Organic Abundance – Beauty With a Conscience

Organic Abundance – Beauty With a Conscience

You know how it is, you see that something is organic and you are drawn to it, it’s just a nice feeling knowing that it is real, not tampered with. Then when you use it, comes the knowledge that you’ve done something true and right ~ and goodness only knows in this day and age ~ we all need to feel that from time to time.

There is the cautionary tale of course, that the term can and is frequently used , loosely, by manufacturers and the like, to lure people into buying goods that are not in fact truly organic, but rest assured there is organic treasure out there, it’s just a case of knowing where to look.

My quest was to find skin care that happily, beautifully and reasonably~ (I had to stay in harmony with my bank manager as well as nature!)~ reduced my biological footprint on this planet, and so with a number of key questions in the blueprint, the research began.

What defines Organic? 70% organic products, which are produced under very strict guidelines, are the minimum count that you should accept. Better to seek out 95% organic content, which is then categorized as Certified Organic, and give yourself not only peace of mind, but the maximum benefits.

Is Natural the same thing? No, it really isn’t. An item can be labelled as natural, which might mean it is processed as little as possible, but can also mean it’s been heavily processed. What it does not mean is that it has been organically grown. There is no official regulation in place for use of the term ‘natural’.

Will labels confuse me? You bet they will! The whole labelling law thing needs a major overhaul ~ manufacturers only need use one organic ingredient to be able to boast that term, and then they can pop whatever else they want in there ~ often to the detriment of our precious skin. The average person uses around 9 different care products each day ~ as you step into your shower, start counting…, then sit on the end of your bed, and read those labels. It will come as no surprise now, when I reveal that you have rubbed, smoothed and slathered a potential 126 toxic chemicals into your body.

What benefits should I be looking for? Well we all want the very best for ourselves, and when you consider that our skin is the largest organ we possess, absorbing all we put on it, then it really makes sense that what we choose is as natural and nourishing as possible. Why subject our skin to harmful toxins, when Mother Nature can provide us with a pure alternative?

Does Organic really equal ‘Green’? Undoubtedly! We are all aware now of the impact and responsibility we have for our world. At last an ethical approach is permeating our consciousness, and consumer demand for organic industry is steadily rising as we realise we are part of a Global community, who need to put the Earth first.

My search for true organic products had to include issues such as sustainable agriculture, the guarantee that damage to the environment had not occurred with the poisonous chemicals used in conventional agriculture. I had to be sure that not only were the ingredients pure, the products free from synthetic preservatives, colours and fragrances but that any packaging may be recyclable or biodegradable.

After many weeks of reading, research, and dead ends, it was an unassuming handout on decorated card, included in the local school newsletter which would provide answers, solutions and the path to a cornucopia of authentic organic body care. This line of certified organics embraced the bounty of nature and was as gentle on my purse as it was on my skin! This range was so safe and pure that apparently, should the urge take you, you could eat it! My sceptical heart was stirred and I decided to investigate.

The handout had taken the form of an invite. There was a promise of an aromatic cup of (organic!) coffee, an explanation and showing of wonderful certified organic products, along with a bit of a social get together. I was ready to experience what sounded like a decidedly agreeable and comfortable method of reviewing this range. So on a sunny Saturday morning, in a pretty suburban cul de sac, I rang the bell of an unpretentious house and was warmly greeted by Stephanie. The coffee smelt great ~ and it wasn’t long before we were having a good chat about the skin care products, which were invitingly arranged on a big table, lids off, readily pokeable and slatherable! The camaraderie that comes when a few people get together with the same aim makes for such an easy atmosphere and Stephanie was a mine of information about the goodies tempting us. It was instantly apparent that these were beautiful preparations soft, genuinely natural and containing 100% organic ingredients. The claim that they were as safe as to be edible, was absolutely true, and whilst certain shampoos, lotions, and lip balms did smell good enough to eat, everyone was too busy pampering themselves to test the theory!

So far, the claims, the products and the prices were all adding up, and I had gathered a small arsenal of lotions and potions not only for myself, but for my husband and my dedicated organic seeking daughters! But I needed to find out about the company who provided the umbrella for this plethora of nature’s offerings. There were still questions that had to be asked to convince me that this was the end of my search. Hopefully Stephanie would come through for me, because I can tell you now, I was more than eager to get these babies paid for, get them home and get them working! Ten minutes, and a potted history later about a visionary company that cares for the environment and me, I was satisfied, and happily stashing my haul into the boot of my car.

