The Difference Between Compostable and Biodegradable

Part of Nourished Belly Living and The Nourished Belly Diet is trying to get rid of plastics use, and boy….it’s difficult and not to mention confusing.  I sometimes feel overwhelmed at even trying to cut out plastics when I go to Costco or Trader Joe’s and see the enormous amount of plastic that is used to cover EVERYTHING.   There are a lot of resources out there talking about the dangers of plastic, from the enormous amount of plastic bottles that are filling up our landfills, to all the bits of plastic that make it into the stomachs of birds, to the floating islands of plastics that are swimming through our oceans, so I’m not going to go into that here.  

Maybe you are on a quest, like me, to find out what things we can use that will cause less impact on the earth.  Unfortunately, it’s a little confusing with so many things parading around as “biodegradable” and or “made from corn.”  So besides using LESS plastic (which really, is step one. Do you really need that plastic bag?), what should you look for?  

Ideally we want things to be certified compostable.  This means that the material will degrade quickly and not compromise the quality of the compost.  For our intents and purposes in the Bay Area, we want to know if we can put it into the green bin, because if something is compostable, it’s supposed to break down in city municipal composting centers.  We in the Bay are lucky cause we have them, including the fact that we have city compost pick up!  (Yay Bay Area!)

Look for something that is certified compostable (BPI and Vincotte are companies that certify) and you can also go to this link for a list of companies that have been third party tested to meet national standards….

Don’t just buy something because it says biodegradable.  Often these products are conventional plastics mixed with something plant based.  Once you’ve mixed these substances, they can’t be unmixed, and they can’t even be recycled. So, they are only good for the landfill...which is a DAGGER in the heart for someone who wanted to buy something better for the earth.  I know.  I've been there. 

So where should you buy your compostable stuff?  Here are a few companies I’ve looked at:

Companies and products I support: 

  1. World Centric:  According to their website, they donate 25% of their profits to charity, their products are BPI certified, and some are Vincotte certified (compostable at home).  They also seem to have a social justice and environmental justice side, and also talk about fair trade.  I have personally used their products for events, and like them.  
  2. Bio Bags:  I pretty much see this brand everywhere, including Costco.  They are BPI certified, and have a pretty thorough and informational website.  They are a small company that focuses on creating compostable bags...I like that.  
  3. Ecosafe:  Also an informative website.  BPI certified.  I like that they have a mission of diverting food waste from landfills, and it seems like they have other programs in place to try to make it sustainable.  I have never used their products before, but I like what they have to say.

Only if there's no better option:

  1. Bag to Nature: They are BPI certified, but honestly, from their website, they don’t seem to CARE.  Bag to Nature is one of the many product lines that this company owns, so I would think that this is more of a “how can we increase our profits with what the market wants,”  than actually caring about their product.  Of course, this is completely my opinion!
  2. Popular brands:  Brands like Glad (owned by Clorox) and Ziplock (owned by SC Johnson) are getting into the compostable market, which is overall, a good thing.  In terms of who I will support with my consumer dollars, however, I’m more likely to support companies that have an overall mission of saving the environment, not companies whose main products are plastics and other not great for you home products.  Just sayin’.  

A friend asked me how much I knew about the manufacturing side of compostable bags, and to be honest, that information was a little harder to find.  If you happen to know more about that, please comment and share your knowledge!  

Let’s leave this article with some thoughts on how we can reduce our plastic use in general, and if we need to get single use products, think about getting ones that are compostable :)

Remember...True Nourishment is MORE than what we put into our's the environment around us.

Happy Nourishing,





Are Your Clothes Toxic?

Holistic Fashion (1)

Holistic Fashion (1)

When we think of clean living, we think of eating organic foods, drinking filtered water, and paring down our beauty regimens.  Recently, my friend Etch, who worked in the apparel industry blew my MIND with some education on chemicals used to make synthetic fabrics, and as I researched, I realized that this is something that we ALL should keep on our radar. Especially for those of us that are immunocompromised, taking out environmental toxins is an important step to healing and staying healthy.

First of all, think about how snuggly we are with our clothes.  They rest right against our skins, we sleep in them, we swaddle our newborns in them.  If you remember from a previous blog post about beauty products, you’ll remember that our skin is super absorbent.  It’s our largest organ, and is very much where we can absorb many toxins if we aren’t careful.  When it comes to beauty products, it’s best to wear only what you can eat.  So, let’s take a closer look at what we are actually doing when we shop for new clothes.

When it comes to clothes, here are some questions to think about:

How Were My Clothes Made?

SO…..think about fabric, dyes, and processing.  There are natural fibers like cotton, silk, wool, linen, hemp and cashmere that are natural and biodegrade in the environment.  If you are thinking that these fabrics are more expensive, you’re right! For the process that it takes to make the fabric and spin it into clothing, it’s no wonder that it’s not MORE expensive!  The organic fabric industry is small, but the more demand there is the bigger and cheaper things will be for consumers.

But why should you care about how your clothes are made?  This is a big topic, but one aspect is that non organic cotton is one of the most heavily sprayed crops, and this Huffington Post article does a really nice job of breaking conventional cotton facts down. Then there are synthetic fabrics like nylon, polyester, acrylic, and rayon.  They all are heavily processed (after all, we are MAKING fibers from synthetic materials, sometimes from petrochemicals) and are produced with scary chemicals.  The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (niosh) suggests that propelyne oxide (which is used to make polyester) be labeled as an occupational hazard since it meets requirements to be considered a potential occupational carcinogen. WHAT?!?  Plus these fabrics are not biodegradable.  Imagine...your spanx are here for eternity!

Wait, there’s more...  dyes and chemical treatments.  Synthetic dyes, just like artificial food coloring, can also be unhealthy.  That wrinkle free blouse?  That could formaldehyde, which you’ve heard of from preserving corpses, and I’ll let the National Cancer Institute tell you more about why it’s dangerous for those of us still living.

