and are both Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and RainForest Alliance certified made from 100% post-consumer recycled paper.

The addition of the new Paperstone cutting boards is exciting – its always good to experiment with new materials.  We see this new line as an area Recycline can continue to explore, hopefully developing more products from this material.  It is durable and easy to clean and the fact its made from post-consumer recycled paper is a tremendous positive in terms of its greenness.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Dubbed the Greenest Book in Publishing History

The final installment in the Harry Potter series will be the greenest book in publishing history according to Markets Initiative, an environmental group focusing on paper.  Five years of work by Markets Initiative and the Rainforest Alliance is putting tangible environmental solutions into the hands of Harry Potter fans in 16 countries.

For the initial printing of 12 million copies of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in the United States, publisher Scholastic has committed to making sure 65% of the 16,700 tons of paper used is FSC-certified, which means the paper comes from forestlands that are managed in a socially and environmentally responsible way.

Totaling nearly 22 million pounds, this is the largest purchase of FSC-certified paper to be used in a single book printing to date. Moreover, all the paper used in the printing will contain at least 30 % post-consumer waste fiber, with much of that verified by FSC standards as well

The Rainforest Alliance worked with Scholastic to develop its plan to buy FSC-certified paper and will continue helping the company refine its responsible paper procurement policies.

Markets Initiative’s work on greening the Harry Potter series has fundamentally changed the way that book publishers use paper.  More than 300 publishers internationally now print on papers that help safeguard endangered forests. A new paper supply chain has been sparked and 35 new eco-friendly papers developed.

Market Initiative Graphic on Environmental Impact of Harry Potter Book

California Prop 37 GMO labelling Turns into Major Fight

Corporations opposed to California’s Prop 37 which requires labelling of GMO ingredients in food products have donated more than $34 Million to defeat the measure which could have nationwide implications in terms of food labelling and packaging.

According to KCET’s election 2012 site  and other sources the companies/grups leading the charge in favor of Prop 37 are

  • Consumers Union
  • Sierra Club
  • Organic Consumers Fund
  • Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps
  • Nature’s Path Foods
  • Lundberg Family Farms

And those most strongly against it are:

  • Monsanto donated over $7million to fight
  • DuPont
  • BASF
  • DOW
  • Council for Biotechnology Information
  • Grocery Manufacturers Association
  • PepsiCo
  • Coca-Cola
  • Kellogg Company

More info is available from the Cornucopia Institute

K-Cups Single Use Coffee Packaging Generate Significant Waste


Interesting story in the NYT last week regarding the increasingly popular single use coffee pods known as K-Cups for Keurig coffee machines.

K-Cups are designed to be single use servings of coffee and are small plastic containers filled with ground coffee which fit into single serving brewing sytems like the Keurig coffee machines.

As the machines have become more and more popular in the US – thanks to help from major retailers like QVC who often features the machines on television, questions have been raised over what to do about the packaging waste.

Single use packaging like the K-Cups results in tons and tons of used plastic K-Cups ending up in the trash system.  A major player in the K-Cup market is Green Mountain Coffee Roasters – a company I’ve covered extensively on SISG.  They have been leaders in more sustainable packaging in the coffee industry – with one big exception – the K-Cup.

The Times reported 80% of Green Mountain Coffee’s $803 million in sales last year came from single use coffee pods and their brewing systems.  So obivously the K-Cup is big money for Green Mountain Coffee.

But Green Mountain has led the charge in re-configuring consumer store packed coffee – incorporating PLA into their packaging and working towards further sustainable improvements.  So why can’t they devise a more sustainable method for their K-Cups?

According to the NYT the company is currently working on methods to make the whole K-Cup process more sustainable.  Options include the use of biodegradable packaging, recycling programs and making the cups reusable in some fashion.

We’ll continue to follow this story.  I’ve always thought the whole single serving coffee concept was interesting except for the waste it generates.