Category Archives: Kitchen

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.


Favorite Products of 2009 — Epicurean Cutting Boards, Sylvania Living Spaces CFL bulbs, prAna Sutra Pant and much more!

Welcome to the second annual roundup of my favorite Green products I had a chance to review in 2009:

Cut on recycled cardboard? You betcha.

1. Epicurean Cutting Boards, particularly those made from recycled cardboard.

2. Sylvania Living Spaces CFL bulbs. Affordable bulbs offering the usual CFL energy savings with better-quality light. What’s not to like?

3. prAna’s tough but lightweight men’s Sutra Pant, woven from a combination of hemp and recycled PET. I have a feeling these pants will last for a long time. I’m pretty impressed with prAna’s total clothing line, which incorporates lots of bamboo, hemp and recycled fabric while using quality workmanship and cool designs.

4. Green Pieces affordable, biodegradable puzzles made from recycled paper and implanted with wildflower seeds. Great idea!

5. It wasn’t specifically marketed as a ‘green product’, but after six months of use I’m still super-impressed with the performance, size and especially the energy efficiency of my new desktop PC, the Compaq Presario CQ2009F. Of course, it was so affordable and efficient that Compaq discontinued it (grrrr…) but you can probably find similarly small and efficient PCs from various manufacturers now. If you’ve been using an older PC and you upgrade to one of these mini desktop machines, you could your computing energy usage by 60-70 percent!

The incredibly efficient GeoBulb-II is now much more affordable.

6. The incredibly energy-efficient GeoBulb-II LED light bulb. Using just 7.5 watts of electricity, the cool white version of the bulb is designed to deliver as much illumination as a 60-watt incandescent bulb. Note that the price of this bulb has dropped by 50% in just five months since I first reviewed this product. It’s now somewhat more affordable at $49.95. Meanwhile, the next generation GeoBulb-3 has hit the shelves, costing $99.95, but apparently using a tiny bit less energy (7 watts) to deliver more luminosity and last nearly twice as long (50,000 hours)!

7. A2B Electric Two-Wheeler. I rode several electric bikes in 2009. If price were no object, this is the one that I would buy. It was the most fun, the best-looking and offered the most comfortable ride. (If you look around a little, it seems like some dealers are now offering the A2B for a few hundred dollars under MSRP – i.e. around $2500.)

8. Reynolds Wrap 100% Recycled Aluminum Foil – works just as well as the non-recycled kind, but requires much less energy to produce and keeps trash out of landfills. Brilliant.

9. Soft, comfortable, durable and eco-friendly bamboo clothing from Ivee. For yoga, fitness or just lounging around, Ivee Bamboo Clothing has got you covered.

10. Dr. Oetker Organic Muffin Mix and If You Care unbleached baking cups. A muffin mix on the top 10 list? Oh yeah, these are some tasty eco-friendly muffins 🙂
And that’s all folks for 2009. Have a very merry holiday season and a wonderful New Year’s celebration. I’ll do my best to bring you reviews of lots more exciting Green products in 2010.

Meanwhile, if you have any suggestions for making this site better, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. I welcome your ideas for making even better in the year ahead.

Thank you for reading and for caring.

– Aaron Dalton, Editor,

My Favorite Products – Susan Gottlieb likes Dr. Bronner’s, Begley’s Best, Seventh Generation and If You Care

Susan and Daniel Gottlieb, co-owners of the G2 Gallery in Venice, California

Susan and Daniel Gottlieb, co-owners of the G2 Gallery in Venice, California is pleased to present the product recommendations of Susan Gottlieb, co-owner with her husband Daniel of the G2 Gallery.

The G2 Gallery strives to support both art and the environment by presenting work from celebrated nature and wildlife photographers.

The gallery also says that it donates all profits from art sales to a bevy of worthwhile environmental causes.

Susan, a nature photographer herself, recommends the followign eco-friendly products:

For many years, we have used Dr. Bronner’s soaps for dishwashing and general cleaning. [Ed. note – Dr. Bronner’s says all its soaps are now both Organic and Fair Trade certified.]

In recent years, we have also been using Begley’s Best cleaning products.

We started ordering products from the Seventh Generation catalogue years before their products were carried in Whole Foods and other eco-conscious stores. Today, we’re still using their laundry products.

