Spring Cleaning: How to Tidy Without Plastic and Toxic Chemicals

With the weather warming up in the Northern Hemisphere, many people are now making time for spring cleaning. While often we associate home cleaning supplies with synthetic scrubbers and harsh ingredients packed in plastic packaging, it’s far healthier to clean without the plastic and toxic chemicals.

 Conventional cleaning supplies contain toxic chemicals like ammonia, bleach, phthalates, triclosan, and more, in addition to the thousands of chemicals present in plastics. Some cleaning products also contain or shed plastic particles that pollute the environment and our bodies. Chemicals and plastics found in common cleaning supplies—including some synthetic products labeled “green”—have been connected to a number of serious health issues, including cancer, heart disease, hormone disruption, and respiratory illnesses.

You can avoid harmful chemicals and plastics by incorporating nontoxic and zero-waste principles into your cleaning routine. Luckily, it’s quite easy to do so, with many healthier, plastic-free cleaning options highly accessible, DIY-friendly, and available at an even lower cost than most conventional options.

What to Look For: Nontoxic, Plastic-Free Cleaning Supplies

DIY

When you’re looking for healthier cleaning supplies with just one or two ingredients to make yourself, the first step is to think simply. Look for tried-and-tested cleaning ingredients that do not expose you to toxic chemicals and plastics. These include:  

  • Baking soda, in cardboard — a great all-around cleaner, especially in the kitchen and bathroom
  • Castile soap, in paper or glass — excellent nontoxic soap
  • Citrus peels (lemon or orange) — work well when added to vinegar as a cleaning solution
  • Coffee grounds — useful for abrasive needs, such as scrubbing pans
  • Cornstarch, in cardboard — a great glass cleaner 
  • Essential oils, in glass — adds scent and cleaning properties to vinegar and water solutions
  • Olive oil, in glass — works for stain removal in fabrics
  • Salt, in glass or paper — useful abrasive for tile cleaning 
  • Soap nuts, in paper, glass, or canvas — for washing clothes or dishes without detergents
  • Vinegar (apple cider or white), in glass — a super all-around cleaner, dilute 1:1 with water
  • Vodka, in glass — good for disinfecting and cleaning glass
  • Washing soda, in cardboard — use instead of laundry detergent

Some of these cleaning items can be used on their own or by scrubbing with a little water, like baking soda, while others may be combined, such as vinegar and citrus peels, to maximize cleansing properties. With many of these cleaning items also commonly found in the kitchen, chances are, you have at least some already in your home. If not, you can find many of these items in grocery stores or at your local food pantry. Whenever possible, avoid purchasing cleaning supplies in plastic containers and packaging, and instead try to buy in bulk. 

Find more tips on choosing plastic-free and nontoxic cleaning supplies in our Plastic Pollution Coalition Guides. And find inspiration to kickstart your plastic-free choices, as well as DIY recipes, with the book I Quit Plastics by Plastic Pollution Coalition Notable Member Kate Nelson.

How to Store and Use Cleaning Supplies

There are many plastic-free ways to store and use your cleaning supplies. Reuse glass jam or pickle jars to hold dry or wet items until they are ready to use. For dry items, add a metal or wooden scoop. Glass-and-metal sprayers are a sturdier alternative to the plastic type and useful for spritzing the cleaning liquids on surfaces. Store coffee grounds and citrus rinds in the fridge until you’re ready to use them.

When you’re ready to clean, hop online to learn about the many ways you can use the simple ingredients above to keep your home clean. When you’re ready to dive into your spring cleaning, equip yourself with any mix of the following items:

  • Bamboo and natural bristle toothbrushes for hard-to-scrub areas of your home
  • Coconut fiber, cellulose, and sea sponges
  • Cotton rags, made from old towels or t-shirts
  • Glass-and-metal sprayer
  • Metal bucket
  • Metal dustpan
  • Wooden and natural bristle broom
  • Wooden and natural bristle scrubbers 
  • Wooden string mop

Some of these items can be found in secondhand stores for a reduced price compared to buying them new. 

Ready-made Options

If DIY is not your thing and you’d rather purchase ready-made healthier cleaning products, Plastic Pollution Coalition Business Members offer some excellent options.

