February 7, 2011

5 green companies you should know about for things you didn’t know you could green

shoesEl Naturalista (left), Simple sneaks

I’m going to start with the caveat: you cannot buy your way to sustainability. Consumerism is one of the major players in our swift and accelerating destruction of the planet. That said, when it comes to essentials, you’re unlikely to walk barefoot year-round in Vancouver. I’ve also included some non-essentials, although that depends on how much you love your iPhone. And making it look cool. That’s a fair quest in itself.

Also, when I say eco-friendly, I mean eco-friendlier, but I digress. So, in no particular order…

1 & 2: Green shoe, red shoe…

Oh-ho yes… eco-friendly shoes. This is for boys and girls. I wasn’t a shoe chick until I discovered Simple and El Naturalista. Simple has your sneakers, sandals, and boots in biodegradable, natural materials, including recycled tire tread! They’re not 100% perfect, but it sure beats plastic and other synthetics. (Cotton shoelaces!) Whether you’re a yoga mom, skater, hippy or hipster, these aren’t your hempy frumpy shoes of Woodstocks past. El Naturalista is higher-end (fancy-shmancy) but exquisite quality, offering a variety of juicy-coloured leathers. (Excuse me while I wipe the drool from my chin.) Before you take me to the cleaners on promoting leather here, I know that not all leather is treated equally, let alone the cows. Just consider where the fake leather (like vinyl) comes from. Spain’s El Naturalista, says their website, “seek out production processes that are eco-friendly and promote traditional craft skills, we utilize natural materials and dyes, we avoid toxic products and materials, and we practice conservation by using substances that are biodegradable and recyclable.” So while you tread lightly, you can also feel better about yourself. Plus they’re hottttt. The box for my shoes throughtfuly included a drawstring reusable bag to carry the box. (Oh my god, 25% off right now… no no, don’t need more shoes. Shush, Erika.)

Your second-best option? Ask for 100% rubber soles — they have a stickier grip to help you distinguish from the fakes, because the symbol is the same. I’ve been told something’s rubber when it’s clearly a composite. Other great shoe materials are cork, wool and organic fabrics. I’ve seen wood, but I don’t know how ergonomic it is. Take care of your leather using natural silicon or wax instead of harmful sprays.

3. Dish scrubby!

A natural sponge wrapped in knitted agave twine, these little gunk-punching pillows are pretty damn good considering. Expect a little more elbow grease, but really, if you just make sure you soak things after baking, it should come off just fine. And it’s fun to use! Twist also makes natural sponges on their own or a little scrubbier — like the plant-based Loofah Sponge I’m currently coveting — to replace that toxic yellow or green thing you know you secretly hate. Right? Right. As far as I can tell, the sponge is not sea sponge, but nonetheless biodegradable and free of dyes. Woohoo! You won’t be embarrassed to have these laying about (just give ’em some baking soda love from time to time). More spongy and bristly kitchen ideas at Appleturnover.

4. Ecojot

Ok, I tricked you a little, cos of COURSE you knew you could green your notebooks. But did you know they could be this cute?! Ecojot‘s products are made of 100% recycled paper, come in biodegradable shrinkwrap, benefit children in need (70,000 so far!), and look so good I was naughty and bought one I don’t need… yet. Fantastic for kids, too! I wish I’d had them growing up, especially in design school, but they’re a young (Canadian) company and didn’t exist yet. And they’re doing great things.

5. Tights… oh yeah.

Bamboo blend? Bah. Still has oil-based synthetics. I found Bleuforêt tights that are, while not organic (sigh), 97% cotton. Wow! And I don’t mind spending a pretty penny on these babies because I know they’ll last a lot longer than the microfibre synethic ones (no more snags). They’re warmer, to boot. They even had cute patterns when I found them at Sears. When you buy ’em, give the clerk the plastic hook as they can be reused. Smart!

6. Bonus: Fromage!

(Ok I lied, there are 6. Couldn’t possibly limit this to 5, could I?) An essential in my life, j’ADORE le cheese, but it always comes wrapped in plastic that I have to throw away. Argh! But wait — Les Amis du Fromage is here to save the day and your conscience, and will let you take votre fromage home in a reusable container. Formidable! They have a cool new location at 842 East Hastings. Beautifying the neighbourhood… with a cheese store. Love it. (Boy am I ever cheesy…)

Honourable mentions:

  • Grove bamboo iPhone cases out of Oregon.
  • Urban Source: Like the ultimate junkyard for crafty people, Urban Source on Main St in Vancouver (next to the Heritage Hall) is an eclectic mix of stuff that looks both brand new and second-hand. Everything from discarded leftovers of jigsawed wood projects, bike lights and Scrabble tiles (good luck finding a replacement for that M you lost in 1992, but these are actually wood), to magnet sheets, counter top sample chips and fine papers. Last time, I walked in with a key I no longer needed and she happily took it to sell for cheap. Oh yeah, that’s the second best part.
  • Forget wax paper or plastic wrap for your sandwiches. Check out Abeego. You can also make this at home.
  • Pilot’s BeGreen line offers refillable pens with 70% or more recycled plastic.
  • You know those pesky vaccum-pack gum wrappers? Ugh! I use Spry gum because it has xylitol instead of sugar or corn syrup, and it recently became available in a little plastic tub of 100 pieces. There’s still a little waste, and you have a plastic container to recycle (or reuse, even), but where I’ve failed to find something healthy in just paper, this takes the cake. I have a couple gum tins second hand that I refill. I’m sure there’s some homemade breathmint recipe out there…
  • Check out the comments on my post, 7 simple ways to reduce bathroom waste, for tips on toothbrushes.

There are lots of companies doing exciting things because they believe in doing the right thing. What awesome products or brands have you come across?

75th graphicThis daily green blog challenge is in celebration of David Suzuki’s 75th birthday, supporting the David Suzuki Foundation. Please help me out by sponsoring me online now.

Note: I am writing solely on my own behalf, and do not claim to represent the David Suzuki Foundation or its views here.