With a wave and a smile Stephanie saw me off, and I drove home with my harvest, eager to share the good news with my family. I chuckled to myself at her last words, which unwittingly underscored my original criteria:- ‘Don’t forget to throw the packaging on the garden and water it ~ it’s not just bio degradable ~ it’s compostable!’ Mission Accomplished.

Written for Stephanie Hopkins. Independent Representative for ONE Group
http://www.origanon.com
http://www.origanon.miorganicfuture.com

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Insulated Stainless Steel Bottles And Kids? Stainless Steel Bottles

Insulated Stainless Steel Bottles And Kids? Stainless Steel Bottles

Drinking out of plastic bottles may not only be unsafe for one’s health, but also harmful for the environment since millions of these bottles end up being thrown away, ultimately clogging landfills. So, one way to help save the environment as well as money is by using stainless steel water bottles instead of plastic. If you are looking for a way to drink safely as well as be able to transport drinks without using plastic, then stainless steel is the way to go. 

 

Kids’ stainless steel bottles are ideal for lunch bags, day camp, field trips and many other activities.  Instead of giving your child a plastic bottle filled with water, it is safer to use a stainless steel bottle for water.  Reports have recently come out citing studies that show BPA, a chemical in many plastics, is unsafe, especially for children whose brains and bodies are developing. So, when you want to give your child a transportable drink, use a stainless steel bottle and have peace of mind knowing that unsafe substances are not leaching into their drinks from a plastic bottle, especially during warm weather. 

 

If you like to take water or another beverage with you, use an insulated stainless steel bottle instead of a plastic container. You’ll be able to keep your drink cold or hot, your choice. An insulated stainless steel bottle is very practical, easy to clean and can be used for many years, so it makes good economic sense to buy a good quality steel bottle instead of repeatedly spending money on single use bottles.

 

 You can find these bottles at online outlets in a variety of sizes and styles. 

One way to save the environment as well as money is to use an insulated stainless steel bottle  for drinking purposes over plastic.  You can even get kids stainless steel bottle products when you go to Eco Vessel. 

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Get The Best Kitchen Aid Blender For Your Home

Get The Best Kitchen Aid Blender For Your Home

A Kitchen Aid blender is a great addition to anyone’s kitchen.  They offer a variety of colors to suit any decor, and the durability, speed and power you’d expect from KitchenAid.

It is odd to walk into someone’s home and not see a blender setting on their kitchen counter. A Kitchen Aid blender has many uses, and these blenders are traditionally a vital part of everyone’s kitchen.

A Kitchen Aid blender can help you make a great tasting fruit smoothie, create your very own special sauce and even provide delicious margaritas for a party. These blenders are a great addition to any household.

But, before you attempt to look for a blender for your house, it is crucial that you have a strong understanding of what you need to look for with these machines. One of the initial things that you will need to analyze is the quality of the machine. Remember that quality always comes with a price.

Also, traditionally if the quality of the machine is high, the parts used to make the machine are also of a higher quality as well. If the parts of the machine are low quality, then your machine will not have a long operating life. Also, it is a great idea to obtain an extended warranty with your machine. If your blender comes with a warranty, you will have the peace of mind knowing that if something goes wrong with it then the parts you need to fix it will be readily available.

The power of your Kitchen Aid blender is another thing that you need to evaluate before buying it. The traditional power amounts for these blenders can range from 300 to 1500 watts. The amount of power that you wish for your blender to posses will be based on your own personal preference.

Also, pay attention to the blender jar that is included with your Kitchen Aid blender. The best jars are normally glass or polycarbonate, however plastic jars are always an option as well. But, glass and polycarbonate jars generally prolong the life span of the machine.

For more information on Kitchen Aid Blenders and full blender reviews of all the major brands, go to GoBlendIt.com.  You can also find free healthy smoothie recipes and delicious homemade ice cream recipes.

Will Turnage is the editor of GoBlendIt.com where you can find in-depth reviews of all major kitchen blenders as well as cool and tasty smoothie recipes, and fun homemade ice cream recipes.