Where Was it Made?

As consumers, it’s always important for us to think about who is actually making what we buy.  This is a whole other topic of where clothes are made and by who, and what conditions they work in, and how much they get paid.  We've all heard of sweatshops, and maybe you heard of that Bangladeshi factory burning down in 2013 that killed 112 workers.  So, this is actually something that is a big deal.  If I can, I always like to see that things are made here in the US, or buy clothing that is Fair Trade.  Here’s a great article if you want to read more about working conditions of garment laborers.

How do I Take Care of it?

How you take care of your clothes plays a large role in whether or not you are adding chemicals to your clothing.  85% of dry cleaners use a chemical called perchloroethylene that is “likely to be carcinogenic.”  No thanks.  Dryer sheets are also full of chemicals and all the ones in the Environmental Working Group’s Healthy Cleaning Database ( (which is a GREAT resource) are rated either D’s or F’s.  I've stopped using dryer sheets, and when I had more space I really liked it when I could dry my clothes on the line.  (Energy efficient!)  And the less synthetic clothing you have, the less need you have for dryer sheets.  There are things you can buy that are reusable though, like these wool dyer balls.

Food for thought.  It’s sometimes overwhelming to think off all the things we need to do to try and live cleanly in our polluted world, but every small thing you do makes a difference. With the help of my friend Etch, we've come up with some important ideas to start cleaning up your wardrobe and your cleaning routines.  There’s no time like the present to start building up your clean living habits!


A lovely conversation with my friend Etch

Are Your Beauty Products Safe?

Our skin is amaaaaaazing. Did you know that your skin is your body’s largest organ? It’s basically a dynamic protective barrier, literally wrapping and stretching itself around our entire body, and functions as our first line of defense against toxins in our environment. Skin contains nerve endings, sweat glands for detoxification, hair follicles, and blood vessels. It regulates our body temperature, helps us prevent illness, and even makes much-needed vitamin D. It also absorbs just about everything that we put on it.

Think of all the products that you use to take care of yourself.  Do you know if your beauty products are safe?

Picture this. You wake up bright and early.  You hop in the shower, one eye open, and grab your favorite shampoo. You squeeze it into your palm- it smells great. You inhale the scent and you feel yourself waking up already. What you may not realize is the reason it smells so fruity and refreshing is because of a host of “secret” and untested chemicals grouped under the ingredient, “fragrance,” but more on that later. You then lather it onto your scalp, and it feels so rich and fluffy. The cause: sodium lauryl sulfate. You’ve read it a thousand times on the back of your bottle, but don’t quite realize that it can combine with other chemicals to form carcinogens and lead to kidney and respiratory damage.

It’s time for your face and body wash. Your washed skin does feel a little tight since you’ve stripped your natural oils away, but you know it just means you’re that much cleaner, right? What you don’t know is that the parabens in your wash, which are put in there to stave off bacteria and mold that may form as it sits in your shower, actually mimic your estrogen and have been found in samples of breast cancer tumors. At this point, you dry off, step out and find yourself hesitant to reach for your antiperspirant/deodorant. Good call.

Here are some commonly used chemicals with harmful or completely ambiguous track records, along with some of the products in which they are most commonly found that we use every day. These ingredients have been noted as carcinogens, hormone disruptors, skin, eye and lung irritants, and have been linked to conditions such as allergies, ADHD, respiratory distress, infertility, organ damage, developmental damage in fetuses, and the toxic list goes on.


Where to look for it

Parabens (beginning with propyl-, isopropyl-, butyl-, and isobutyl-)

Makeup, body wash, deodorant, shampoo, facial cleanser, after shave


Cologne, perfume, shampoo, body wash, moisturizers, diaper cream, after shave

Laurel/Laureth Sulfate

Shampoo, body wash, baby cleansers, mascara

FD&C colors

Almost all beauty and skin products

Triclosan and Triclocarbon

Soap, antibacterial gel, deodorant, toothpaste


Shampoo, conditioner, nail polish, eye shadow, soap, chemical hair straighteners


Hair color products, nail polish treatments, soap

Propylene Glycol

Moisturizers, sunscreen, makeup, hair spray, shampoo, conditioners

Retinol, Retinyl Palmitate, Retinyl Acetate

(vitamin A products)

Sunscreen, lotion, facial skin care, lip products

PEG/ceteareth/ polyethylene

Shaving cream, after shave

 It’s scary to think about it, but important to understand, that cosmetics and skincare products are completely unregulated in our country. Many times, there are chemicals and ingredients that we freely use, several times a day, over and over, that are actually BANNED by the governments of several other countries. Meanwhile, our FDA does not give them a second glance.

Thankfully, there are organizations like the Environmental Working Group (EWG) who have made it their mission to increase consumer awareness of these exact chemicals and thousands more.  Check out their awesome SkinDeep database at and download their SkinDeep app if you have a smart phone. If I’m picking up a product at the drugstore, I can simply scan its barcode into the app and it pulls up what I need to know about its ingredients and their safety rating. Otherwise, I can do a quick search of their database online and find out a ton of information on product toxicity and what I should be looking to buy instead.

Also, check out this video by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics for a quick summary of all of this information. It’s great to share with family and friends to get them thinking about the products they use every day in their homes!

So, here's some homework.  Read the label on the back of every beauty and hygiene product that you use on a regular basis.  It's important to know if your beauty products are safe.  Remember, scanning your product labels for toxins is just as important to your health as reading your food labels. It’s all going in.  Our next post will talk about some great alternatives for taking care of our skin in a truly nourishing way.  Stay tuned!

Contributing Writer: Du'aa Elnoory