LetsGoGreen Eco Product Reviews

LetsGoGreen is a business that believe their products can make a positive difference one home at a time. They’re environmentally friendly, and are selected specifically for use in every room in the house.

We were sent a few items to take a look at. Their 100% Recycled Toilet Paper is free of dyes, inks and fragrances and is recycled without chlorine or bleaching. Frankly, as far as I can tell, this was the same as the non-recycled type, so there is absolutely no reason not to switch from the non-recycled type which are cutting down ancient forests. If every home in America changed just one roll for a recycled roll, then it would save a million trees a year.

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Another no-brainer is to switch to Ecosafe degradable trash bags. We have the 13-gallon Tall Kitchen Bags. Ecosafe bags are just like regular plastic bags, except that they will totally degrade and compost in 12 to 24 months. They contain an additive called DCP which remains dormant until triggered by sufficient UV light, heat or mechanical stress. The bags leave no toxic or harmful residue.

Finally, I’m getting quite good at looking at reusable bags. Their canvas totes are made in the U.S.A. and are grocery-sized and sturdy. Dimensions are 18″ L x 7″ W x 17.5″ H (with 13″ handles), and carries quite a lot. I actually also use it to carry other reusable bags around in 🙂

A four pack of 100% Recycled Toilet Paper is only $2.39 (on sale), Ecosafe kitchen or trash bags start at only $2.99 and the reusable canvas tote $9.99 from LetsGoGreen.biz. Plus they have a 25% off FRIEND discount on!

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Gerhard van den Heever’s Eco Egg Pots Product Review

Pottery isn’t my strong subject, but when Louisa from Adila (just & fair) suggested we take a look at these Eco Eggs we couldn’t resist. And we’re glad we didn’t. We got a set of four Eco Eggs and they look lovely.

Made by South African potter Gerhard van den Heever (pictured without his shirt on, like all good potters – I’ve seen Ghost), the Eco Egg Pots is made from clay from the local area – Paternoster on the west coast. Any clay that gets discarded during the production of the pits is dried in the sun and manually wedged till it’s ready to use again.

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And that’s not all, he reuses the water needed in making his pieces by watering flowers and vegetables surrounding his shop and studio – lovely. And even lovelier, he gives away the flowers and veg – the flowers go to the local tea garden for decoration and the vegetables go to the locals on a help yourself basis. And even better, the kiln used to fire the Eco Egg Pot is fuelled by waste sawdust from a nearby furniture manufacturer. Splendid.

But what of the pots themselves? Well we received four and they range in sizes and colours – each is unique. They’re anywhere from 6-12cm high and a bit smaller in width – not quite round. They’re a brown and white mix and again it depends on which ones you get as to what colour they are.

However all of them have a neck and a hole in them. The necks are quite rough and look like they’ve been snapped off but that’s the style. I’m not sure if you’re meant to put anything in it but you wouldn’t be able to fit more than a single flower in most of them anyway.

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The bases are also rougher, being unglazed. I actually like the unglazed look a bit more that the rest of the egg but that’s just me. Gerhard’s signature and (sometimes date) are inscribed on the bottom. I’ve attached a few pictures and a little video (below) to give you a sense of scale more than anything, but for some more pictures and to buy one or a set, you can go on the Adila website here. They cost £18 each (although in March 2008 they’re down on special offer at £15) and £56 for a set of four (£44 in March 2008).

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Disposable Leaf Plates Eco Product Review

Ganesha is an alternative trading outfit that markets the traditional industries of India, working directly with the producers. We’ve more about them in our Paisley Park Jute Shopper Product Review.

The sent Life Goggles a pack of 20 leaf plates to test. But where do you start testing a plate? Kev did an excellent review of some plates made from potato starch so I did what any self-respecting blogger would do and thought I’d copy him.

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But as it turns out, these are quite different products. These disposable plates are made from sal and siali leaves, from the forests of Orissa, east India. And as you’d expect, leaves can’t hold that much weight so doing a test like Kev’s weight bearing experiment with apples was a no goer, in fact it struggles with a knife and fork on it. For an easy comparison, think of the leaf plates as a replacement for paper plates at parties or barbecues. But bigger. They’re about 30cm (12″) in diameter.

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So how do they fare? Pretty well to be honest, they’re used in India for festivals and weddings and you can see why. They’re flexible and you can hold it with one hand to squeeze it together a little to keep things secure, however your hand needs to be underneath as it will just bend if you hold it by the edge with something heavy on it.

As I said, it’s ideal for snack food, not something to eat your dinner off at the table. A knife will cut through the leaves so a spoon or a fork would be better. The shiny side of the leaves face up (the underside is quite soft) so it does hold liquid to a degree. Things like tomato ketchup are fine, but it won’t hold a thin sauce for long. I tested it using water and while to look at the plate seemed to be holding the water well, moving the plate revealed after a couple of minutes the water had seeped through.

