20 Common Items with a compostable, eco-friendly version.

compost

Humans have created many things that bring quality, ease, and comfort to our lives.  Often, we got so caught up in our brilliance that we didn’t pause to think if something should be made a certain way.

Now we find ourselves surrounded by plastics.  They’re everywhere. Our kitchens, bathrooms, bedrooms, living rooms. Grocery stores, schools, gyms.  And they’ve been useful.

But they are causing a problems.  They don’t absorb back into Nature the way things are meant to.  They just stay.  And this causes countless issues.

What if they could disappear? What if you didn’t have to think about where your trash goes because it just gets absorbed back into the earth safely?

I have great news for you!  That reality can exist.  Just because we make so much of the modern world out of plastic doesn’t mean we have to.  We can create a human civilization where everything returns to the circular economy of nature.

Here is a list of 20 common items with options that would break down naturally in a compost pile.

PlushBeds Natural Bliss 8-inch Medium-Firm Natural Latex Mattress - Split King

1. Mattress

Yes, one of the largest objects in your home could be compostable.  There are a growing number of green-washed options out there, but there are two that really stand above the rest.

The first is a wool mattress.  It’s constructed using fabric that is made of either hemp or cotton, both natural fibers that biodegrade, and then is stuffed with natural sheeps wool, again a natural fiber that biodegrades.  Sheperd’s Dream makes the most natural mattress that I’ve seen in the US.

The second option is a natural latex mattress. These are made from plant latex, which is a type of gum plants exude either in defense or to cover wounds.  The fabrics covering these also tend to be cotton or hemp.  Plush Beds makes a sound option that is based on 100% natural latex(which is hard to find even in latex mattresses.

Masaya & Co. Wood & Leather Ottoman

2. Tables and Chairs

I bet you’ve seen at least one kitchen, end, or coffee table this week that was made with metal, glass, or plastic.  Before the industrial revolution, furniture was made of wood, leather, and cloth, with an emphasis on wood.  It was renewable resources available in many areas, in many shapes and sizes.  It could be shaped to a specific need, and last for generations.

Don’t want to pass it down? That’s fine, add it to the compost pile.  It’s basically the same as a tree stump rotting in the ground. (But I do highly recommend passing it down, as it did take a lot of time and energy to make. Respect your craftspeople.)

Disclaimer 1: a lot of “wooden” furniture is actually composite board, which is basically wood chips stuck together with glue.  I don’t recommend throwing one of these into your garden. The glue is toxic.

There are many people experimenting with using fungi to bind together wood chips and other agricultural bi-products to create composite board that is completely natural.

Disclaimer 2: A lot of wooden furniture is finished using petroleum based stains, and finishes.  Look for furniture that specifically says it’s been sealed naturally, or is unfinished that you can seal yourself.

3. Hammocks

A symbol of camping, relaxation, the tropics, etc. Sadly, so many of these are made of nylon, which sure, is strong, but it doesn’t do any favors for the soil.  Traditionally hammocks were made of bark and other plant fibers, originating in Central American.  With European exploration, the design was spread and different materials used(see source).  You can still get 100% natural hammocks, or even make your won.

Hand-knotted All-Natural Earth Brown Hemp Rug (9' x 12')

4. Carpets/Rugs

If you didn’t specifically demand wool or cotton carpets in your home, then they are made of a plastic synthetic fiber.  Thankfully, natural fiber versions do exist!They can be a bit on the pricey side, but you’re paying for the better health of you and the planet.

Organic Cotton Sateen Sheet Set

5. Blankets

Acryclic and Polyester run amuck in the bedding industry.  You may have one of those “fleece” blanket that gets super stacticky…synthetic fibers all the way.

Blankets come in a wide variety of natural fiber options.  Cotton, wool, alpaca, hemp, linen, tencel.  Just be sure to check the tag and make sure it isn’t acrylic, which can sometimes look very similar to a natural fiber, but regardless is still plastic.  

Modern Fisher Sweater Sienna

6. Clothing

Polyester, nylon, acrylic, and other synthetic fibers have run rampant in our clothes industry for decades.  Cotton is the most widely available natural fiber, and there is a growing number of options made from hemp, linen, wool, alpaca, modal, and tencel.

