Green Space: Lightening your styrofoam -- erm, EPS -- load

Thai carryout. Vine-ripened tomatoes. Egg cartons. A new DVD player or ceiling fan.
It seems hard to buy anything that's not completely surrounded by styrofoam.

Except that, technically, it isn't styrofoam -- it's expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam. Oddly, that verbiage has never quite caught on. Vernacularly, that is. Kind of like the whole Vaseline, Q-Tip and Kleenex phenomenon, where a brand name (in this case, Dow Chemical's trademark) becomes commonly used across the manufacturer spectrum.

One of the most marked characteristics of EPS (aka "styrofoam") is its stability. It never, ever breaks down. Proponents says this is good because toxins don't leech into groundwater from landfills. But that seems besides the point. Because, um, if it never breaks down, how can that possibly be a good thing?

Simple rule of thumb: non-renewable non-biodegradable equals non-good.

So what's a concerned consumer to do?

At the grocery store, do not buy pre-packaged produce. (Related: don't put every distinct fruit or vegetable into its own plastic bag. You're going to wash them at home anyway, right?)

Eat less carryout. Left-overs happen, but think about meal-sharing and other ways to shorten that container stack that towers over many tables post-meal. Recycle any styrofoam that does end up at home.

Another option is to frequent restaurants that use Michigan Green Safe products. The Detroit-based company stocks non-petroleum based products such as cups, take-away containers, plates and cutlery that can be used to replace plastic and styrofoam. All their stuff is 100% biodegradable (and compostable, natch).

So spend your Benjamins at these fine dining establishments and feel a bit better about not cooking yourself.

Avalon International Breads, 422 W. Willis
Java Exchange Café
Detroit Evolution Laboratory
Goodwells Natural Foods, 418 W. Willis
Tom's Oyster Bar


Royal Oak:
Bean & Leaf Café, 106 S. Main
Tasi Juice Bar, 204 W. Fourth

Other entities that use the products in their corporate cafeterias are Aramark, which services DTE Energy and Cobo Hall, Masco Corporation, Avanti Press and Walbridge Aldinger. The Capuchin Soup Kitchen also is Green Safe-savvy.

Steve Harworth is co-owner of Michigan Green Safe and says it is getting easier to convince businesses to go green. "We're finding a willing marketplace. It seems different, even when the economy is bad," he says. "Most people really do care."

Source: Steve Harworth, Michigan Green Safe
Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh

BTW... Last week's Green Space on dry cleaning has been updated, thanks to information gleaned from helpful readers.

Signup for Email Alerts