While I was at it, I thought I’d see if they were reusable after a quick wash. Not really. A quick wipe maybe, but once the leaves are wet, they tend to curl up when drying which splits some of the seams and there are a few little pieces of wood which connect leave together, which can come undone in the drying process.

So use them once and then put them in the compost – the ultimate in biodegradable dinnerware.

To see how they’re made, go here for a slide show of leaf plate making and there’s a descriptinon too: “Leaf plate making is a village-based industry, which depends upon the local availability of siali (Bauhinia spp.) and sal (Shorea robusta) leaves from nearby forest. It is a widespread activity in the villages of Orissa, employing thousands of workers. Many of them are home-workers working in an informal way, to increase the household income. There are also some more organised ‘self-help’ groups. These are often women-focused or adivasi (tribal)-focused.

“Women appear to be the main collectors of leaves. Later, they sit together in the smoothed mud yards in their village and stitch the leaves into rounds with little sticks. They can be stitched further by machine. The stitched rounds are put out in the sun to dry. Each plate is made by pressing two rounds of leaves together in a machine. This work is done mainly by men.”

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Green Tomato Kit Eco Product Review

The Green Tomato Kit has nothing to do with tomatoes. Well sort of. Green Tomato has a simple idea that it’s easy to be kinder to the planet by doing things like not buying those tomatoes on a two for one offer as you won’t eat them all. They’ve also set up a taxi service in London made up of Toyota Prius’(which, thanks to getting this kit has explained a mystery to me of seeing cars with funny looking apples on the side – they’re green tomatoes).

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The Green Tomato Kit is pack to help those thinking of going green do it a little easier. As regular readers my know, I get annoyed by the packaging of some of the eco stuff I review – it’s all well and good being made of recycled plastic but it’s wrapped in polystyrene. Well the Green Tomato Kit came in biodegradable packaging made from potato starch and even the label with my address written on is biodegradable – made from corn starch by these guys.

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And inside are a host of goodies. It’s all wrapped in a cotton reusable bag (not sure if it’s organic cotton) which is huge actually so good for your shopping. There’s then a water saving thingy to go in your cistern to help save water, two energy saving lightbulbs, radiator panels, some stickers and a thermometer.

Each is quite nifty in its own right. The thermometer, or ‘Thermo-Wobbler’ sticks to the wall and you can easily check if your house is too warm, or indeed if it’s too cold for the old folk or young nippers. The website’s quite good explaining all the stuff (and written in a chirpy tone – “have a cuddle” if you’re cold for example), although it does tell you similar things on the back of the stickers too (check there first, I thought there were no instructions…).

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The sticker’s are obvious, but then they’re obvious to me, maybe not someone else. Indeed the pack is aimed at getting people to go green but don’t know where to start. The lightbulbs are nice, the bag, the water saver etc are all good too. The radiator panels are a cool edition too, something a little less obvious.

All in all, the Green Tomato Kit is a nice bit of, er, kit. It does what it says on the tin and as mentioned is a good introduction to the novice, great as a present. It’s not cheap at £9.99 plus postage and packaging, but it’s not expensive enough to make me say it’s overpriced. Go to www.greentomato.org to order yours and also take a look around the site, as I said it’s quite fun.

SIGG Aluminum Water Bottle Product Review

The reduction in the use of plastic bottles in our lives is an aim I think most of us share. It’s all too easy to pick up a new plastic bottle of water rather than carrying your own, over 100m in the US alone are ending up in landfills every day. There are a few schools of thought, using aluminum bottles, steel bottles or corn based biodegradable plastic bottles (with or without a water filter). This review looks at one of those choices, a SIGG aluminum water bottle.

SIGG Aluminum reusable bottle

It’s an aluminum bottle. That’s pretty much it, it carries about 1 litre of liquid and does a fine job of it. At about 22.5cm (9 inches) in height, not including the cap (more about them in a minute) it’s a decent size to use on a walk, picnic, or gym, and just about fits in an average car cup holder. The bottles are fully recyclable at the end of their, probably long, life.

Who are SIGG? SIGG Switzerland dates back to 1908 when metal processing specialist Ferdinand Sigg established an aluminum product factory about 30 kilometers outside of Zurich. Still manufactured in Switzerland, they’ve been called the world’s toughest water bottles. Available in 144 designs with 22 bottle lids, some of the bottles are also displayed in the Museum of Modern Art in New York. SIGG is also a member of 1% For The Planet – donating 1% of all sales to helping to preserve our environment.

What about leaching? Steel bottles do not usually leach, that is they don’t make the liquid inside taste of metal. Aluminum bottles do, so therefore need a lining, with SIGG’s being a water-based, non-toxic coating that is baked into the interior walls and remains flexible and crack resistant for the life of the bottle. The lining is taste neutral and resistant to fruit acids and energy drinks, and though it is FDA approved it would be nice to know generally what it’s made out of.

