Most people bury the greeting cards they receive in drawers, but you can bury Garden Greetings in the backyard and watch them sprout into flowers or herbs. Embedded with seeds, the cards are "tree-free" — instead, Botanical PaperWorks uses 3.5 tons of paper waste a year. The cards retail for $5 apiece at specialty stores such as Paper Source.
Approximately 39 billion pieces of disposable cutlery are used in the United States each year; that's 42 place settings per person. These 100% biodegradable, nontoxic, and hygienic pen caps take chewing on your Bic to a new level. Made from natural starch and fiber, the reusable caps, a Designboom "Dining in 2015" winner, will be available in October.
Americans "use a pizza box for 30 minutes and then throw it away," says ECO chief executive William Walsh. We toss up to 2.2 billion boxes a year. Walsh's idea: more mileage per box. By adding perforation marks to divide the top into four plates, he eliminates additional waste. And the bottom can be folded into a fridge-friendly leftover case. Walsh is talking to the top pizza chains to make his to-go alternative box populi.
Every year, 3.5 billion wire hangers and 8 billion plastic ones rack up landfill space. "It's hidden," says CEO Gary Barker, "but they're just a tremendous burden on the environment." Barker's primary goal is to replace the disposable hangers of dry-cleaners, hotels, and retailers, and he has won design awards for the pressed-paperboard hanger he created exclusively for Adidas's Slvr stores. Growing consumer demand for the hangers, which hold 20 pounds, has led him to sell 10 for $15 via Amazon, and Bed Bath & Beyond commissioned its own 10-pack ($10).
"The next wave in eco-awareness is compostability," says VerTerra chief operating officer Josh Parker. VerTerra steams, heats, and pressurizes fallen palm leaves, processing 10 to 12 tons a month into high-end disposable dinnerware. The plates, bowls, and trays aren't just compostable but also biodegradable, and they're the china of choice in tier-one luxury boxes at the new Cowboys Stadium. They're also being rolled out at Whole Foods for just $6.50 for eight.
Imagine a Styrofoam replacement so natural it could be mistaken for mushroom risotto. EcoCradle is made from agricultural by-products, such as rice hulls, and mushrooms, which serve as a binding agent for the packing material. "In nature, there is no litter," says CEO Eben Bayer. EcoCradle can then be molded to fit products as varied as TVs and glassware. To meet demand, Ecovative Design will scale up production to 10,000 units of packaging a month by the end of the year.
A version of this article appeared in the September 2009 issue of Fast Company magazine.