To satisfy our eco-criteria, we choose products not only based on how they're made and who they're made by, but what they're made from. The following definitions of materials explain their environmental benefit and why they are our preferred choice for sustainable and healthy consumer products.
Bamboo is the fastest growing plant on earth, yet can be just as hard (or harder) than many hardwoods. Technically, bamboo is a regenerative grass requiring no pesticides or fertilizers for growth. Compared to an equivalent stand of trees, bamboo absorbs 35% more CO2 and maintains better soil integrity with its extensive root system. Harvesting bamboo is actually beneficial, as it stimulates vigorous re-growth. Bamboo is most abundant in Asia but grows all over the world. These "perfect" qualities explain why bamboo has become so popular in the green industry.
The most environmentally friendly application for bamboo is in its natural "wood-like" form where it is used in products such as flooring and kitchenware. Bamboo is also used to make regenerated fiber for fabric using the viscose process, but this method is being scrutinized due to its high energy consumption and chemically-intensive nature. Companies are making improvements by using "closed loop" systems, recycling their chemicals and using renewable energies. Given the enormous advantages of the growing of bamboo, especially compared to cotton, and despite the down-side of the fabric processing, we believe bamboo has sound environmental long-term merits.
There is some concern about the use of bamboo conflicting with the bamboo needed to sustain panda bear - no need to worry. Pandas only eat a few varieties of bamboo and these are not the ones used for flooring, home products, or clothing. With over 1,000 species of bamboo, there is plenty to go around.
Beeswax is a renewable resource that has been used for thousands of years. Though it takes thousands of bees to make honey and beeswax, bees are critical for the survival of agriculture. Bees visit millions of flowers in order produce one pound of honey, and they need to eat eight pounds of honey to produce one pound of wax. Candles made from beeswax support beekeeping and agriculture when managed properly. Beeswax can also be found in personal care products and wood conditioners.
Although there is no such thing as a soot-free candle, 100% beeswax candles are cleaner burning, nearly dripless, and almost soot-free compared to paraffin candles which usually emit formaldehyde, toluene, benzene, ethanol, and acetone when burned (the equivalent of breathing diesel fumes.) Beeswax candles burn 3 to 5 times longer than paraffin, a petroleum by-product. 100% natural beeswax has a subtle scent of honey with no added chemicals or artificial fragrance.Back to top
Glass has traditionally been made from sand, in particular silica (quartz), the most abundant mineral on earth. While not a renewable source, its abundance and easy access, versus intense mining, make its environmental impact much less compared to other resources. Its biggest attribute is its ability to be recycled again; not down-cycled.
Glass is also considered the safest material of choice for food and beverages because it is non-leaching (except for fancy leaded glasses, as they do leach lead) Because of the recent health concerns about plastics leaching hormone disrupting chemicals, and some metals, glass is considered the safest for storing food and beverages.
Glass can be toughened or tempered usually by a high heating and fast cooling method. Using tempered glass allows the product many years of safe, repeated use.Back to top
Hemp is the strongest natural fiber known in the plant kingdom, grows exceptionally fast, is anti-bacterial and anti-fungal, and has thousands of product uses. Hemp, sometimes called industrial hemp, (not to be confused with its distant relative marijuana) is one of the oldest cultivated crops in human history, dating back over 10,000 years. It has proven itself to be the most viable and sustainable source for fiber-based products for use in products such as textiles, paper, clothing, building materials, fuel, food and personal care products. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson both grew hemp while Ben Franklin made hemp paper. The first draft of the Declaration of Independence was written on hemp. Henry Ford made a car out of hemp and used hemp fuel.
Prior to the relatively recent development of cotton and wood pulp in the last 300 years, hemp was the major source for many products. Hemp has long fibers which make it ideal for paper and can be recycled more times than wood pulp. Hemp does not need any pesticides or herbicides and grows easily in a variety of soils reducing the need for irrigation. Hemp production became restricted in the United States around World War II.
