Stylish, eco-friendly tableware making the rounds for parties
Stylish, eco-friendly tableware making the rounds for parties | Aug. 02, 2011 | IN PRINT


Stylish, eco-friendly tableware making the rounds for parties
By  Carrie Schedler 
Sunday July 31, 2011 8:10 AM

Each year, Americans throw out more than 1 trillion single-use plates, forks, knives and spoons.

Those plates? They’re used an average of 5 minutes before they hit the trash, according to Time magazine. Then it’s off to the landfill,   where most won’t decompose.

And don’t forget the fuel required to get them to the store in the first place; trucks,   planes and other shippers are the fastest-growing emitters of greenhouse gases, the Environmental Protection Agency says.

Suddenly, summer potlucks seem a bit more sinister.

But there’s no need to have an environmental breakdown.

As peak backyard barbecue season unfolds followed    by fall tailgating — options exist for making parties a little more eco-friendly while still being stylish.       

Eco-friendly disposables are an attempt to bridge the gap between durable multiuse tableware and their paper and plastic counterparts. 

The new products are still meant to be single-use, but they’re made of greener materials such as bamboo, palm leaves and corn instead of petroleum-laced plastics and paper pulp. (According to Stanford magazine, most paper plates, unless they’re made of recycled materials, come from the pulp of trees that have been clear-cut from a forest well before the end of their life cycle.) 

Eco-friendly alternatives, such as Verterra and Stalk-Market, can often be thrown into the compost bin when the party is over.   Bonus points? Dispose of everything in a compostable trash bag. 

“Everything you could use in food service has a compostable counterpart,” said Mike Minnix, president of Columbus-based Eartha Limited, which distributes eco-friendly tableware to retailers.   

Eartha Limited sells several brands of ecologically friendly products, which use polylactic acid, a corn-based plastic; bagasse, a byproduct of sugar cane processing; natural paper, unbleached and chlorine-free; and palm leaves compressed in high heat. 

The market “is changing very drastically,” Minnix said. “People are demanding these things every day.” 

Part of the reason, he said, is because the generation that grew up with at-home recycling bins is now more conscious of the lasting effects of most disposables.   

Josh Parker is the chief operating officer of Verterra, a company that produces a line of bowls and plates made from palm leaves compressed in high heat. The company tries to emphasize both sustainability and good design. 

He said the products are an easy way to make a small change that has a big impact on the environment. The little choices people make every day, he said, make the difference. 

“Green is not a light switch,” he said. “It’s a series of decisions.”