Friday, March 13, 2009

Green Duck -- Compostable Cutlery

We all love food, but nobody likes the piles and piles of plastic forks, sushi trays and Starbucks cups we all know are adding up in the landfills of America...right? Personally, I can rarely clean my plate when I go out to eat, so I'm always bringing things home in those styrofoam cartons. When I've had my delicious leftovers, I'm often faced with the same situation that spurred Jocelyn Tice to found her new business, Green Duck. Green Duck is a distributor for compostable goods, such as plates, cups, cutlery, bags and cartons, for use by restaurants, companies and individuals. Jocelyn relates the following story on her website:

"One day I was in my kitchen eating leftovers. My leftovers were in three petroleum-based plastic containers ... one large, two small. When I was finished eating, I rinsed my recyclable containers out (because I had heard that they don't recycle containers with food left on them in some areas of the country). After I finished rinsing, I put them in my recycle bin. I suddenly realized that a lot of waste we generate is created by "to-go" food packaging.

I started thinking about how many people actually recycle their recyclable containers. Sadly ... most people probably don't take the time to recycle, I thought to myself. Then I learned that only 1% of plastic is recycled in the US and in many areas Styromfoam isn't recyclable at all!

That evening I learned about packaging made from plants like sugarcane, corn, reed and potato. I decided to make it my mission to educate consumers about compostable food packaging and waste bags. A short time later Green Duck was created..."

Apparently some vendors at the Richmond Folk Festival used Green Duck products this year, and Savor Cafe (one of Richmond Magazine's 'Best New Restaurants 2009!') uses the entire product line, including hot cups for coffee as well as your standard plates, bags, etc. I was happy to find out that Savor is also composting their kitchen waste, and of course I've known for some time that Savor's chef is a big proponent of local foods. Other businesses around town using these products are Sticky Togogo (the Sticky Rice takeout place) and GlobeHopper Coffeehouse and Lounge. It's definitely important to question the environmental practices of the restaurants you choose to dine at, perhaps electing to actively support places that take a stand on environmental issues.

Of course, we all must be aware that after we're done eating on compostable products, we have to compost them, not toss them in a trash can destined for the dump. This is where we need someone we can call 'Richmond's Will Allen,' an activist dedicated to implementing a citywide system of compostable waste collection and processing.

When I met Jocelyn the other day, she also reminded me to watch out for 'greenwashed' products that claim to be 'biodegradable.' Anything, she says, biodegrades, or breaks down, as it is slowly weathered by the forces of nature. The question, she says, is whether or not an item breaks down into natural materials that can be incorporated into soil as nutrients, the same way leaves, food waste, or anything else organic does. Certain plastics, we know, do not do this; so, claims Jocelyn, if you're looking for eco-friendly disposable products, make sure they are compostable.

Anyway, Green Duck is a great effort, one anyone in the restaurant/cafe business should seriously look into. If you just want to try it out, Jocelyn offers a 'picnic kit,' including 50 cups, plates, forks and a roll of plastic bags. Just remember to put them in your compost pile when you're done!

1 comment:

  1. This is really exciting. a friend and I have been talking about wanting to do a business like this, or at least be a distributor of these products to local (Kansas City) restaurants. We try to remember to bring our own reusable containers when we go out, but often forget, esp if going out for a meal is an impromptu decision.