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November 8, 2007

It’s plastic! Evert Fresh is made out of plastic!

 

Read 12/20/2007 update to this post here.

Sorry to go all Charlton Heston on you. It’s just that, based on several blog posts I’ve read, a lot of people seem to think that Evert Fresh green produce bags are plastic-free, and they are absolutely not. After calling the company several times a week for over a month to try to reach the owner, Lynn Everts, I finally received the information I needed today from his assistant, Tyra. She told me that the bags are indeed made from low density polyethylene (the same type of plastic in disposable grocery bags) combined with a special clay called oya which helps to keep produce fresher longer.

I have no doubt that these bags work. But I find it ironic that we would choose to purchase an ultimately disposable plastic bag (these bags can be reused up to 8 times) made from a material that lasts forever in the environment in order to preserve something that is completely biodegradable. Personally, I’d rather buy my produce more often and be careful to eat it in a timely manner than purchase brand new virgin plastic bags to make it last a little longer. And I’d rather compost the few produce items that do go bad than landfill plastic bags.

Others may feel that saving produce is worth the plastic. And that’s their choice. My problem is that folks who believe they are avoiding plastic may be purchasing these bags because of the way they are described on various web sites. On Amazon.com, two sellers, Greenfeet and 877myjuicer, list them as being made from “non-petroleum based materials,” while seller, Showcase, claims they are “made from all-natural, environmentally safe materials.” These claims are simply not true, and I have e-mailed Amazon to find out how to go about getting the descriptions changed.

It’s one thing for Amazon to be selling plastic bags, but it’s quite another for Reusablebags.com to promote and sell them. No where in Reusablebags.com’s description of these bags is it revealed that the base material is actually plastic. The write-up only states that the “active ingredient is a natural mineral” and further down the page proceeds to describe the mineral as a clay called “oya” which absorbs ethylene gas given off by produce as it matures. Since Reusablebags.com is a site devoted to eliminating plastic bag waste, it would be natural for a customer to assume the Evert Fresh bags were not plastic. So I’ve also e-mailed Reusablebags.com to request they update their description of this product so that their customers can make informed purchasing decisions.

Representatives from both Reusablebags.com and Evert Fresh have told me that the bags are recyclable. However, reps from neither company could provide the names of recyclers or recycling programs that would accept them. So I checked with three of my recycling insiders, and all three felt that the clay used in the bags to keep the produce fresh actually makes them a contaminant in the waste stream rather than a recoverable material. They would probably be weeded out and landfilled by plastic bag recyclers.

So, how do we keep produce fresh without plastic? It’s a good question, and I don’t have all the answers. At the farmer’s market where I table with Green Sangha, we distribute organic cotton Eco Bags, which can keep many fruits and vegetables fresh in the refrigerator if dampened. However, this past Sunday, a customer told me she’d not had good luck with loose leaf salad greens. The cloth bag couldn’t do as good a job as plastic. Any suggestions from plastic-free salad eaters?

Another customer asked me about carrots, and I did have the answer to that one! Carrots last a really, really long time if you keep them immersed in a container of water in the fridge. I like to replace the water every few days. I think this works for celery, too.

We keep apples, pears, and citrus loose in the refrigerator without any bag or container. Tomatoes and avocados stay out on the counter. Bananas stay out on the counter too but tend to turn brown pretty fast. Most other vegetables and fruits are in the dampened cotton bags in the refrigerator.

So, what are your tips for keeping produce fresh? The clay sounds like a good idea. Too bad it’s attached to a bunch of plastic.
 



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37 comments
GCS
GCS

About keeping fresh your leafy greens, I have read on places like this site that if you stored them in a mason jar (probably dry I'd think), they would keep for 7-9 days. Try it out for yourself if you don't have another solution! http://www.northcarolinacharm.com/2011/06/handy-homemaker-tips-tricks.html?m=1 This trick would also be much cheaper than any kind of eco-bags one could buy because they are reusable forever basically :-D

FoodieToo
FoodieToo

Here is a simple answer. Refrigerate salad greens (and any greens for that matter) in an open container with a clean damp cotton dishtowel or cloth over them. This is what "crisper" drawers in refrigerators were designed to imitate. Then eat your greens up in 2-3 days. But the big question is how did we get talked into believing we should refrigerate? Refrigeration was not in common use in the US until the 1950's and still is not commonly used in many parts of the world. We started using plastic bags to protect foods from the damage caused by freezing and refrigeration. So how do people store food without refrigeration? This is a much longer more interesting question.