Blueland

Blueland strives to minimize waste and make cleaning products that are better for people and the planet. Simply fill the provided refillable spray and pump dispensers with water, drop in Blueland tablets, and start cleaning. And if doing the dishes or laundry, Blueland makes plastic-free washing tablets to pop in your dishwasher and washing machine.

EarthHero

EarthHero provides a wide selection of environmentally friendly products sourced from ethical and eco-friendly businesses, making it a one-stop shop for sustainable living—and cleaning. EarthHero offers all manner of cleaning supplies and equipment suitable for every room of your home.

I’m Plastic Free

I’m Plastic Free is a matchmaking platform you can use to find laundry and household cleaning products without all the plastic. Use I’m Plastic Free’s resources to learn how to swap conventional cleaning products for healthier plastic-free choices.

Life Without Plastic

Life Without Plastic offers reusable, nontoxic alternatives to everyday items that are so often made of plastic. In the cleaning category, you can find a selection of glass and bamboo storage jars, glass and metal soap dispensers, bamboo scrubbers, and more.

Meliora Cleaning Products

Meliora Cleaning Products is committed to offering eco-friendly laundry powder and other healthy cleaning products for homes, without any plastic. The company uses safe, non-toxic ingredients and packages their products in plastic-free reusable, recyclable, and compostable materials.

PlanetCare 

PlanetCare makes laundry machine filters designed to trap microplastics that shed from synthetic fabrics when they are being washed, keeping them out of water treatment systems. Unless your wardrobe and bedding are plastic-free and made completely from natural fibers, unfortunately, your washing machine is still creating microplastics with every wash. With each wash, a single fleece jacket is estimated to shed at least 250,000 individual synthetic plastic fibers into wash water, which is either discharged directly into your home septic system or into a sewer. Choosing clothing made of natural fibers like bamboo, hemp, organic cotton, or linen will best prevent the release of microplastics when washing laundry.

Refill and Zero-Waste Shops

Refill and zero-waste shops are another excellent place to find healthier, plastic-free cleaning supplies. And chances are, there’s at least one such shop near you! PPC Member Ecorate keeps a database of shops offering bulk refills of personal care and cleaning supplies with the aim of assisting users in reducing waste. PPC Member Plastic Free Future also maintains a platform listing a wide selection of zero-waste and refill shops.

Beware of False “Greenwashed” Solutions

As with most categories of stuff, if you look closely at the available selection of cleaning products available today, you’ll find greenwashed options among real solutions. If you’re looking to purchase cleaning products, check the ingredients lists to avoid plastics and toxic chemicals. This means avoiding microplastics, PEG (polyethylene glycol), phthalates, and PVA or PVOH (polyvinyl alcohol), as well as ammonia, chlorine and chlorinated chemicals, phenols, phosphates, SEA, SLS, SLES, TEA, triclosan and triclocarban. 

While polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) is frequently praised as a “degradable” plastic, in reality it does not live up to its eco-friendly reputation. PVA poses a number of environmental and health risks that call into question its status as an ecological solution, despite its claimed degradability.

Take Action

Choosing healthier, plastic-free cleaning products is a great way to further eliminate toxic plastic and chemicals from your life. You can also help by supporting real solutions in your community—and on an even larger scale. 

Support policy actions, like the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act in the U.S., and a strong global UN Plastics Treaty, to create the systemic change necessary to seriously reduce plastic pollution at the source. Sign the petitions below.

Plastic Pollution Coalition (PPC) Members come from a wide range of sectors and are aligned in their mission to build a world free of plastic pollution and its toxic impacts. The Coalition Spotlight is our monthly blog to uplift and showcase their work, giving our readers an inside look at some influential change-makers. This month, we highlight four members who are increasing access to reuse businesses, advocating for people and the planet over plastics for Earth Day, inspiring plastic-free lifestyles, and mobilizing students to build zero-waste systems. 

EcoRate

EcoRate is a sustainability ratings platform that helps people easily locate cafes, restaurants, refill stores, and other venues that participate in waste-prevention initiatives. Through their interactive map and app, they provide visibility for plastic-free businesses and pathways for people to support them, building a zero waste economy and encouraging widespread adoption of reuse culture.