We never use pesticides or fertilizers in our garden. We use a drip system for watering, and we only buy native California plants from The Theodore Payne Foundation in Sun Valley, California.

For many household cleaning jobs including window cleaning, we just use vinegar.

When making coffee, we choose unbleached If You Care filters.

Dr. Oetker Organic Muffin Mix and If You Care Baking Cups

If you like muffins (and who doesn’t?), we suggest checking out Dr. Oetker Organics Muffin Mixes.

After all, muffins are good and organic things are good, ipso facto organic muffins must be even better.

Where many baking recipes and mixes contain daunting amounts of butter or other fattening ingredients, the Dr. Oetker Organics Muffin Mixes require only milk, a single egg and two tablespoons of oil to produce a dozen delicious muffins.

(The mix itself contains no fat or cholesterol, according to the Nutrition Facts info on the box.)

Not only are practically all the listed Dr. Oetker Organics Muffin Mix ingredients organic, but the box itself is apparently made from 100% recycled paper fibers.

Dr. Oetker Organics Muffin Mix comes in a wide variety of flavors, but we’ve only had a chance to try the Apple Cinnamon and Carrot varieties, of which we definitely prefer the Apple Cinnamon. (The that Carrot was horrible, it was just a bit…subtle, and besides, we’re suckers for cinnamon.)

Unfortunately, our enjoyment of the muffins was marred by the laborious clean-up stage. Even using a non-stick muffin pan, we spent ages scrubbing and soaking in an effort to clean off baked muffin bits.

Fortunately, we found If You Care‘s line of 100% Unbleached Baking Cups on a trip to our local cooking supply store. Made in Sweden, these cups require no greasing and their manufacturing process involves no chlorine. If You Care has a nice page on their website detailing why the whole no-chlorine-bleaching aspect is important.

Buying single-use products can often be wasteful, but in this case we feel the unbleached baking cups actually can help the planet by saving loads of water and soap (especially the water) by truncating an otherwise lengthy washing process.

Where to buy:

Dr. Oetker Organics Muffin Mixes (along with other organic Dr. Oetker products) can be purchased online directly through Dr. Oetker’s online store (2-pack for $6.78, 12-pack for $38.65) or from e-tailers like (12-pack for for $33.60).

We didn’t see a Store Finder page on Dr. Oetker’s website, but the products are certainly available offline. We found our muffin mixes in the baking aisle at Whole Foods.

As for the If You Care baking cups, we found ours at a Brooklyn cookware story called A Cook’s Companion ($2.75 for a box of 60 cups). If Brooklyn isn’t a convenient shopping destination for you, you can also find these baking cups through if you’re willing to buy in bulk ($38.88 for 24 boxes of 60 cups. That’s just $1.62 per box and should keep you covered for several years of muffin baking unless you’re running a bakery.)

UK shoppers can order If You Care baking cups through Ethical Superstore, while a site called Ellie’s Eco Home Store seems to carry single boxes of the baking cups for $1.95 each. Surf around any of the major search engines and you should be able to find other e-tailers selling these handy baking cups.

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.

ECO by Cosentino

Eco by Cosentino

ECO by Cosentino

Looking for other eco-friendly countertop options besides the Caesarstone we reviewed a couple of days ago?

Take a close look at ECO™ by Cosentino, a new line of countertop and surfacing material composed of 75% recycled material.

More specifically, this “recycled material” includes post-industrial and post-consumer glass derived from mirrors, window glass, bottles, granulated glass, porcelain (from sinks, toilets, tiles, etc.) and the crystallized ashes in industrial furnace residuals.

Cosentino expects to upcycle and reuse the equivalent of 60,000,000 glass bottles every year producing its ECO countertops.

ECO by Cosentino's Starlight color has plenty of sparkle

ECO by Cosentino's Starlight color has plenty of sparkle

These upcycled glass materials are then mixed with 25% natural material including stone scrap and an eco-friendly resin made from corn oil.

The result? A hard, durable, non-porous surface that does not need sealing. Cosentino claims its ECO countertops have the same durability as quartz, with natural resistance to staining, scratching and scorching.

The company says its manufacturing practices (94% recycled water) and packaging materials (recycled) are also eco-friendly.