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The Science of Biodegradable Plastics: The Reality Behind Biodegradable Plastic Packaging Material

The Science of Biodegradable Plastics: The Reality Behind Biodegradable Plastic Packaging Material

Interest in biodegradable disposable plastic items has steadily grown over the last decade.  Disposable packaging materials used to ship and protect purchased items as well as disposable containers used for food and drink are of special interest.  The idea that one time use items can be disposed of with the peace of mind, that they will not remain for centuries in a landfill, or as litter, is one of the tenets driving the recent interest in “green” technologies and lifestyles.  With packaging materials, the reduction in usage of raw materials, re-use and recycling is of course the best route to sustainable lifestyle.  However, for various reasons, in practice, much of the material ends up being discarded to a landfill or accidentally shows up as litter.  For these instances, it is advantageous to have a plastic material that would biodegrade when exposed to environments where other biodegradable materials are undergoing decay.

What is Biodegradable?

Biodegradation is degradation caused by biological activity, particularly by enzyme action leading to significant changes in the material’s chemical structure.  In essence, biodegradable plastics should breakdown cleanly, in a defined time period, to simple molecules found in the environment such as carbon dioxide and water.  The American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) defines ‘biodegradability’ as:

“capable of undergoing decomposition into carbon dioxide, methane, water, inorganic compounds, or biomass in which the predominant mechanism is the enzymatic action of microorganisms, that can be measured by standardized tests in a specified period of time, reflecting available disposal conditions.”

Aerobic and Anaerobic Biodegradation

Aerobic biodegradation is the breakdown of an organic substance by microorganisms in the presence of oxygen.  Almost all organic materials can be metabolized in an oxidative environment by aerobic organisms.  The organism has secreted enzymes that breakdown substances into smaller organic molecules which are then absorbed into the cells of the microbes and used for cellular respiration.  During the respiration process, the organic molecules absorbed into the cells are broken down in steps, where a molecule known as adenosine-5’- triphosphate (ATP) is used to store and transport energy for cells, for life processes such motility and cell division.  In biochemistry this chemical reaction sequence is known as Electron Chain Transfer.  In the case of aerobic metabolism, oxygen is used at the end of the chain as the final electron acceptor, producing the main byproducts of carbon dioxide and water.

Composting is a well known and common use of aerobic biodegradation, during which the volume of organic material is typically reduced by about 50%, where the remaining, slow-decaying humus material left over can be used as a rich planting medium.  The ASTM defines a compostable plastic material as being:

“capable of biological decomposition in a compost site as part of an available program, such that the plastic is not visually distinguishable and break down to carbon dioxide, water inorganic compounds and biomass at a rate consistent with known compostable materials (e.g. cellulose).”

The biomass material referred to here is humus.  The bioactivity in active compost will generate heat that further enhances the rate of microbial growth and metabolism.  However, for the purpose of the ASTM definition, the available program is an industrial compost facility where heat and moisture are artificially added to the mass to maximize the degradation rate.  As we will see, this artificial environment becomes critical for degradation of some biodegradable plastic materials.

Anaerobic biodegradation occurs in the absence of oxygen where anaerobic microbes are dominant.  In the absence of oxygen the organism must use some other atom as the final electron acceptor.  Hydrogen, methane, nitrogen and sulfur are common along with oxidizing minerals.  Thus, the effluent from anaerobic digestion is biogas, consisting of mostly methane and carbon dioxide, with trace gasses such as ammonia and hydrogen sulfide. Often, the complete digestion will require several different types of bacteria where one type partially processes the waste to a point where another bacterium strain takes over (4). Most biodegradation of solid waste in landfill occurs under anaerobic conditions by design because it is typically much slower than aerobic degradation.

Most biodegradable substances come from plant and animal matter, or from artificial materials that are very similar in molecular structure to these naturally occurring substances.  As the naturally occurring substances evolved, microorganisms also evolved to use the substances as a food source: the carbon in particular, used as a building block for life-sustaining compounds.  Simple sugars are readily absorbed into the cell to be metabolized.  However, larger and more complex molecules such as starches, proteins and cellulose, require enzymes and acids to reduce their size enough to be absorbed.  Living organisms have developed the ability to secrete specific digestive compounds so as to best utilize the available food supply.  For example, the enzyme amylase, found in human saliva, is used to breakdown long-chain starch molecules into and smaller simple sugars.

