Last weekend my fantastic assistant Lisa Fiorvante and I attended the NYC Green Festival. This event, hosted in a number of cities around the country is a project of Green America and Global Exchange which aims provide a platform for organizations & business to showcase their programs and products to forward thinking, socially, ethically, and environmentally conscious consumers. Just our kind of place!
While this event didn’t focus specifically on the issue of “environmental toxins”, being a “green festival” meant that nearly all the vendors there were offering programs or products that were connected to this conversation. This part of the conversation, whether in product development, or educational outreach, was what I was there to tease out.
As you may know, I tend to be pretty skeptical of marketing claims for products, mostly because I know how much greenwashing, pink washing, and other BS is floating around out there.
Did I find any of that at the Green Festival?
Thankfully very little, although not none.
Lisa and I walked around, snapped a few pictures, and chatted with vendors about their products, product ingredients, and were overall really impressed with what we saw, read, and heard. Events like these are often where new products can get a little face-time with their ideal consumer (i.e., anyone who’s attending the Green Festival!).
Here are a few of the standouts from the festival – for better or worse:
SmartKlean Non-Detergent Laundry Ball
This product seems like all kinds of amazing. It’s a totally detergent free laundry ball that washes 365 loads with zero soap or detergent, and can also apparently replace fabric softener & dryer sheets. According to their website:
the laundry ball is filled with four types of mineral-derived ceramic beads and two magnets, each performing different cleaning functions. When these components come in contact with water, they form ‘oxygenated’ water with an increased pH level and an ability to eliminate germs and bacteria.“
What’s great is that all of the ingredients are either biodegradable or recyclable.
Online reviews of this product seem to confirm how well it works. I was totally 100% sold on how crazy good this product sounded, until the vendor explained that one of those types of ceramic beads is made of up nano-silver. Nano-technology is still very new, and little research has been done to determine it’s safety. While the FAQ on their website says the beads were constructed to not release ingredients into the water, they also say that no “significant” amount of dissolved silver is going to end up on your laundry or in our waterways.
Which brings me to the real question mark for me. The use of nano-silver particles in an increasing amount of consumer products (anti-bacterial gym clothes, and socks, for example) is leading to increased amounts of nano-silver particles in our environment… as it washes out of treated clothing, it ends up in our water, and ultimately back into our food supply. Because nano-silver is an antibacterial, it can destroy the living microcosm of beneficial bacteria in our soil. You can read more about this here, here, and here.
Now, I know this might seem like nit-picking, but hey, would you buy an all natural, super healthy food that also happened to have, say, aspartame in it? That said, all in all, this product seems like an infinitely better choice than any of the laundry detergents out there, and is something that I’m going to be testing out myself soon!
Final Thoughts: thumbs-up!
Kishu Charcoal Water Filter
Kishu Charcoal sells charcoal sticks made of sustainably harvested oak branches and slowly carbonizes them in a traditional Japanese fashion. Rather than buying a carbon filtration system that is housed in plastic, Kishu provides you with a raw piece of charcoal that you simply drop into a pitcher of water.
Sounds wonderful, but I’m not sold, and here’s why:
In traditional water filtration systems (think Brita, or undersink systems) water is forced to pass through the filter media, ensuring adequate contact with the activated charcoal, or other filter media. One of the things that determines the efficacy of water filters is how long the water is in contact with whatever media is being used and the surface area of the filter media itself.
Charcoal filters work through a process called adsorption, which is when contaminants adhere to the surface of the filter media – think ‘adhere’. (as opposed to absorption, when contaminants are stored within the structure of the media).
The more surface area a filter media has, the more spaces for contaminants to hang out. Granular Activated Carbon has a tremendous surface area, which is why it’s used in so many water filters (and because it’s really good at removing a wide variety of contaminants). Solid Block Carbon, which is just what it sounds like – a solid block – is a little trickier for water to flow through (it being solid and all)… water has to be either a) forced through with a little pressure, or b) a flow through the system really slowly (this is why some water filters are super slow).
The Kishu system is essentially like solid block carbon, only the water is not forced to pass through the charcoal stick, the stick simply sits in the water. That’s red flag number one for me.
Red flag number two is something that I found on their website, buried in small print on the “science” page on the Kishu website.
Here’s what they say:
“Kishu Charcoal has been found to be effective at removing lead, mercury, copper, cadmium and chlorine, over a period of time, as demonstrated in the graphs below.”
When you take a look at those graphs, you’ll see the amount of contaminants like lead, copper, cadmium, and mercury (not normally a contaminant in tap water, by the way) are reduced over time. The key phrase here is “over time”.
A close look at the graph shows that the most significant reductions (and even those are fairly minor) happen at the 24 – 48 hour mark, meaning that the Kishu stick needs to be sitting in your pitcher of water for 24-48 hours before it’s effectively reduced the amount of contaminants present.
NO ONE is going to do that. At best, someone might fill a pitcher with water and drop the Kishu in over night, say for maybe 8 hours max, but 24? No way. And definitely not 48. That’s just super inconvenient. Elsewhere on their website, they say:
“Kishu begins absorbing impurities immediately but optimal absorption takes a little while, (an hour or several)“
An hour or several?? How about 24?
The reality is that people are going to buy this charcoal stick, drop it in their pitcher of water, slosh it around for 15-20 seconds, maaaaybe for 15-20 minutes, and then they’re going to drink it, and are going to assume they’re drinking properly filtered water. This doesn’t seem very effective, or practical, and their marketing is misleading, and doesn’t authentically portray how it should even be used.
Final Thoughts: thumbs down.
Two other standouts worth mentioning at the festival were:
Soap Box Soaps:
Simple, clean soaps with no synthetic ingredients with nice benefit of providing a bar of soap to developing countries and local homeless shelters where things like a bar of soap are not only hard to find, but can be lifesaving. Their slogan: Soap = Hope. I can get down with that!.
Essential Oxygen Food Grade Hydrogen Peroxide
Essential Oxygen makes two pretty straightforward products: a food grade hydrogen peroxide, aloe, and essential oil based tooth brushing rinse, and straight up 3% food grade hydrogen peroxide. Regular brown bottle, drug store type hydrogen peroxide has added ingredients – stabilizers like phenol, tin, and nitrrates to name a few, and should not be ingested, or used internally. Food grade hydrogen peroxide can safely be use for everything from keeping seed sprouts free of mold, whitening your laundry, to keeping your humidifier bacteria free. Not bad!
All in all the Green Festival was a hit, and I was pleased to see so many companies creating thoughtful, safe products for people, animals, and the environment. Consumer demand for these things is what’s making this “green industry” possible. But make sure you’re able to sift out the GREENWASHERS from the truly clean & green products – that comes through education, and knowing what to look for!