How as the bottle? I’ve had the bottle for a couple of weeks and found no problems with it at all. I like the fact it’s tough and I can throw it if I need to without worry. While using a dishwasher is not recommended as due to the small opening it wouldn’t get clean effectively, it seemed fine to me. The paint might eventually wear off though. There are a variety of caps that can be used, the default screw cap isn’t especially friendly, unless you need to attach the bottle to something, the sports caps are much more convenient for day-to-day use. After refrigerating the bottle can be too cold to hold (being metal and all), though they do sell sleeves and rubber handle grips to help.

An extremely quick video is embedded below, frankly after the written review I wasn’t sure what benefits and features I could show you, so I’ll be honest and say it’s not fascinating, but is short!

Starting at $16.99 to $24.99, SIGG bottles are available from from Amazon and through SIGG themselves. For more eco product reviews, please take a look at our Eco Reviews page.

Potato Pak Biodegradable Plates Product Review

Potato Pak offers a wide range of 100% biodegradable plates and bowls made from potato starch. The products are non-toxic and of course, very environmentally friendly. The current available products range from ‘dinner-sized’ plates, to small bowls and even ‘take-away style’ punnets with secure lids.

ppproductquantities.JPGThe green-credentials of these products look to be fantastic. As mentioned above, being 100% biodegradable means that these products will quickly break down in your compost heap or even a worm farm. The packaging that the products arrived in is known as pop starch, a starch based cushioning product which eliminates the need for polystyrene filling in the package. I dropped one of these starch balls in some water and it dissolved away almost instantly. The product did, however, come with minimal plastic wrap. I assume this is out of necessity as the product will need to be kept secure to prevent damage during transport.

According to the information sheet you can even eat the plate if you feel the inclination, although this isn’t recommended. I ran a taste test on one of the plates and while edible, there isn’t really much of a taste beyond a papery/cardboard one!

ppcolourfulbowls.JPGAs you can see in the photos, most of the products come in a beige-cream colour, although coloured varieties are also available. The coloured plates and bowls provide an excellent alternative to their polystyrene counterparts used in events such as birthday parties for kids.

Potato Pak also offer wooden utensils to go with the plates and bowls. These are a good, eco-friendly alternative to the usual plastic forks, spoons and knives. As their website correctly mentions, plastic products require oil during their manufacturing, which is not only environmentally unfriendly, but a limited, non-renewable resource as well. The wooden utensils are also a lot stronger than your typical plastic one.

The plates and bowls are a bit thicker than polystyrene plates and bowls which means that the amount of heat transferred is reduced. This means you can hold onto a plateful of hot food a lot easier than you can do with a polystyrene plate. Currently, the products are not capable of holding hot liquids, such as coffees and soups but Potato Pak does mention that they are conducting research into making a product that can handle hot liquids. If this is achieved then they will be able to branch out into replacing things like the typical polystyrene coffee cup with a green alternative.

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The plates and bowls are surprisingly durable. Compared to the typical paper plate option, these items are incredibly strong and sturdy. One thing we did notice though, if there is a small split on the sides of a plate or bowl, you’ll need treat it with a bit more care as they can split quickly from there. We tested how much weight we could load the plate (no damage) with before it broke. Holding the plate on one end, we loaded 600 grams of apples on the opposite end and the plate held up perfectly. Of course in reality you’ll most likely be holding the plate in the middle, but the test shows how strong these items really are.

Potato Pak products are really suited to ‘greening’ the birthday party, barbecue, outdoor social function type markets. Due to their short life-span it’s not very realistic to use around the home for everyday use. By providing an environmentally friendly alternative to temporary cutlery, Potato Pak products are helping to reach zero-waste targets which are landfills are currently trying to achieve.

All in all we were really impressed with the products offered by Potato Pak. I am also looking at the potential benefits of the light-weight products for use in tramping (hiking) trips. With new products on the horizon the product range looks to become even more practical and usable in more of our everyday cutlery and utensil needs.

For more information you can visit their website on www.potatoplates.com, and read more product reviews in our Review & Shop section.

Moon Jar (Or Sun Jar Blue) Product Review

The Moon Jar or Sun Jar (blue) is basically a light that turns on when it gets dark. Sounds simple enough. But what makes this different is its solar powered. Oh and it’s pretty cool too.

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The idea is that the jar stores up sunshine and gives it you back in the evening. There’s a switch inside the lid which you press when you first open the jar and then it starts storing energy through the solar panel in the lid. As the sun sets it then emits a warm glow throughout the night (well up to five hours on a full charge anyway). It’s a nice idea which works well. The blue light isn’t too cold as I expected to be as it has an LED bulb.

See how it works in this quick video.

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As you can see from the video, it’ll switch off if you have another light on which is a plus. It is waterproof so is something that would look good in the garden too.

While its various parts can be recycled and it doesn’t use main’s electricity or drain lots of batteries, I still think it’s environmental credentials are a little shaky – it came packaged in plastic and polystyrene as well. However, it needs to be compared to like products. And having the solar recharging capability is a great plus compared to others. A nice gadget that you can probably do without but makes a good present or cool addition to any home – believe me, people will ask “why you do you have a big jar on your windowsill?”.

It costs £19.99 from Nigel’s Eco Store.