For microorganisms, this adaptive process can be applied to other, more complex carbon containing compounds in crude oil.  This type of microbial biodegradation has been demonstrated for hydrocarbons derived from petroleum (10)

Biodegradable Plastic Materials

Currently available degradable plastic materials can be broken down into two main groups:

Polyester Polymers Synergistic and Hybrid Polymers

The Polyesters

When one thinks of polyesters in general, the polymers that come to mind are very durable with good physical and mechanical properties.  A good example is polyethylene terephthalate (PET).  This polymer is strong, abrasion and stain resistant, so it can be a good choice for carpeting and clothing.  It also has good gas barrier properties which make it ideal for soda bottles.  These polymers, which are also resistant to biodegradation, typically contain a large number of six-carbon rings in their molecular structure.  In chemistry, compounds containing these rings are known as aromatic compounds.

Biodegradable polyesters which do not contain six-carbon rings are known as aliphatic polyesters. They will typically react with moisture at elevated temperatures to breakdown the long polymer chains.  This process, called chemical hydrolysis, reduces the higher molecular weight polymer to much smaller hydrocarbon compounds.  The resulting molecules can then be absorbed by microorganisms and metabolized for energy.  Since it is a chemical reaction, the hydrolysis occurs at a much higher rate than one would expect for a purely biological process, and as a result, relatively quick degradation is observed.

Aliphatic polyesters have attracted interest as biodegradable plastic materials; however they typically have poor physical and mechanical properties (3) like strength, flexibility, heat resistance, etc.  Some common biodegradable polyester polymers in commercial use include poly(caprolactone) (PCL), poly(glycolic acid) (PGA) and poly(butylene succinate) (PBS).  These are synthetic polymers, made from petroleum-based, raw materials, and like most biodegradable polyesters have inferior mechanical properties e.g. low heat deflection temperature and low elongation failure (brittle).  They will also begin to hydrolyze at modest temperatures in the presence of moisture, rapidly losing molecular weight and further decreasing mechanical properties.  Although expensive to make, these biodegradable polymers are ideal for use in specialized, high margin applications such as medical devices (e.g. dissolving, drug delivery systems, tissue engineering scaffolds and bone repair etc.).(2)

Another well known aliphatic polyester is poly(lactic acid).  PLA is a synthetic polymer made from fermented sugars extracted primarily from food crops such as corn, beets or sugarcane. The resulting lactic acid monomer is chemically processed and then polymerized, in the presence of a metal catalyst, to form the high molecular weight plastic material.  Like the petroleum-based biodegradable polyesters, PLA has many of the same undesirable mechanical properties, such as low heat deflection temperature. The polymer is also very brittle and has a low-melt strength leading to difficulty in processing.  Consequently, most commercial applications using PLA require a synthetic rubber and/or acrylic additive to compensate for these deficiencies.

Degradation of PLA occurs quickly through a multistep process (4) of chemical depolymerization, followed by dissolution of the intermediate lactic acid in the presence of moisture, and the absorption into the cells of microorganisms with subsequent metabolization.  Initiation of this chain of events typically occurs at elevated temperatures (above heat deflection temperatures), such as conditions existing in an industrial compost operation. The relatively fast chemical reaction at the beginning of the chain of events explains the surprisingly quick degradation of polymer in an industrial compost environment.  This mechanism of chemical attack followed by cell metabolism does not meet the true definition of a biodegradable material inasmuch as biological activity is not required for the initial breakup of the material.  In low temperature aerobic or anaerobic environments where initial hydrolysis occurs slowly, biodegradation of PLA also proceeds very slowly if at all.

Another family of biodegradable polyesters, which could in a way be viewed as more complex extensions of the molecular structure of PLA, is known as polyhydroxy alkanoates (PHA’s).  Intriguingly, PHA’s are natural polymers also derived from plant sugars but are synthesized within the bacteria themselves.  The PHA’s are manufactured and used as carbon storage in the cells(6), similar to the way the human body stores fat to be used as an emergency food source.

It has been shown that bacterially produced PHB/PHV (92/8 w/w) deteriorated nearly to completion within 20 days of cultivation by anaerobic digested sludge, while synthetic aliphatic polymers such as PLA, PBS, and poly(butylene succinate adipiate) (PBSA) did not degrade at all in 100 days (1).

For degradable polyesters, the best improvement in physical properties is obtained by synthetically creating a polyester copolymer using both aliphatic and aromatic groups.  These are typically derived from oil-based raw materials such as 1,4-butanediol, adipic acid, and terephthalic acid (7).  Using this technique, the polymer can be tailored to balance the excellent physical and mechanical characteristics of the aromatic polyester groups with the degradation and subsequent mineralization of the aliphatic groups.  These polymers are also readily mixable with pure aliphatic polyesters like PLA, or natural polymer like cellulose, to form a hybrid, degradable polymer with improved performance.

