Category Archives: Bath

EconoGreen Plastics(TM) bags

Looking for an eco-friendly alternative to your typical plastic trash bag? Check out the line of EconoGreen Plastics bags (and dropcloths) from the whimsically named Jig-A-Loo company.

Jig-A-Loo claims the bags are made from 100% recycled plastic and that they will completely biodegrade leaving “no harmful residue or toxins” in about two years in the environment. (Traditional plastic bags might take up to 1,000 years to degrade in the environment, according to one source I found.)

For a good analysis of the pros and cons of biodegradable plastic bags, check out this article at

As far as I’m concerned, if you have a choice, it’s typically better to pick a product that’s made from recycled materials and biodegrades as quickly as possible. On both counts, EconoGreen Plastics bags seem to fit the bill.

Incidentally, the bags are also made in North America. For U.S. Consumers, that means fewer resources were used to transport the bags from point of manufacture to point of sale.

Where to Buy – Use the Store Locator on the Jig-A-Loo website to find a retail location near you. You can also buy through the Jig-A-Loo website ($3.99 for 30 tall kitchen bags).

Disclaimer – Jig-A-Loo sent me a free package of EconoGreen bags to review.


Tidbits – SNO:LA organic frozen yogurt, ZT Rooibos Tea, Sentina LED lights, Earthworm cleaning products, Intercontinental Chicago O’Hare

Here are some recent eco-friendly product tidbits:

SNO:LA organic frozen yogurt - available in California and Japan

SNO:LA organic frozen yogurt - available in California and Japan

– Travelers (or residents) in Beverly Hills, California or Santa Monica can enjoy organic frozen yogurt made from all-natural ingredients (including probiotics) at SNO:LA. There’s also an outpost in Kyoto, Japan. The shops use eco-friendly decor and consider themselves ‘no-plastic-zones’ by choosing to use biodegradable/compostable materials such as sugar cane, corn and potatos for their cups and spoons.

ZT Rooibos Red Tea organic beverage

ZT Rooibos Red Tea organic beverage

ZT Rooibos Tea made from the South African rooibos plant is an all-natural beverage with organic ingredients like brown rice syrup and inulin (for fiber). Tasty, slightly sweet, low calorie and healthy, it’s an interesting and complex alternative to regular iced teas. (Note that rooibos teas a.k.a. red teas are herbal teas, different from the black, green, oolong and white teas that come from the Camellia sinensis plant.) The ZT website has an interesting explanation of the nutritional benefits of its rooibos teas. ZT’s teas are available in several flavors including vanilla, lemon and ginseng & honey, but I think the regular unsweetened variety is complex and interesting enough on its own. Available at various natural food stores nationwide including Whole Foods Market, ZT teas have an MSRP of $1.79 – $1.99 per 16-ounce bottle.

The Sentina Zen Light with motion and photo sensor uses only 3 watts of electricity

The Sentina Zen Light with motion and photo sensor uses only 3 watts of electricity

Datexx offers several appealing Sentina LED lighting products for the home. This family of emergency and safety lights include features such as a crank generator, motion sensor and power outage sensor. Cost for these lights is in the $30-45 range. As usual with LED lights, these products consume very little power (just 3 watts in the case of the Sentina Zen Light) and should last a long time.

Earthworm biodegradable cleaning products use enzymes to break down grease, dirt and other organic materials

Earthworm biodegradable cleaning products use enzymes to break down grease, dirt and other organic materials

Earthworm cleaning products use natural enzymes instead of harsh chemicals to clear drains, clean surfaces, remove odors and perform other household tasks. I didn’t have any luck using Earthworm to clear my own sink drain (it was a heavy-duty job that ultimately required a trained plumber), but you may have better luck if your drain is only a little bit slow or if you’re just looking for a maintenance solution to keep the drain running freely. Here’s a nice explanation of how enzymes work as cleaners. I do like the fact that Earthworm products are biodegradable and much safer for humans and other animals than traditional harsh chemical cleaners.

– The new Intercontinental hotel at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport provides an eco-friendly option for travelers to the Second City. The hotel purchases its energy through 100% renewable wind energy credits, uses CFL and LED bulbs throughout the property, places recycling bins in guest rooms to reduce the waste stream and offers guests water packaged in biodegradable bottles. A green roof covered with trays containing three inches of soil plus wheat grass and sedum helps slash cooling costs and should last 2-3 times as long as a typical industrial roof. Rates for November start around $225/night during the week or just $127/night on weekends according to the hotel’s website.

Disclosure – ZT Rooibos and Earthworm provided me with a complimentary product samples for testing purposes.