NutItOut
NutItOut

I always find it amazing that the aggression comes from those who are "disposers". The idea I thought was to educate, not abuse others. If you want to use disposable things then fine. But I like to avoid plastic disposable items so like to be informed. On the subject I like to use open containers with a bit of water in them for salads, anything reusable. I like to see what I have, lets everyone pick at them and use everything within a few days. Did you know a porous clay pot DOES work wonders? Like the garden pot but without a hole. On a cellular level, greens die even if they still look fresh. The longer they are left the more dead they are. So fresh is best, ideally being eaten within 3 days. Education is key, not just in storing but organising time, amounts to buy, cooking etc..

jeanb
jeanb

How about FreshPaper? I haven't tried it out yet, but it looks very promising! I think it's sold in stores on the East Coast only, but the company ships all over. (www.fenugreen.com) The main ingredient is fenugreek, so I may just experiment with using that spice to preserve my produce.

elaina
elaina

You are awesome! I am totally addicted to your blog! You have opened up my eyes!

aj
aj

thank you for posting this article. I thought these bags were not made out of plastic. Your blog has educated me a lot about going plastic free. for the people that are complaining about this article remember you are on a blog that is trying to cut plastic usage.

michele
michele

These bags work for me for a few reasons. First, I don't live close to my grocerry store, so it's not feasable for me to go shopping everyday, and if I did that would be a lot of gasoline use. Second, I take these bags to the store and use them as my produce bags. Third, I find they stay useful for way more than 8 uses. I only replace them every few months.

Joy Bhattacherjee
Joy Bhattacherjee

I think if we use the base material as jute, and then add a fine layer of cotton mixed with that special type of clay on both sides. We will have a winner. btw, hi all I'm from India and I hate plastic PS: Papier-mâché with clay can also be good, and with the inside as jute, its totally biodegradable

Anonymous
Anonymous

What to use instead? I have been using biobags. They are biodegradeable, and they do degrade. I use them ONCE for veggies, and then I reuse the same bag as a compost liner. http://www.biobagusa.com/I also have the biobag compost container, which I like a lot. No stinky, anaerobic compost at the bottom of the container.

Anonymous
Anonymous

Just to clarify a few things. The "Green" bags are not in the same "Go Green" category. These bags were green long before the go green stuff started. Anyway, I just want to add that I LOVE these bags. They work VERY well. I have never had a problem with them and actually my child did a science project on them for school and there was a obvious difference. That was a few years ago so I can't share the details with you. **Sorry :)** I was pretty shocked myself to see the difference these bags made. I couldn't go with out them and no one in my family goes without them either. So I am sorry I can't agree with you on any of this, but, I wanted to make sure my word was out there also. These bags are AWESOME!! Amanda ClayHouston, Texas

Christine
Christine

Celery stays fresh forever (okay, almost) when wrapped in foil (again, as someone else said, you can reuse...and prob. recycle). I also read you can put it in a glass w/ water...I do do that with herbs.You people defending the green bags--hey, you want to use them, fine. I've used them, but decided they weren't worth the cost. Clearly, you're feeling a wee bit defensive. People should have all the info before they buy something--so they can make a clear choice (information is what the free market is based on), so I applaud her for investigating exactly what the bags are made of. And, I think it's important that corporations start cashing in on the green "trend"--that way, it will become mainstream and hopefully snowball so that more people are doing better things for the planet. What's important is doing what you can, making whatever choices work for you...

