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Sustainability: What is it & Why Should We Care?

Sustainability PyramidAbout sustainability… let’s just say it is complicated, yet again, sustainability is about how we use our resources, while recycling and trash are waste management terms and how we responsibly get rid of our excess. Our focus will be in helping everyone’s awareness towards a single focus – use things responsibly. The natural result (of using less) means that our waste management company has less to dispose of – a win-win.

Our first awareness actually demonstrates why we have chosen this approach and the reason we distributed single-use bamboo eating utensils at the recent Rossmoor Winter Festival.

We always recommend avoiding the use of single-use containers and utensils, but there are occasions where this is not possible. So, let’s look at the decision towards the most responsible approach towards single-use eating utensils.

The most known waste management options are reuse, recycle, biodegrade, compost, energy recovery or incineration, and the landfill (from most to least desirable.) Our best home choice is to reuse or recycle and depending on what materials our eating utensils are made from, the following terms, are the options available to getting rid of them.

First recognize that in the US, many terms are not standardized, so a broad “best guess” approach to categorizing is used here:

For a product to be labeled as biodegradable, it must be able to turn into organic matter. Generally, biodegradable products do break down faster—it typically takes between three and six months. This seems ideal, especially compared to synthetic products which can take several hundred years to decompose. Yet, biodegradables only lessen their environmental impact if disposed of properly and in facilities that regulate temperature, moisture, and air levels.

Compostable, in comparison, is the process of recycling organic waste for reuse. When carried out correctly, goods can be broken down in just a few months. The result is healthy soil containing humus, which has a nutrient-rich makeup. The composting process allows organic carbon to return to the earth and reduces methane emissions (aka greenhouse gases).

Bio-based (aka bio-polymers, bio-plastic): Chemicals are combined with (usually) petroleum-based plastics to increase the rate of degradation – the end result though, are byproducts that are made up of smaller pieces of plastic that end up in our soils, drinking water, etc. Most biodegradable plastic bags are bioplastics.

Commercially compostable: Not all substances will break down under normal conditions, and specialized composting facilities (such as the state-of-the-art composting facility owned by CR&R) break down the recyclables and convert the materials into alternative energy sources.

The chart below was an informal experiment we did, to see what our local stores have available for sale, and the comparative prices – simply for awareness. If you want responsibly sourced disposables available, and you want them comparatively priced (affordable), then start up a conversation with your merchants, expressing what products that you, as a consumer would like them to have available for purchase. Take note, that the most affordable and most environmentally friendly disposables are only available online or mail-order.

StoreLocationBrandMaterialClassificationsQuantityPricePrice Per Complete Set
Vons11322 Los Alamitos BlvdRepurposeCorn-BasedCommercially Compostable - Biobased8 sets$6.99$0.88
Bed Bath & BeyondOnline/Mail-OrderInternational SilverBambooCompostable, Biodegradable, Sustainable12 sets plus 18 forks, 18 spoons$26.99$2.25
Ralphs12470 Seal Beach BlvdRepurposeCorn-BasedCommercially Compostable - Biobased8 sets$2.99$0.38
Target12300 Seal Beach BlvdRestoreAir Carbon is a thermoplastic material made by combining air and greenhouse gas, and is being used to replace oil-based plasticsCommercially Compostable - Biobased1 set$2.49$2.49
CostcoOnline/Mail-OrderEco-RajCorn-BasedCommercially Compostable - Biobased1000 sets (1 box each of forks, spoons, knives)$161.97$0.17
Whole Foods6400 E Pacific Coast HwyWorld Centric70% Corn-Based, 30% TalcCommercially-Compostable8 sets$3.19$0.40
Whole Foods6400 E Pacific Coast HwyGreenLidBirch WoodCompostable, Biodegradable8 sets$2.99$0.38
AmazonOnline/Mail-OrderBambowareBambooCompostable, Biodegradable, Sustainable50 sets$20.99$0.42

Enough awareness for one day. If possible, use non-disposable utensils. If not, consider all available options, and please choose sustainability.

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