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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Biodegradable pots, planters will start to grow on you

Kristin Arrigo

Any excuse to be outside will work, now that it’s spring. Gardening is the best excuse ever. If you aren’t ready to start a big messy outdoor project, the most controlled way to get your gardening in is to buy plants and put them in pots and planters.

I never think about buying the pots and the planters first.

I just want to look at all the plants and pick out what I like, and worry about their containers on the way back home.

I can go through what’s lying around in the basement in my head, or maybe I will stop at my grandmother’s and see what she’s got. But now that I think about it, it’s probably best to look for the pots and planters first. That way, I won’t have to buy a new pot to fit some plant I just bought. I might be feeling pretty cheap after spending all that money on plants.

In fact, pots and planters made from plastic can be very cheap and are available almost anywhere – a total temptation. The stores put them out in front during the springtime, so you can easily get interested and put one in your shopping cart.

This scenario reminds me a lot of the consumer holiday otherwise known as Christmas. Which means it is going to end up the same way; tons of plastic in landfills. And what’s worse, I just saw that film “Bag It” on PBS.

“Bag It” tells the story of where my future discarded pot will end up. It is called the “garbage patch,” and it is located in the ocean, where sunlight and water turn plastics into potato chip-size pieces, and unknowing sea turtles and their friends snack on it, only to choke to death or curl up into balls with stomachaches until they die. This is not good.

Fortunately, there are biodegradable pots and planters. They are attractive and come in all sizes. Biodegradable pots and planters are mostly available on the Internet.

Ecoform makes its containers out of the sustainable grain fibers of rice. The binder is starch based and water soluble, too. Even the pigments to color the pots and planters are organic. The manufacturing process is amazingly kind. It is solar powered. Even the delivery trucks run on diesel fuel.

The company also puts all processing scrap back into the production, so there is little to no waste. But most of all, I like that the product lasts five years, works in all climates, and once in a landfill, will degrade quickly.

If you would rather just grab some planters at Lowe’s, they at least have some that are made from recycled materials. Polywood is made from recycled milk jugs and other recycled plastics. Polywood looks like wood and comes in colors and styles. It doesn’t have to be stained and won’t corrode or grow mold.

It’s good to know that the plastics that made the product have been kept out of the “garbage patch” and isn’t floating in the ocean, confusing and killing the wildlife.

I can’t picture myself sitting on my towel at the beach tearing a plastic bag into bite-sized pieces to feed to the birds. Or, for that matter, on a boat in the middle of the ocean with a giant bag full of all the plastic stuff I used this year, just tossing it overboard. But somehow 80 percent of it ends up there. That’s a pretty big number.

If you missed “Bag It,” check out

Kristin Arrigo is an environmental writer and can be reached at Only Better runs the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month.