Anonymous
Anonymous

I don't dispute the main point, but mine is: I bought some of these off a grocery stand literally years ago. Like the anonymous above me, I reuse them over and over. I have noticed no drop-off in their performance, and a nice rinse (scrub with a little baking soda if veggie matter sticks to them) and air dry makes them good as new. They do the best job of keeping veggies fresh -- especially leafies -- that I have experienced with any kind of setup (sorry, but anything -- paper towels,cheesecloth, what have you -- and a sealed container is an invitation to fast rot in my fridge). There's also supposed to be some kind of micro-venting going on with the material. I dunno about that, but I can keep a whole bunch of romaine crisp and fresh down as I use it down to the last leaf.So I understand if you don't want to buy them now that we know what they are made of, but I see no need to discard mine, don't plan to, and I love the job they do. 8 uses? Pshaw! Just saying. :)

Anonymous
Anonymous

I've actually used Evert Fresh bags for a long time, before the whole "green" trend started--so don't paint them with the same brush, they were making these things before it was groovy. I have been told they don't work after 5-10 uses but I've been using the same ones for over a year! Carrots keep for MONTHS in them, greens for at least a week. Alot of you seem to assume we all have the same lifestyle. It would be nice if I could buy just what I use every day, but my city only has a Farmer's market on Saturday so I have to buy for the whole week. Since I bike or use public transportation, I think I'm polluting far less than those of you bitching about the plastic bags.

Lisa Sharp
Lisa Sharp

I checked reusablebag.com and it now says "Evert Fresh bags are made from low density polyethylene that is coated with a fine layer of natural clay." Guess they listened! I'm going to look in to the bags you talked about and I'm glad you posted this I had gone back and forth on these bags, I wondered if they were really "green" and also I didn't like the idea of throwing something away even if I do use it a lot.

birthblessed
birthblessed

I put my lettuce in the dampened cloth bag, and then wrap in aluminum foil. The Foil can be reused many times before recycling, and it keeps the lettuce fresh long enough not to waste it-- a week or even two.

Lydia
Lydia

I was given an EvertFresh bag once and didn't think it even really worked that well. After seeing an ad for someone marketing basically a dishtowel to keep lettuce/greens fresh, I decided I could do that on my own. The one I use is a terrycloth towel, so it stays damp longer, and that is the trick. I wash my greens (w/ Bronners diluted first), rinse, and plop them into my terry bag, which I step outside with, swing around a couple times and by the miracle of centrifugal force "spin" the excess water off the greens. The towel retains the moisture and I throw it in my crisper. I have kept mixed "spring" greens fresh enough this way, as long as I dampen the bag every couple of days (in arid Arizona). And again, it's dual purpose.

Anonymous
Anonymous

One more thing. This "going green" is definately something we all need to do. Including donating old bikes/trikes and other plastic things rather than throwing in trash. However, as expected, corp. America is cashing in on the green deal so we all need to watch out. I personally tried "Green works" by clorox which is great because I have granite. But, I have also been using "multi purpose cleaner" sold at Trader Joes for years, which works very well and good ol vinager/h2o combo on my floors. All I have to say, be careful, markets, like green bags are always looking for the next big fad to cash in on, and our cheep old fashion remdies are probably the best answers.

Anonymous
Anonymous

Hi there. I was going to buy those bags b/c heck, whats $10 right. Well I have tried many ways to preserve veggies, especially fresh pickling cucumbers which rot/slime in 2 days. I recently took out scallions which rot in 2 days where they last 2 weeks in store plastic bags. After exper. with many different ways, I found the solution. Only buy in small portions, and buy several times per week. Therefore, I use everything in one to two days. Believe me, I am a busy mom of 3 and work. Luckly there is a local farmer market and the kids love to go there. So as for those bags, I guess I will save myself 10 bucks. Thanks for the info u gave me, it was enlightening.

Pro Evert Fresh Bags
Pro Evert Fresh Bags

Ok Miss Fake Plastic Fish, I think you seriously need to find a constructive job instead of bothering these people over these bags. I guess next you are going after companies that produce too much "smog in the air". Well, go on Miss I want to save the world and shut down Frito Lay and other big name business'. Find something else to do with your time. I have used Evert Fresh Bags since they came out plastic or not I STILL USE THEM. As a matter of fact I don't reuse them, OH MY HAVE A FREAKING HEAT ATTACK FOR ME. Find something better to do with your time. You probably couldn't reach the owner of the business because he is too busy doing something you need to learn about, WORK. And the poor lady that was forced to listen to some tree hugger probably was playing solitare as she was listening to you. GET A LIFE AND LEAVE THOSE OF US WHO WORK HARD FOR OUR MONEY ALONE SO WE CAN SPEND OUR HARD EARNED MONEY ON WHAT WE WANT. Thank you and have a blessed day!