So what's to not like? Considered a miracle fiber, hemp is now making its way back into the agriculture scene. Today, nearly 30 countries commercially grow hemp, including Romania, Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, Russia, and the United States (very controlled).Back to top
Natural latex is the sap that comes out of many plants. The para rubber tree is what most latex is tapped from, originating from the Amazon. Rubber plantations are world-wide now, creating the supply for the huge demand of tires for cars. Rubber is also used in household products such as mattresses, latex gloves, balloons, rubber bands, erasers, clothing, flip flops and pacifiers. Many people are allergic to natural latex. The enzyme causing the allergy can be removed so natural latex can be used safely for pacifiers. Latex is considered renewable and not harmful to the tree. However, displacing rain forests for rubber plantations goes against sound environmental practices. In addition, latex production is an often over-looked area and should be socially responsibly sourced to ensure good working conditions. Fair trade latex is beginning to make its way into the market place.Back to top
Jute, buri, sisal, and other natural fibers, are abundant, strong, and require little or no pesticides. All are biodegradable and compostable if they are free from heavy metal dyes. Natural plant fibers are considered renewable and sustainable sources for fibrous products. These plants are typically grown around the equator where there are high levels of sunlight and rain allowing for constant regeneration. Consideration is given to the product's transportation footprint compared to its sustainable attributes. Natural fiber products are often made by smaller organizations, many of which are fair trade in nature. The entire life cycle of most natural fiber products, from plant to product to back to the earth, are perfect examples of the cradle-to-cradle concept of environmental stewardship.Back to top
Growing cotton organically is one of the solutions to improve the health of our planet and is part of an expanding trend in organic agriculture. Growing conventional cotton uses 3% of the world's farmlands but disproportionally uses 25% of all pesticides. About 70% of the conventional cotton grown in the United States is from genetically modified seed which requires heavy applications of chemicals. One conventional cotton T-shirt requires 1/3 of a pound of chemicals. The life of a conventional cotton plant includes applications of fungicides, insecticides, herbicides, fertilizers, defoliants, in addition to the use of 70% GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms) seeds. Typically, cotton is sprayed from the air dispersing chemicals into air currents, soil, water and eventually into our bodies. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 20,000 people die each year from exposure to chemicals used on non-organic cotton. Conventional cotton, even after becoming fabric, typically goes on to be treated with harmful chlorine bleach, heavy metal dyes, flame retardants, stain and anti-wrinkle chemicals, and other "finishers."
In contrast, growing organic cotton begins with untreated, non-GMO seeds. Much less energy and water is needed for the entire growth cycle of organic cotton. Farmers, their families, and farm workers are not exposed to toxic or synthetic chemicals, and neither is the environment. Because growing cotton organically is typically part of a crop rotation system, the farmer is less economically vulnerable and soil and pest management are better balanced. Organic farming promotes a sustainable lifestyle that benefits the biodiversity of the farmland and preserves the health of the earth for future generations.
The complete life cycle of cotton fabric is important to consider. No organic regulations exist to protect cotton after harvest. The Organic Trade Association (OTA) has developed voluntary standards for all stages of textile processing. It is up to the consumer to ask if the OTA organic standards have been followed for the manufacturing of an organic product. Conventional processing of organic cotton into fabric still leaves consumers and the environment exposed to unwanted chemicals. Organic cotton processed with as few chemicals and finishers as possible is what often gives organic cotton its softness.
Recycled cotton is another earth-friendly option since conventional cotton leftovers, both pre and post consumer, are reused, thus bypassing the entire growing process. At Bona Fide, we make every attempt to use 100% certified organic cotton or recycled cotton.