Marcal Small Steps and CVS Earth Essentials paper products

Marcal Earth Essentials line of household products made from recycled paper

Marcal Earth Essentials line of household products made from recycled paper

Back in March, I talked about the importance of buying recycled paper products in order to save old growth trees. I wrote about some available options including Green Forest, Earth Friendly and Seventh Generation.

Recently I’ve had a chance to try some additional recycled paper products from Marcal and CVS. Based on my experience both brands, I think there’s no logical reason for an eco-conscious consumer to keep buying non-recycled paper products.

Even a few years ago, I have to admit that I wasn’t happy with the quality of recycled paper products. I remember one time buying brown recycled paper towels that pretty much disintegrated on contact with water. It was a long time before I bought another roll of recycled paper towels.

But both the CVS Earth Essentials brand of paper towels and Marcal Small Steps perform comparably to plenty of their non-recycled counterparts. (Sure, they don’t have the softness and strength of premium paper towels like Viva, but for a disposable paper product, I’ll happily accept a little less durability and aesthetics in exchange for a major improvement in eco-friendliness.)

One thing to keep in mind is that the percentage of recycled material and the percentage of post-consumer recycled material can differ among brands and even within brands when looking at different types of products.

CVS Earth Essentials 100% recycled fiber paper towels

CVS Earth Essentials 100% recycled fiber paper towels

So, for example, both Earth Essentials and Small Steps paper towels are labeled as having 100% recycled content, but the Earth Essentials towels say that they have a minimum of 60% post-consumer content, while the Small Steps towels don’t list the percentage of post-consumer content. (A Greenpeace report says that both Small Steps paper towels and paper napkins actually have an impressive 70% percent post-consumer content, but then notes that Small Steps facial tissues only have 30% post-consumer content.)

How do the products perform in real life? As noted above, both Earth Essentials and Small Steps towels get the job done in competent fashion. They even look pretty much identical – white (but not blinding white thanks to their avoidance of chlorine bleaching) with a heart-shaped design. Under close examination, the Earth Essentials towels seem a little bit more substantial, but the difference is slight. In my opinion, you can’t go wrong with either paper towel (or with the 365 brand recycled paper towels from Whole Foods Market, which contain 80% post-consumer recycled paper content according to their packaging and the Greenpeace report cited earlier).

I also had a chance to test the Small Steps napkins (excellent, but packaged in way too much heavy-duty plastic) and the Small Steps facial tissues (not luxurious, but perfectly acceptable if you’re willing to sacrifice a little bit of nasal pampering in order to save trees).

By the way, Marcal may be making such good recycled paper products thanks to a wealth of expertise gathered over more than 50 years of producing recycled products. A Marcal spokesperson says that Marcal products have been 100% recovered fiber/recycled paper for more than a half century.

The fact is that buying recycled paper products should no longer be seen as a sacrifice. As with other eco-friendly products, the cost and performance is often the same or even better than with non-recycled products.

As a side note, CVS is using some other interesting materials in its Earth Essentials brand. You can now buy disposable plates and bowls made from bagasse – the pulp or residue left over from sugarcane processing.

The unbleached bagasse plates and bowls in the Earth Essentials collection are more sturdy and aesthetically pleasing than many traditional paper plates/bowls. In fact, I’d say they are comparable in sturdiness to disposable plastic plates and bowls, with bagasse having the added advantages of being microwavable, biodegradable and resistant to both oil and water. Depending on what you put in them, you may even be able to rinse and reuse the bagasse plates and bowls a couple of times.

By the way, as I mentioned in my review of the Staples bagasse notebook last year, bagasse paper products have a delightful smoothness to them. I hope that more companies will consider replacing some of their paper pulp products with bagasse in the near future.

Where to Buy:

You can find some of the CVS Earth Essentials products at The Earth Essentials paper towels were recently on sale with three rolls for $1.99. Bagasse plates and bowls have an MSRP of $2.50 for packs of 15.

If you don’t see what you’re looking for online (I couldn’t find the bagasse plates and bowls), try visiting a CVS store near you.

Marcal says that its Small Steps products will be sold at Walgreens and Kmart stores nationwide, but that not all stores had the products in stock when we checked a few months ago. To be safe, use the Store Finder to find a retailer near you selling the Marcal Small Steps recycled paper products.

The Natural Dentist

Lots of toothpastes include an ingredient called SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate) to help clean your teeth. But did you know that in higher concentrations, SLS is also used to degrease engines and clean floors, according to Wikipedia.