Anonymous
Anonymous

This isn't 100% green,but here goes-I find greens in plastic rot faster-the plastic holds in too much moisture.I wrap my lettuce,ect up in a few layers of paper towels and put that in the crisper.I see the occasional shriveled leaf on the outside,but never find the least bit of slime ickyness you see with plastic wrapped greens.I've never tried cotton bags,so I don't know how they compare.Otherwise,just the good old buy smaller amounts less frequently and be sure to use it timely.Thank you for your wonderful blog-I can't tell you how much I appreciate it!

emmer holbrook
emmer holbrook

some other storage possibilities: carrots keep well in damp sand in a cool place. i once had a bumper crop of 70 lbs which i stored in a barrel of damp sand, under my house in the crawl space. they kept over the winter. the last of them grew some hairy little rootlets which came off easily. stems, such as celery and herbs store well upright. i put them in a mason jar with a little water in the bottom and keep them cool. i have had woody herbs root in the jar when placed in a cool north facing window. if you are trying to eat locally and avoid the greenhouse gasses caused by long distance transport, you might try sprouting some greens. mung beans are the easiest, as they are large and grow fast. put 2 tbs in the bottom of a pint or quart jar. cover with water, let sit 30 min or more, drain. i use a thin cloth held over the jar opening with a rubber band. after that, add water , swish around and drain 3 or so times a day. when the shoots get as long as you want (in a few days), green them up by putting the jar where it gets some sun. they will probably only need a day to green up. while in the sun they will need extra water. many kinds of seeds are available for sprouting. if you want to sprout grains, you do it only until the growth tip is about the length of the seed. and remember to get seed for sprouting or organic seed to be sure that the seed has not been treated with some nasty poisonous anti-fungal, anti-sprout crap. if you have a nice sunny window, you can seed a narrow planter with mesclun or leaf lettuces, etc. summer sun is too much for lettuces, but the weaker winter sun may be just right.if you cut it leaf by leaf, greens may even regrow.play around with this. and good luck.emmer

Lynn from Organicmania.com
Lynn from Organicmania.com

Beth, great, great research on the bag issue. Kudos to you for calling the company to investigate. Do they give blogger awards for investigative reporting?Regarding the spoilage issue, I bought some cotton bags at my CSA and felt really virtuous using them. But my husband swears that the produce goes bad FASTER in cotton than in plastic. Do you know anything about this? -- Lynn from Organicmania.com

Katikat
Katikat

That has got to be a stupid thing.I only buy fresh produce in quantities I know my family will eat in a timly manner. I store some stuff in the fridge. I cut the end of a lettuce and wrap in in a wet kitchen towel which keeps it fresh but that is it really.

sasha
sasha

Hey now, Beth!You rock. Thanks for joining The Great Plastic Challenge!

axelle
axelle

What useful comments! I have nothing useful to say and instead, am going to tattle on a lot of my housesit clients who have drawers stuffed with devices to prolong the life of prodouce, none of which are ever used. I actually used one of these devices on lettuce and it wasn't any better than a regular plastic bag. Many of the human beings, myself included, that I know tend to buy lovely produce, store it in the fridge in a plastic bag and then forget all about it. If I didn't have a refrigerator or access to plastic bags, I am sure I could figure out a way to keep produce fresh, even if it meant eating it before it had a chance to get soggy.

Kim
Kim

I saw those bags at the co-op the other day and wondered why anyone would buy them. Thanks for your information and insights (great comments too.)