Silk, the queen of fabrics, has been around for thousands of years. Cruelty-free silk (also called moth-friendly, peace, or vegan silk) is a notable variation to conventional silk. In addition, to be labeled "organic" as well as "cruelty-free" adds another desirable quality in the making of silk. Cruelty-free silk results when the moth is allowed to chew its way out of the cocoon and finish its life cycle. This type of silk is sometimes called vegan silk because of the standard that "no animal has suffered".
Nearly all silk manufactured today is conventional silk which does not allow for the natural cocoon process to complete. Before the moth begins to chew its way out of the cocoon, the cocoon is boiled, heated, or gassed - ending its life cycle in order to keep the cocoon intact in an effort to preserve one continuous strand of silk. The dead silk worm is then carefully removed and the one very long and precious strand of silk is retrieved, ready for weaving.
In cruelty-free silk, the emerging moth chews an exit hole through the cocoon which breaks the continuous strand of silk into several smaller strands. The silk strands are then spun, much like other fibers, actually resulting in a much softer silk product. Cruelty-free silk is also easily dyed so that lower impact dyes may be used.
Organic silk results when silk worms are fed pesticide-free food free and are not given any chemicals or antibiotics. Conventional silk worms are sometimes given chemicals or antibiotics to slow their growth so that they create larger cocoons. All silk worms are voracious eaters and devour many leaves before starting their cocoon. Organic worms are fed only organic leaves. Both the earth and the worms benefit from the organic process.
Wild silk is produced by silk worms living in their natural habitat in an organic manner. Although a little tricky to label because of the lack of total control, this labor-intensive silk can still be achieved with good management, a large enough area, and indigenous workers. These categories are currently officially established according to specific standards.
Organic cruelty-free silk is a superior product that is softer, more luxurious, kinder, and better for the earth than conventional silk. At Bona Fide, we proudly take that extra step in the search for this precious fabric. With the exception of our products made from recycled conventional silk, you can be assured that our silk fabrics are organic and/or cruelty free.Back to top
Since wool is not a fiber that comes from a plant, you might wonder why certified organic wool is an important and rapidly growing industry. There are millions of sheep in the U.S.A. producing approximately 40 millions pounds of conventional raw wool per year, while less than 20,000 pounds of organic wool was produced in the U.SA. in 2000. In the same year, 14,000 pounds of chemicals were applied to conventionally raised sheep by way of dipping or spraying in order to reduce and prevent external parasites. One class of pesticides, called organophosphates (OP), is contained in 40% of all pesticides used in the United States for food and animal production and is a known neurotoxin found in all levels of our food supply and in farm workers experiencing neurological symptoms. Sheep dipping is a common practice of covering the sheep with insecticides, and spraying the sheep is also done which causes unintentional disbursement of toxic chemicals; both methods are widely used all over the world. Dipping is traumatic for sheep as they are herded and forced through a large deep trough containing the pesticides, sometimes twice a year. Pouring on pesticides is another widely used pest management option. In addition to farm workers being exposed, the run off from these chemicals contaminates ground and running water. None of these methods is used during the organic wool process.
Sheep raised organically are fed organic diets and are raised without the use of synthetic hormones or genetic engineering. Organically raised sheep are grazed on pastureland which is also free from synthetic chemical applications. After shearing, the wool is not washed or bleached with toxic chemicals. The raising of organic sheep for organic wool is an alternative that is better for the animals, the farmer, the consumer, and for the earth.
The term wool is also used to used describe the "woolly" fiber that comes from other animals such as llamas and alpacas, though it is actually hair. These fibers can sometimes come from commercial farms or from smaller farms and herders high in the mountains typically of South America where their flocks are raised naturally pesticide free as they have been for thousands of years. Although technically not labeled organic, we feel honored to include these truly wonderful natural products.