Toothpastes from The Natural Dentist are SLS-free. They’re also free of alcohol, artificial dyes, sweeteners and preservatives.

Because really, why should your toothpaste or mouthwash be bright green or bright blue? That’s just not natural!

Even though I’m approaching my mid-30s, I still got a kick out of The Natural Dentist’s Sparkle Berry Blast flavor toothpaste. The toothpaste relies on minerals (silica and mica) for its cleaning and sparkling power. It does have sodium fluoride to prevent cavities, plus it also has such natural goodies as aloe vera gel, lycopene and grapefruit seed extract.

Technically, Sparkle Berry Blast is supposed to be for kids. And it does kind of taste like you’re brushing your teeth with liquid candy. But I’m totally OK with that.

For adults with a slightly less sweet tooth, The Natural Dentist also makes grown-up flavors like Peppermint Twist and Orange Zest. The Peppermint Twist one is supposed to also whiten your teeth (using the silica to remove surface stains). Personally, I’ve yet to find a toothpaste that does a great job whitening your teeth. For a true teeth cleaning/whitening, I think you need to visit a dentist, but I guess every little bit helps if your toothpaste can help you maintain whiteness between cleanings.

I also enjoy The Natural Dentist’s Pre-Brush Whitening Antigingivitis rinse. Unlike many other mouthwashes and rinses, The Natural Dentist’s rinse contains no alcohol, so you won’t get that “My mouth is on fire!” feeling. Instead, The Natural Dentist relies on Peppermint and Sage Oils to conquer bad breath. Oh and the rinse’s whitening power supposedly comes from powdered bamboo. And since is a hearty fan of bamboo, that’s another point in The Natural Dentist’s favor.

Where to buy:

Purchase multipacks of Natural Dentist products at

Alternatively, find a broad list of online and offline retailers at The Natural Dentist’s own website.

Update: My source at Natural Dentist tells methat prices for all Natural Dentist mouth rinses have recently been reduced 30% from $9.99 to $6.99 for a 16-ounce bottle.

Even better, by visiting The Natural Dentist website, you can download a coupon for $1.50 off any product.

JC Penney EcoMade Bath Rugs

The Product:

Duet and Dazzle EcoMade bath rugs at JCPenney (on sale for $14.99 to $28.99)

The Promise:

Made-in-the-USA washable bath rugs woven from Type 6 Nylon. Shaw, the manufacturer, says that Type 6 nylon is “the only post-consumer fiber capable of being recycled back into carpet and area rug fiber over and over again.

The Reality:

We give points to affordable eco-friendly products and JCPenney certainly emphasizes affordabiliy in its Simply Green collection.

Some might protest that man-made nylon should not be considered an eco-friendly fabric, but green@work magazine made a good case in a 2002 article that total lifecycle of a product should be considered. Quoting from that article:

“It is first of all highly stable, and carpet yarn made from nylon 6 is easily depolymerized into its precursor, caprolactam. The heat used in the process can be largely recovered, and caprolactam, in turn, can be re-polymerized and made again into nylon 6. The entire process recovers more than 99 percent of the materials used to make nylon 6 carpet yarn…Nylon 6 was first developed in the 1930s, yet only in the past decade has a company (BASF) seen its value as a material that can be retrieved and reused in closed loop cycles”

Generally speaking, we prefer to recommend bath products made from bamboo, organic cotton and other eco-friendly natural materials. But given the durability of nylon and its resistance to mold and mildew, the material deserves consideration as a bath mat.

And it’s remarkable that a product with such a low price point should be so easy to recycle. Shaw has gone out of the way to make the process simple. When the product reaches the end of its lifecycle, all you need to do is visit the EcoMade website and enter your address. Shaw will send a postage-paid envelope in which you can return the rug to Shaw’s recycling center, where the materials will be reused to make a new rug for someone else.

This all seems to be standard operating procedure for Shaw, which has an extensive set of sustainability policies that inform its goal of making cradle-to-cradle products.

(The only tricky part of the process is that Shaw does require you to input a “Code #” when requesting the postage-paid envelope. This code number appears on a small tag that comes with your rug. Our tag was printed with the words “Do Not Remove This Tag”, but since the tag was not actually attached to the bath rug, it was not clear from what we were not supposed to remove the tag… In our case, the code was printed directly to the right of the Shaw EcoMade logo.)

Where to buy:

Shop online for recyclable Duet or Dazzle bath mats at or offline in a JCPenney store near you.

Recycled Paper Products from Green Forest, Earth Friendly, Seventh Generation and more

The eco-blogosphere has been abuzz in recent days about the importance of buying recycled toilet paper and other paper products.