kat
kat

The first rule for successful produce preservation of any sort is to buy the freshest, healthiest (from the plant's perspective) produce. Local organic veggies tend to last the longest. I've never had success with long-distance lettuce, but greens from my CSA box often last a full two weeks (if we don't eat 'em first). Healthy plants make long-lasting produce.The second rule is store like with like. Root crops near root crops (exception: don't store tubers near alliums, like onions or garlic). Greens with greens, fruits with fruits. Almost all fruit do better OUTSIDE the fridge, unless already fully ripe.The third rule is, if you're planning to shop less often, buy a range of fruit--a few pieces that are really ripe, a few that are fairly close to being ripe, and a few that are still a bit green. The green fruit will ripen slowly on the counter and be ready to eat when you're ready to eat them. Or choose different types of fruit, instead of just buying lots of one kind. Blueberries keep longer than strawberries, which keep longer than raspberries. Citrus fruits keep longer than apples, which keep longer than pears.Same idea with greens. Collards and cabbage keep longer than kale, which keeps longer than spinach and leafy lettuces. Instead of buying bags of mixed greens, buy separate bunches of greens and mix your own as you use them, so that a bad green-leaf lettuce doesn't ruin your whole supply.Lastly, if you find yourself storing produce for a long time, consider preserving the extra instead. I steam-blanch leftover greens for a minute or two, then package in reused yogurt cups and store 'em in the freezer to add to soups and stir-frys. They're great in the winter, when fresh greens are harder to get. Or try making vegetable-based stock to freeze in soup-size portions.Small-batch canning, freezing or drying is a great, easy way to store excess, too. Since you preserve as you go, it's not labor-intensive. Check out books on root cellaring and food preservation from your local library or ag extension for ideas.Another (completely unrelated) point to think about: you're paying for the whole fruit or veggie, and a lot of the time you can use almost all of it (if you buy organic). Dry your citrus peels. Toast winter squash seeds. Save heirloom pepper seeds to plant in the spring.Hope this inspires someone! ;)

Beth in the Fake Plastic Fish Tank
Beth in the Fake Plastic Fish Tank

Maybe if enough people express concern, Reusablebags.com will update the information on their site. You can help by e-mailing them at service@reusablebags.com. Please feel free to e-mail me and let me know if you have contacted them and what the result was.

Rosa
Rosa

I have a plastic salad spinner that is actually just a big plastic container with a spinner inside of it. We wash the salad, dump the water out, and store the salad in that. A ceramic or metal container with a lid should work fine too- but you can get salad spinners just like mine (mine is from my childhood in the 70s) at almost any thrift store.

Jennifer
Jennifer

I keep my produce (and leftovers) in glass and plastic "tupperware". For me, this works, because I have a few glass containers with lids, and I have lots of old yogurt containers (the giant ones) and such that I refuse to throw out even though I am trying not to buy any new plastic. As far as lettuce... try rinsing it and pulling it apart into leaves, then layering it with dampened cheesecloth or thin tea towels in a sealed container of some sort. That seems to work pretty well for me.

heather t
heather t

Sometimes companies claim things are "special" when they are not. (duh!) So I'm wondering if the clay is really all that special or if an unglazed terra cotta pot/lid would work.

Sunny
Sunny

I can't believe anybody would think they were anything but plastic. It still contains some plastic but my grandmother always washes her leaf lettuce and then layers it in a large tupperware with really thin dishclothes that have been dampened. The lettuce lasts for weeks.

Anonymous
Anonymous

I agree with you on those bags! When I first saw them I knew they had to be plastic. You are right about reusablebags.com. They should not sell them. My grandmother kept her carrots, celery, turnips, radishes in a a bowl in water in the frig. She would bring it out as a snack if people came to visit. I find that if I put broccoli in a glass container with glass lid in keeps for a long time. If I just leave it in the frig with nothing on it wilts. I think this would work for other veggies too.

RubyShooZ
RubyShooZ

Beth,Once again I just wanted to thank you for the tireless energy you seem to have in taking the time to contact companies to get this important information out to people that might not otherwise know. I admire you and appreciate what you do here. You're my hero. Peace and love, ~ RS ~

Burbanmom
Burbanmom

OK, since I got here first, I'll give the most obvious tip... Grow your own and pick 'em when you need them. Not necessarily something everyone can do (especially this time of year), but if you have space for even a small planter, you could grow a couple heads of lettuce a tomato plant and some cucumbers and green onions. Salads don't come much fresher than that :-)

BethTerry
BethTerry moderator

Hi jeanb.  I actually sent an email to fenugreen a couple of days ago to find out what it's packaged in.  It's some kind of brown plasticky looking packaging.  Could be cellulose.  I don't know.  If it doesn't come packaged in plastic, I will try it out.

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ana Ng
ana Ng

@Pro Evert Fresh Bags Y buy them if you're not going to reuse them?  Seems like a silly expense.

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