EcoRate scores retailers based on environmental criteria and even allows the user to search for “BYO,” “Mug,” or “Glass” filters to find locations that let you bring your own thermos, use mugs or glasses for dining-in, in addition to a “can carrier” filter that displays beer shops and other venues that collect beer can carriers for reuse.

Recently, EcoRate has been making significant progress indexing an inventory of zero-waste and refill stores. Now, people can also filter their map to show zero waste stores carrying the specific zero-waste items they’re looking for, offering users added convenience, reliability, and accessibility.

EcoRate just incorporated restaurant data from Surfrider Foundation’s Ocean Friendly Restaurants Program into their interactive map. This makes it easier to search for eateries via EcoRate’s website and mobile app, and add even more plastic-free restaurants to your list!

EARTHDAY.ORG

EARTHDAY.ORG is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that emerged from the very first Earth Day in 1970. The organization aims to mobilize people around the world to advocate for, create, and implement solutions to the climate crisis. From voter registration to environmental education programs, they work with over 150,000 partners in 192 countries to drive positive action for the planet on a range of interconnected issues. 

EARTHDAY.ORG has helped pass landmark environmental legislation over the years through their advocacy efforts, including the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and Endangered Species Act, as well as helped establish the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Part of their important work now includes a program to end plastic pollution. This year for Earth Day, the organization uplifted the theme of Planet vs. Plastics to mobilize the world to understand the harmful health impacts of plastics, rapidly phase out single-use plastics, and push for a strong UN Plastics Treaty. EARTHDAY.ORG is calling for a 60% reduction in the production of all plastics by 2040, recognizing that production limits are imperative to ending plastic pollution in the long-term. 

To educate yourself on the impacts of plastic on human health, check out EARTHDAY.ORG’s Plastics Health Research Module, and their Earth Hub for all fact sheets, toolkits, press releases, and articles. Additionally, Aidan Charron, Director of End Plastic Initiatives, spoke as a panelist in our recent webinar, “People vs. Plastic: How the UN Plastics Treaty Must Protect Our Health.”

Life Without Plastic

Life Without Plastic is a mission-based Certified B Corporation working for positive social change, improved health, and environmental sustainability. Through their products, guides, and educational materials, they raise awareness about the health and environmental problems posed by plastics while making the solutions more accessible, and empowering people to be part of the change.

Life Without Plastic offers unique, high-quality alternatives to plastic products that are carefully designed and sourced from trusted suppliers. Recently, the company has been working to bundle its products to reduce the environmental impact from ordering and shipping individual products to consumers.

Earlier this year, Jay Sinha, co-founder and co-owner of Life Without Plastic, participated in the PPC webinar Plastic-Free Resolutions: Protecting Your Health in 2024, offering common-sense steps to reduce the amount of plastic in your life with low and no-cost recommended solutions. Be sure to check out his book: LIFE WITHOUT PLASTIC: The Practical Step-by-Step Guide to Avoiding Plastic to Keep Your Family and the Planet Healthy, and the Life Without Plastic newsletter, which provides plastic-free news, tips on plastic-free living, and sales and specials from their online store.

Post-Landfill Action Network (PLAN)

The Post-Landfill Action Network (PLAN) equips students with the resources and tools necessary to holistically understand our waste crisis and lead solutions on their campuses.

In collaboration with EARTHDAY.ORG, PLAN has allocated almost $10,000 in Earth Day Action Micro-Grants to student projects. These include demonstrations, art installations, actions, cleanups, and more around the global Earth Day theme of Planet vs. Plastics. Check out some of these projects, which have been posted to their social platforms from Earth Day onwards.

PLAN recently launched a new Community Hub to centralize their resources and tools available to support student-led zero waste programs. They have also been updating their manuals, the most recent being the Reusable To-Go Manual. PLAN recently received the Reusies Community of the Year award for the release of this resource!

PLAN’s Students for Zero Waste Conference, held in late 2023 at Swarthmore College outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is an annual space for network building, inspiration, and solution sharing to push the movement forward. They also hosted a Beyond Waste Student Summit at Marshall University’s campus—the first school in Appalachia and the Ohio River Valley to sign the Break Free From Plastic Campus Pledge.