Wool is one of nature's most wonderful fibers and has long been part of human history. Wool is a naturally renewable resource providing long lasting beautiful fibers. Consider the wool clothing and oriental wool rugs that have survived hundreds of years. Organic wool is naturally flame retardant and non-allergenic. Wool allergies (from sheep) are sometimes attributed to the chemical processing, not the actual wool itself. Wool insulates, repels water, and wicks moisture before ever feeling wet. Raising animals for wool according to certified organic standards helps the soil and water become healthy while promoting biodiversity and helps future generations to become more chemical-free.Back to top
Soy wax comes from the soybean plant, the second largest crop produced by the Unites States, of which 90% is genetically modified. Soy wax is processed from the oil that has been separated from the soy meal which is used for human and cattle food. Soybean oil may then be used from many things - cooking, processed foods, bio-diesel, solvents, lubricants, paints, crayons and wax. Soybean oil must be hydrogenated into wax for candle making purposes.
Non-Genetically Modified Soy (only 10% of all soy) is harder to come by than conventional soy because the majority of farming operations in America receive subsidies from the government to produce GM soy. Since we do not support the controversial use of GMO products, Bona Fide offers 100% soy candles made with non-genetically modified and pesticide free soy wax with added real essentials oils for scent, never synthetic fragrance.
100% Soy wax candles burn longer and more cleanly than paraffin candles. Soy is a renewable resource which is an added benefit over paraffin candles. Soy candles that are colorless and are free from additives and artificial fragrance are healthier to burn when it comes to indoor air quality.
Soybeans may also be used to produce fabric using a process similar to the making of bamboo fabric. Because most of the current availability of soy fabric includes using GM soy, we choose not to offer clothing made from soy.Back to top
Stainless steel is becoming more recognized as a key player in sustainability. Its greatest attribute is that it is 100% recyclable and is the most recycled metal in the world, with high recapture rates and high scrap value. Stainless steel may be recycled over and over again into similar high quality products without the need to be down-cycled. Using recycled stainless steel saves approximately 33% of energy production costs compared to using new raw materials, creating a significant monetary and environmental advantage. On the average, recycled content for world wide stainless steel is 60%. Stainless steel produced in America tends to be of higher recycled content, with building materials using as much as 85% recycled content.
While stainless steel has only been around for about 100 years, it has fast found a solid place in modern life. With over 60 types of stainless steel, the most common type used for food and kitchen products is the 300 series composed of chromium, carbon, magnesium, nickel, phosphorus, silicon, and sulfur. Often labeled 18/10 or 18/8, this high quality stainless steel reflects 18% chromium and 10 or 8% nickel. Its durability and inability to corrode allows for many years of repeated use. Second only to glass, it is safe, non-toxic, and considered non-leaching, and does not need to be lined or coated with an epoxy or plastic like aluminum. While there are some reports of nickel and chromium leaching, it has never been shown to be beyond the RDA's daily recommendation for trace elements.
Stainless steel, like all metals, is non-renewable and has a high energy footprint for its production, however, much lower than other common metals such as aluminum, whose energy footprint runs 10 times higher in its raw form. Stainless steel's "greenness" comes from its ability to be recycled and its inherent high recycled content. It is ideal for re-usable products like water bottles, travel mugs and food storage containers, thereby eliminating the need for disposable or plastic containers. Stainless steel is a safer alternative to plastic, has greater lasting qualities, does not need to be down cycled and is readily recycled.Back to top
Wood is considered a renewable resource, however, it has the potential to be become depleted if demand outstrips supply. Certified wood (and paper) comes from forests that have been sustainably managed and verified by a third party organization. While there are many certifying organizations world wide, the most common and respected certification in the U.S. is the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Products carrying the FSC certification give consumers confidence that forests were not simply clear cut but also replanted and/or in many cases selectively cut. Additional guidelines and requirements ensure healthy and long lasting forests for future generations.
Reclaimed (also known as re-purposed or recycled) wood is a source of wood that has the added benefit of not needing to come from original newly cut timber. Reclaimed wood is typically left over scrap from larger wood projects which are ideal for smaller products. Reclaimed wood can also come from the demolition of wooden structures.