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Reusable Products Aim to Help Planet Mend

March 05, 1992|RICHARD KAHLENBERG | Richard Kahlenberg is a writer who has been involved with environmental issues for 20 years.

Sustainable development--the use of raw materials in a way that doesn't abuse them into extinction--is a term increasingly popular in environmental circles.

It's the opposite of the old "use it up and throw it away" mentality--and one that has gained popularity as part of a philosophy of doing business.

Among its practitioners in North County is Katie Alexander, a skin-care products manufacturer whose goods are sold nationwide. Her company, Tropical Botanicals, with headquarters in Rancho Santa Fe, makes body lotion, facial scrub, bath gel and massage oil from plant materials that originate in the tropical rain forest. But they don't have to cut down and grind up the trees to make their products.

"The resin is tapped from the trunk of the tree. The little hole we bored is capped with clay and the tree continues to grow and renew, and can be tapped at a later date," Alexander said. The resin is refined into copiaba oil, which has a history of uses as an antiseptic and wrinkle eliminator.

Another area purveyor of eco-wares refers to this new way of doing business as "conservative."

"We conserve things," says Frank Baroudi of University City. His company, Reon, is a wholesaler of ozone and water-saving devices.

One Reon product is a refillable spray container--something like the pressurized, throwaway containers we ordinarily use for hair care, pet care or the work bench. The new way is to buy one container. Whatever you need to spray--like soap, paint or solvents--you purchase in bulk and load in as needed. No ozone-destroying CFCs involved, no landfill clutter--you conserve a bundle, in every sense of the word.

Europeans--who, interestingly, have managed to combine a high standard of living with little landfill space--have been using this kind of refillable spray container for years.

A Fallbrook enterprise with the evocative name of "Jawz" has taken all of this sustainable and conservative stuff in yet another direction. They have figured out a way to make recycling of pesky plastic beverage bottles easy. Their "beverage container cycler" is the latest incarnation of the can crusher they have manufactured for a decade.

Americans have mastered the eco-art of recycling aluminum cans--we use very little virgin aluminum ore any more--to keep ourselves supplied with six-packs. But we have recently awakened to find ourselves almost buried in plastic bottles.

Jawz has just solved the problem posed when empty soda and milk cartons begin piling up in your home recycling bin. By using the crusher to compress this stuff, you help conserve landfill space, and ultimately, petroleum resources.

The topper in the category of eco-wares comes out of Escondido. NonScents is a mineral product that looks for all the world like a small bag of gravel. It is used as a space deodorizer. My wife read about it in Debra Lynn Dad's definitive reference book, "Nontoxic Natural and Earthwise."

I didn't pick up on it until the equally authoritative Garbage Magazine ran a test. Their report read, "When NonScents arrived in the office mail one day, we snorted at the idea that a little bag of gravel would suck up odors. Nevertheless, we dropped a packet into Chester's (the office mascot) cat box. It worked."

Sunni Morris and David Andrews, partners in the North County firm, explain that the volcanic material involved reacts chemically with the odors, which are chemical gasses after all, removing them from the surrounding air and storing them in the granules.

Generally known as zeolites, they are widely used in Japan today to banish animal odors--in homes and even in fish and poultry processing situations.

My wife uses NonScents in the kids' room where the hamster and turtle tank are. It also works in musty closets and offices.

I refer to this humble product as a "topper" in the category of sustainable development because, unlike other deodorizing products, which are distilled or refined and then used and thrown away, NonScents is reusable. They mine it, and you use it, and then you put it outside in the sun to release the odors, and it's as good as new again. Neat trick, eh?

Tropical Botanicals are available at Cassidy's Market, and by calling 756-1265.

Jawz Beverage Container Cycler is available at Target, True Value and Ace Hardware, or by calling 728-8380.

The Reon "Sup'r Spray'r" can be ordered by calling 450-1325.

For local sources of "NonScents" call 480-8929.

(All of these North County wares will be on display as part of Eco-Expo at the Los Angeles Convention Center this weekend. For additional information call (818) 906-2802.)

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