Synergistic or Hybrid Polymers

Synergistic polymers are typically intimate mixtures of oil-based and naturally occurring polymers where the two have some chemical affinity for each other.  When mixed, there is intimate contact between the two polymer chains so as to create a homogenous single phase.  In other words, once mixed they could not be mechanically separated.  This is somewhat akin to mixing gelatin powder with hot water to form a single uniform substance, once cooled.

The intimate mixing of the natural and synthetic polymers can be taken one step further: where the attraction of the synthetic and natural polymers is enhanced by grafting other chemically compatible groups along the chains of the natural and/or synthetic polymers.  As with the PVOH, this technique enhances biodegradation through generational adaptation which can be initiated with relatively small additions of natural polymers.  To illustrate how this could be possible, it has been shown that polyethylene will biodegrade via a monooxygense enzyme pathway (9).  Initiation of the process begins with the formation of a biofilm on the surface of the polymer, which is facilitated by the inclusion of the compatible natural polymers.  These films of microorganisms have been shown to efficiently biodegrade petroleum based polymers (8).

Low-level synergistic enhancement does not materially impact the physical and mechanical properties of the original synthetic polymer.  Therefore, the product applications are not restricted beyond what would normally be expected for the un-amended polymer.  Since the additive itself will not degrade the polymer or affect processing, the ability for recycling or reuse of the plastic article will be unaffected.  Unintended degradation will not occur since the initial colonization requires an environment where existing biodegradation is occurring or would normally be expected to occur, either aerobic or anaerobic.  Additional heat is not required, and no chemical, polymer-chain weight reduction process is needed beyond the enzymatic action of the microorganisms.

Conclusion

For the choice of materials to be used in the manufacture of a more environmentally friendly packaging material, the criteria needs to take into account business considerations and strategies, while addressing environmental concerns related to the life cycle of the packaging.  The primary purpose of the packaging material is to protect the items being shipped from damage via impact or abrasion, and therefore protection should be the first consideration.  The material will also need to perform in largely uncontrolled, ambient conditions of heat and humidity; thus, the next consideration should be given to the products’ possible end-of-life scenarios. The scenarios include disposal in landfills, litter, recycle, etc. Finally, material costs need to meet market criteria.

Conventional polymer technologies have been able to tailor materials that can meet the market need of both cost and performance. There is infrastructure in place for recycling and/or re-use of many of these materials, which is the most desirable destination in the life cycle of the packaging product.  With inclusion of a synergistic additive, such as that used by FP International, the materials would also be well-suited for the less desirable destinations, such as landfills.

The other biodegradable polymer options have no recycle infrastructure, and could possibly be viewed as having been designed to be thrown out.  However, the fact that many of these polymers, like PLA, are limited to biodegradation in only commercial compost facilities, further decreases the potential for a desirable end-of-life scenario.  Moreover, while the bacterially produced polyesters (PHB/PHV) would biodegrade in a more general disposal scenario, they are particularly cost-prohibitive for most packaging applications.

In addition to sustainable choices in materials for FP International’s products, FP has ongoing programs for reduction of raw material and energy usage, recycling, increased production efficiencies, efficient product design and increased recycled, raw material usage.

Rod Alire is Chief Scientist for FP International. Mr. Alire carries more than 20 years experience in polymer processing with particular expertise in polymeric foam and film extrusion processes. His projects have emphasized environmental impact mitigation and sustainability through new product design and manufacturing technologies. By Mr. Alire’s development of a theoretical model for mass transport phenomena and foam expansion behavior in polystyrene packaging material production, FP International was able to reduce the usage of raw materials and density of the products being produced.

In order to replace the use of CFC’s – chlorofluorocarbon, (known to be harmful to the ozone and environment), Mr. Alire designed and built a high pressure, foaming agent metering and delivery system for polymer foam extrusion. Also, he developed polyolefin polymer blends and a blown film process for production of PMOS (products manufactured on-site) air bag materials. These airbags are 99% air, since they can be manually deflated or popped, they also reduce the size of materials produced for recycling. Also, the size of the film air cushion materials takes less space to ship, thus less cost and lowers the use of trucks (lowering gas use and truck emissions). Currently, Mr. Alire is working to increase the strength and mechanical property of the film itself, in order to produce film which uses less material.

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