So what does this mean? Go to most mainstream stores, and yes, you’ll still likely find lots of products made of harmful plastics and additives, and foods containing genetically engineered ingredients and pesticides. But more than ever, you’ll also have truly healthy food and green product options, thanks to innovation at almost every level of retail, from large corporations with a moral backbone to mom-and-pop start-ups. The trend to package food and goods in sustainable packaging was on grand display at Expo West, as were the increasing number of fabrics being made from certified-organic cotton.
Here are some of our favorite green products from Expo West:
Blue Lotus Reusable Grain & Produce Bags
In this bum economy, we’re being advised to buy in bulk to save mega-money, particularly on organic goods like beans and produce. To reduce your plastic load at the same time, shop co-ops and farmers’ markets using these stylish organic-cotton reusable bags, perfect for grains, beans, and rice. Use the mesh bag for things like onions and apples, and if it ever wears out, you can toss it on the compost pile!
ECO lunch wrap from Eco Lunchbox Gear
Take your lunch, or your child’s lunch, back to more sustainable food-packing principles with products like stainless steel containers and the Japanese cloth Furoshiki lunch wraps free of toxic chemicals. (See how to use the wraps in a Furoshiki Japanese Wrapping Video.) You can also use these techniques to wrap presents in reusable fabric.
With all the news about how harsh chemicals like BPA and phthalates harm childhood development, a group of concerned mothers banded together and developed these reusable sandwich and snack bags. And with that, we can ban single-use plastic baggies forever! Although they are made of plastic, it’s a food-safe European material that tests free of those harmful compounds. Plus, the designs are cute and sure to inspire your kids to eat the healthy food packed inside! (Note: We always recommend avoiding heating any plastic in the dishwasher or microwave.)
Back to the Roots Mushroom Growing Kit
Two UC–Berkeley frat boys bound for banking and business careers became sidetracked by a mushroom experiment that led to this DIY home oyster mushroom growing kit. The grads, now urban mushroom-growers in Oakland, use formerly landfill-bound coffee grounds as the base for the mushrooms’ growing medium. (They’re actually paid to cart the coffee grounds out of the café. Sweet deal!) All the home mushroom-grower has to do is open the box, slit a hole in the bag holding the mushroom spawn and soil, and add water. In 10 days, you get a hearty supply of healthy oyster mushrooms. It’s a great experiment for kids, and for anyone who has limited gardening space outside. The best part? Once you’re done growing your ’shrooms, the coffee-grounds-based growing medium is an amazing soil amendment for your outdoor plants.
So, you have your reusable shopping bags and lunch containers. Take it to the next level and replace paper towels with these reusable ones. The average person uses 2,400 to 3,000 paper towels outside his or her home every year, contributing to 3,000 tons of paper towel waste produced in the United States every day. Knowing that, it’s no wonder paper is among the leading sources of landfill waste. These People Towels are great to keep in the office or to carry on the run to use in place of throwaway hand towels in public bathrooms. Best of all, these are made from organic cotton—that’s important because chemically grown cotton uses more pesticides than any other crop.
If you make it a point to eat organic food but haven’t embraced organic clothing yet, try getting your feet wet with Maggie’s organic socks. In terms of softness, these socks will, well, knock your socks off. The socks and other comfy organic clothing the company produces are made in the USA using organically grown, Fair Trade–certified cotton. Not much goes to waste at Maggie’s, either. If a sock is messed up in the factory, it’s turned into an adorable organic stuffed animal. (You've got to check out the chicken!)
Seventh Generation 4x Laundry Detergent
Yes, the highly concentrated formula is brand new and improved, but it’s the innovative packaging that stole the show during the product’s debut at Expo West. The outer shell is not plastic, as virtually all other liquid laundry detergent bottles are, but rather made of 70 percent recycled cardboard fibers and 30 percent old newspaper fibers. The shell protects an inner plastic pouch made of #4 plastic, which can be recycled like plastic grocery bags. The design uses 66 percent less plastic. That's cleaning green!
Here are other products that made our Expo West favorites list:
Organic Prairie Summer Sausage: From the co-op behind the successful farmer-owned Organic Valley line comes this sausage that Rodale CEO and Organic Manifesto author Maria Rodale named Best of Expo West.
Uncle Matt's Organic Lemonade and Apple Juice: The best lemonade we’ve ever tasted.
Lydia’s Organic Kale Krunchies: Yeah, you might be able to trick even the most anti-veggie kid into eating this tasty treat.
Virgil’s Zero Root Beer and Sodas: Organic Gardening magazine editors raved about this stevia-sweetened beverage.
hnz Manuka Honey: Honey’s incredible healing powers can sideline a sore throat and even help soothe cracked hands. This brand's rep told Organic Gardening magazine editor in chief Ethne Clarke that hnz cream is a favorite among UK gardeners.
Amphora Organic Olive Oil: A stop at this booth provided a much-needed, delicious treat of organic olive oil–drenched bread. Delicious! Now we need more organic olives on the market, too.
Dream Designs Organic Bedlinens and Sleepware: This Expo booth was so comfy, we nearly covered ourselves up with the organic sheets and a flaxseed eye pillow and took a nap! The organic hankies were also adorable.
Aquasana Water Filters: Okay, it may not be as alluring a subject as organic sheets, but let’s face it, filtering our water is important. Aquasana reps told us at Expo that the company is coming out with a new line of carbon-based filters that will remove more contaminants than any other filter on the market.
So Delicious Organic Coconut Milk: Biggest Loser trainer Jillian Michaels is a big fan of the healthy fats found in coconut products. We tested the coconut milk at Expo and really liked it. Now we can’t wait to try some more, but this time on top of our favorite Expo West cereal, Nature's Path’s Love Crunch.