I had a very nice conversation today with Doug Farquhar, president of a company called Renovos, which specializes in helping businesses come up with waste-reduction strategies. But their most heart-warming green project is ReJavanate bags. These are reusable tote bags that are made out of recycled burlap coffee sacks. They are manufactured by workers from The Arc, an organization that helps find housing and employment for people with developmental disabilites. These bags are both environmentally and socially responsible.
Currently, ReJavanate bags are made from coffee sacks from Boyd’s Roasters in Portland which are shipped to a workshop in Hood River to be cut and sewn. They are then sent to ReJavanate where they are printed, either with the ReJavanate logo or an organization’s custom logo, using soy inks.
Doug sent me a bag to try out. It’s definitely lighter than a canvas bag. For me, the burlap is a little scratchy, but then I can’t really deal with wool either.
And speaking of coffee, last Sunday at the farmer’s market, a woman asked me if I knew what crayons were made from. I didn’t. So when I got home, I did a little research. Most crayons are made from paraffin wax and pigment. Well, I know what pigment is. And I think I know what wax is. Or do I? So I looked up paraffin wax. Turns out it’s made from petroleum! You probably already knew that. Silly me. I had no idea.
So I did a quick Google search and found several brands of alternative crayons. Here are a few examples:
Okay, that didn’t have anything to do with coffee. But maybe this does. After looking up crayons, I started wondering about other things made from wax. Like waxed paper. I’ve seen eco web sites promoting waxed paper as an alternative to plastic wrap. But if they’re both made from petroleum, is there a difference? Does paraffin wax biodegrade? Apparently, it does, according to a study by Fabien Marino of the Department of Chemical Engineering at McGill University, Montréal. Click here if you’d like to read the PDF-format report.
I searched to see if there were any alternatives to paraffin waxed paper. I did find one Canadian brand called Chefs Select 100% Natural Soy Wax Paper. It doesn’t seem to be available in the United States, though. So I contacted Natural Value, the company that makes the “natural” unbleached waxed paper sold in most U.S. health food stores, and I received a very nice reply:
…our wax is indeed paraffin wax…we have considered using the new soy based wax, but both of our waxed paper producers have told us that they do not like the way the product turns out (smell, consistency), and that they cannot guarantee that the soy wax is gmo free…so we are still searching for something that will work for us…if we can do that, we will…I hope this helps
So I guess paraffin waxed paper is somewhat better than plastic because it will biodegrade. But since it’s made from petroleum, we should find alternatives.
Which brings me to the subject of coffee. It really does this time! Did you know that artificial firelogs like Duraflame are also made from paraffin wax? Still not coffee-related? Oh, but it is! There is an alternative to paraffin fireplace logs, and that is the Java Log, made from coffee grounds and 100% vegetable wax. And I’ll bet it smells good when it’s burning. Normally, I like to compost my coffee grounds (as well as those of my co-workers) but maybe this winter I’ll try them out in the fireplace in the form of a Java Log or two.
So there, we’ve come full circle. If you’re wondering why I didn’t mention the obvious product made from paraffin, candles, it’s because natural soy and beeswax candles are ubiquitous these days. A Google search will bring up a huge list of choices.
I hope you enjoyed reading this meandering post as much as I enjoyed writing it. The more logical, organized ones are great, but sometimes a little stream of consciousness helps to lighten things up.
And with that, here are the latest results of the Trash Challenge. If you’ve tried to comment on the Trash Challenge blog and received a message that you have to be a member of the team, please try again. I think I’ve fixed the problem.