Tip – If you’re building a new home and hoping to get LEED certification, Cosentino says that architects and builders can get LEED points by including ECO by Cosentino surfaces in their designs.

From a first-person perspective, I can say that the samples Cosentino provide a variety of choices in the range of whites, creams, browns, greys and blacks. (You won’t find any bright colors here, like with Caeasarstone’s Warm Red option – but of course all the Caesarstone countertops have much less recycled material than the ECO by Cosentino products.)

I was slightly disappointed that one of the countertop samples had cracked in transit.

ECO by Cosentino's earthy, organic Riverbed color

ECO by Cosentino's earthy, organic Riverbed color

The most successful of the ECO by Cosentino colors in my view are the ones like Riverbed and White Diamond that glory in the heterogeneity of their composition. Riverbed in particular has a sort of organic, earthy quality, while White Diamond makes me think of heirloom mirrors that have been saved and given new life all mixed together and jumbled up with pieces of other people’s lives.

Ultimately, my favorite of the ECO by Cosentino varieties may be the Starlight option – black with little shiny flecks of light sparkling in the darkness.

Where to Buy:

You can order product samples directly from Cosentino.

A company spokesperson says that the ECO by Cosentino products are available at Lowe’s Home Improvement stores nationwide and at regional kitchen retailers.

To find a retailer near you, fill out an online contact form or call Cosentino at 1-866-579-4ECO (4326).

Caesarstone Quartz Countertops

We normally don’t swoon over kitchen and bath countertops, but some of the styles that Caesarstone makes are simply gorgeous.

In particulary, we’d love to cover pretty much every kitchen and bath counter surface in our home with Quartz Reflections (a.k.a. #7141) which is light, bright, classic and sparkly – yet remarkably stain resistant.

In fact, we tested our Caesarstone Quartz Reflections chip with one of the toughest stain tests we could think of – red wine – and found that it passed with flying colors. The wine dried and wiped away from the light material without leaving a trace.

Generally speaking, Caesarstone seems like a pretty eco-friendly company. For example, the company claims to recycle 97% of the water used in its production process. Even stone dust is apparently recaptured, separated and used in making certain varieties of Caesarstone or sold to other materials manufacturers.

Caesarstone countertops are quartz-based. According to Caesarstone, quartz is “one of the most common materials on Earth. It can be found virtually anywhere in much larger quantities than any other stone product in the world.”

Wikipedia supports this assertion, calling quartz “the most abundant material in the Earth’s continental crust.”

In addition to getting quartz from quarries, Caesarstone also says it gets nearly 20% of its production materials from quartz sand that is considered an unusable waste product by the glass industry.

Caesarstone says that quartz has a longer lifecycle than granite, a claim somewhat supported by this nice comparison of the two types of countertops that says granite has a hardness measurement of 6, while engineered quartz countertops have a hardness measurement of 7. Basically, they’re both pretty tough.

Caesarstone has a different sort of comparison chart on its site in which quartz countertops come out on top vs. marble and granite competitors. (Naturally, such charts should be taken with a grain of salt – or sand – given that Caesarstone presumably hired the testing company, but it’s still interesting data.)

In any case, Caesarstone asserts that quartz countertops are more eco-friendly than granite since quartz does not require sealing or coatings, needs less frequent cleaning, involves less waste material during manufacturing and is nonporous (therefore more hygienic).

Beautiful, abundant, tough and eco-friendly – quartz countertops seems almost too good to be true. The sample chips that Caesarstone sent us came in a wide variety of colors, indicating that homeowners should be able to find a Caesarstone color from Blizzard to Ruby Reflections to fit almost any taste.

Sound too good to be true? Well, reality does hit when it comes to pricing. Quartz countertops aren’t cheap. Expect to pay $70 to $120 per square foot, although that price does include material, fabrication and installation.

FYI, only certain Caesarstone colors contain recycled content at this point. These colors are identified with green dots on the catalog page.

According to a chart that Caesarstone sent us, colors 7150 and 7250 contain the most recycled content (42% each), with the recycled materials coming from recycled Caesarstone remnants.

By contrast, colors 7450, 7510, 7100, 7141, 6350 and 6140 have less recycled content (from 35% to 17%), but derive their recycled content from post-consumer sources such as mirrors and other types of glass.

Where to buy:

Caesarstone is available through a nationwide network of Authorized Dealers.