We won’t recap all the arguments, except to say that fluffy white toilet paper, facial tissue and paper towels apparently require an awful lot of trees, water, bleaching and dyes to make it to your home.

Greenpeace has published a very handy Tissue Guide (PDF).

You can buy some of Greenpeace’s top choices including Green Forest, Earth Friendly and Seventh Generation direct in bulk through

Greenpeace also suggests the most eco-friendly thing to do would be to ditch paper facial tissues for cloth handkerchiefs, but if you can’t stomach the switch to washable hankies quite yet, you can take a small step in a more eco-friendly direction with Kleenex Naturals.

Meanwhile, some folks are trying to make handkerchiefs cool again. What do you think? Could it ever happen?

ME! Bath Ice Cream

Everybody loves bubbles, right?

I mean, bubbles in the bathtub. But putting in a jacuzzi doesn’t necessarily fit everyone’s budget – or everyone’s bathroom for that matter.

Fortunately, you can replicate the bubbly, fizzy bath experience for a pittance with a Bath Ice Cream from ME! Bath.

These 100% biodegradable, preservative-free bath products look like individual scoops of ice cream and come in a cornucopia of ‘flavors’ – everything from Cafe con Leche to Cranberry Fig, from Mint Mojito to White Chocolate Heaven and many, many more.

Basically, you just fill up the tub, drop in a scoop of the Bath Ice Cream and wait for the sodium bicarbonate (the same stuff you find in bubbly antacids and in baking soda) to work its fizzy magic. As the Bath Ice Cream dissolves, it releases a blend of oils, minerals and Epsom Salt designed to nourish, hydrate and moisturize your skin.

All the ME! Bath Ice Creams are Made in the USA using a three-day artisanal production process. You may also like to know that ME! says it does not test its Bath Ice Creams or any of its other bath products on animals.

Based on our experience testing the Choco-holic variety of ME! Bath Ice Creams, we have to say that the product does live up to its claims in terms of fizziness. We didn’t time the dissolving process, but it gave us a short but effervescent experience. Also, we must admit that we didn’t read the online recommendation to use the preservative-free product within a few weeks of purchase. Since we usually take showers, our bath ice cream was actually sitting around for months before we found time to try it. So we’re willing to give the product the benefit of the doubt and assume that it smells (and perhaps fizzes) even better when it’s fresh.

However not everything about the ME! Bath Ice Creams is Peaches n Cream. We do see a few drawbacks:

ME! Bath Ice Cream is a purely frivolous item. Hey, we’re not opposed to frivolity, joy, rainbows or puppy dogs. We’re just saying, if you’re looking for a way to simplify your life and shrink your eco-footprint down to a teeny-tiny size, then this probably isn’t something that needs to be on your shopping list. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a fun mood booster for yourself or someone special who enjoys spa-type experiences, then the ME! Bath Ice Cream could be just the ticket.

The plastic packaging. ME! promotes the plastic pouch in which the Ice Cream as packaged as being “a reusable zip-close gusseted bag.” As near as we can recall (having thrown out the plastic pouch in the interim between testing the product and writing this review), the gusseted bag was a Ziploc(R) style thick transparent plastic bag. Now we’re not denying that someone might be able to rinse out the bag after using the ME! Ice Cream and use the plastic bag for something, but we don’t think you’d want to store food in it and so suspect most people will essentially toss the bag sooner rather than later. In fact, we’d love to see ME! ditch the plastic altogether. If the plastic is absolutely necessary in order to keep the preservative-free Ice Cream from ‘melting’, then maybe it would be possible to shrink wrap the ice cream in a thinner plastic. In any case, we thought the packaging was a bit eco-unfriendly.

Tub residue. After we finished with our bath and let out the water, we had a bit of a panic moment when it looked as though we might have permanently stained the hotel tub chocolate brown. Fortunately, the bathtub had one of those European hand-held shower attachments and we could spray down the tub at close range. But if you don’t have a hand-held shower, you might need to do a bit of scrubbing and splashing in order to clean out the tub after your ME! Ice Cream Bath — which could detract from some of the fizzy bath relaxation effect…

Where to buy:

You can order ME! Bath Ice Creams online directly through ME! Bath’s website. Order either individual scoops ($8.50) or four-packs of Mini ME! Bath Ice Creams ($15).

Prefer to pick your scoops in person? You can find ME! Bath Ice Creams available for purchase at luxury spas and salons nationwide, including at select Ritz-Carlton and Four Seasons hotels.


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