High quality natural fiber garments should last you a long time, and after patching them, repairing them, handing them down, they can go to the compost pile, rather than to the dumb.  Just don’t forget to remove any metal or plastic buttons and zippers.

recycle shoes

7. Shoes

Like so many other things, shoes used to be completely compostable.  They were made with materials like leather, cork, wood, jute, wool, natural latex.  Ten they discovered how to make the soles of shoes with petroleum-based materials and shoes slid further and further from their eco-friendly status.

The compostable versions never disappeared entirely, but they were very much lost to the mainstream consumer.  Now they are coming back.  From simple sandals made from natural fiber rope, to modern wool runners with compostable soles.

Australian Hat

8. Hats

Move over polyester ball caps, there’s a whole world of compostable options available.  You’re probably already familiar with many compostable hats.  Wool felt and woven straw or grass are common materials for sun hats.

Like so many other aspects of sustainability, this isn’t something new.  All hats used to be completely compostable.  Thankfully their designs and the skills to make them never disappeared.

towels

9. Towels

Just like with clothing, natural fiber towels are making a comeback.  Fibers like cotton and linen have better wicking ability than synthetic fibers. Tencel towels are also growing in popularity.

Make sure to read the labels(which goes for all products).  Many companies mix in a percentage of polyester or acrylic into their fabrics. Check to see that it says 100% Cotton/Linen/Hemp/Tencel, or a combination of these materials

10. Sponge

Take that mental image of the crusty dried pastel colored kitchen sponge and move it aside.  Discover the world of natural luffas!  What’s a luffa? It’s the internal structure of a type of gourd. 

You can grow them at home.  Just dry, and peel. They last for years, can be sent through both the dishwasher and washing machine, and after all the wear and tear, sent back to the ground.

11. Plates and bowls

There are options for single and multi-use.  Many cultures around the world have used wooden plates for millennia.  A length of bamboo cut lengthwise is an instaneous bowl.  There is a growing selection of single use compostable plates made of things like compressed palm fronds and bamboo pulp.

12. Cups

Similar situation.  You can find carefully crafted cups made of wood and bamboo.  Paper cups? Yeah, they’re compostable too, but you’re going to want to make sure they are all natural.  Conventional paper cups use a petroleum based wax to waterproof them, which isn’t great for your garden, or you.

13. Eating Utensils

Ever hear of chopsticks? 😉  There’s also a wide selection wooden spoons, forks, and table knives.  You’ll even find compostable cutlery made from a plastic-like material sourced from plant material.

14. Food Wrap

Audios cellophane.  Waxed cloth isn’t new at all, but it’s making a much needed come back.  You can find various sizes of cotton cloth squares that have been coated in natural beeswax and antimicrobial clove oil to create the ultimate reusable and compostable food storage wrap.

knitting needles

15. Knitting Needles/Crochet hooks

Can’t forget your crafting supplies!  You can find both crochet hooks and knitting needs in wood and bamboo.

knitting needles

16. Yarn

Yeah!  Natural fiber yarns are compostable.  What are compostable clothes made of? Compostable yarns!  There are tons of natural fiber options available. Wool, alpaca, angora, cashmere, hemp, cotton, silk, linen.  The era of terrible acrylic yarn is ending!

17. Buttons

There is nothing like a good wooden button or toggle!  They can be true works of art even.  You can also make buttons from cloth, cord, shell, bone, horn, and other natural materials.

18. Beads

Jewelry has been a part of human culture for…well, a very long time.  Archaeologists have found evidence dating back at least 100,000 years! (see source) Wood, shell, coconut, you’ve probably seen beautiful beads made from these materials.  They can be a great(and far cheaper) alternative to precious metals and gems.

19. Insulation

All that fiberglass insulation in your walls? Not compostable.  The synthetic polyester in your comforter? Also not compostable.  Option? Wool! You can now get wool insulation for inside walls, and it makes a great filler for quilts, pillows, cushions, and coats.  Also, goose down, a traditional filler of comforters.

20. Building Materials

This one get’s me really excited.  The most obvious is wood, but you also have things like straw bales(giant compostable bricks), cob(which is a mix of plant, sand, and clay, that hardens like rock, but will melt back into the earth when wet), bamboo, reeds, etc.  Just because we Can build with concrete, steel, and plastic doesn’t mean we have to, or should.

Do you have any items that are compostable that didn’t make the list? Share in the comments below.

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