Check out their newly revamped website to find up-to-date language on each of their projects, and sign up for their Community Newsletter to receive updates and exciting ways to plug in.

Does your business or organization align with our mission to build a world free of plastic pollution and its toxic impacts? Apply to join our global movement.

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Hi! My name is Kareena Desai. I am the founder of Perform For Change, a non-profit organization that raises money for important environmental causes through projects and performances, and a Plastic Pollution Coalition Youth Ambassador.

Recently, my family and I visited The Plot in Oceanside, California. The Plot is a plant-based restaurant founded by Executive Chef Davin Waite and CEO Jessica Waite in January 2020, and is a Plastic Pollution Coalition Business Member.

At the restaurant, our waitress Kat explained how the whole restaurant is zero waste. Here are some of the amazing things The Plot does to eliminate plastic pollution and wastefulness:

  • Use reusable utensils and crockery.
  • Offer menus made from compostable materials.
  • Create a tradition around conserving all parts of food used in cooking. Before we ordered, we were presented with an “amuse bouche” of squash with kale stem relish. Pronounced “ah-myooz boosh,” it directly translates to “it amuses the mouth” in French. At The Plot, they call these dishes, “A gift from the kitchen that we share with each guest at the beginning of their meal.”
  • Growing a garden that provides almost 30% of the produce on the menu. After the meal, we were lucky enough to meet Chef Travis, who gave us an amazing tour around their organic, raised bed garden, which is located next to the restaurant. In the garden, we saw growing all different types of vegetables, fruits, and herbs that will be used in The Plot’s kitchen. 
  • Composting food scraps. Chef Travis also told us how they compost all of their food scraps. The scraps from the kitchen get composted in their garden, and the ones from the tables get composted industrially.
  • Using reusable and biodegradable containers for takeout. The Plot makes sure that their takeout utensils and boxes are completely biodegradable. They have also partnered with Plastic Pollution Coalition Business Member ReVessel to create a reusable takeout container swap program. 
  • Refusing ingredients in single-use plastic. The Plot works with trusted vendors to make sure the produce that can’t be grown in their own garden doesn’t come in plastic packaging. They said if they received any produce wrapped in plastic, they would send it back.

At The Plot my family enjoyed an amazing Caesar salad, “cheesy” truffle fries, tomato bisque, and their delicious mushroom-based “chronic” sushi! For dessert we had a delicious olive oil and vanilla cream “plot cake” and chocolate mousse with walnut crumble.

The Plot continues to serve delicious and waste-free food to their customers every day. They are now planning to open up a new location in Costa Mesa, California. If you want to learn more about their amazing work, please visit their website at theplotrestaurant.com.

Kat, me (Kareena), and Chef Travis

More Resources to Keep Your Eatery Plastic-Free

The Plot is one of a growing number of food businesses now making the change we need to end plastic pollution and wastefulness. And for good reason: In addition to being better for people and the planet, these businesses are helping to advance real, systemic solutions to plastic pollution by tapping into the plastic-free principles: reuse, refill, repair, share, and regenerate. 

Do you work in the food business? Restaurant and other eatery owners and operators can learn more about how to reduce plastic in food prep, service, and delivery with Plastic Pollution Coalition’s Plastic-Free Eatery Guide. In addition, we invite your plastic-free eatery to join our Coalition

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May 22 , 8:00 am May 24 , 5:00 pm EDT

As the leading convening of professionals building the circular economy, Circularity 24 offers thought-provoking keynotes, actionable breakouts, a solutions-oriented expo and unparalleled networking opportunities. Join the growing community of visionaries and practitioners to move beyond incremental action, catalyze systems change and accelerate the circular economy.

Location: Marriott Marquis Chicago

Plastic Pollution Coalition (PPC) Members come from a wide range of sectors and are aligned in their mission to build a world free of plastic pollution and its toxic impacts on communities and ecosystems around the world. The Coalition Spotlight is our monthly blog to uplift and showcase their work, giving our readers an inside look at some influential change-makers. This month, we highlight four members who are helping people start the new year with less plastic by making more informed purchasing decisions, navigating the toxicity of everyday products, and adopting less consumptive habits.

Karma Wallet

Karma Wallet is a financial platform that leverages cutting-edge technology and impact data to empower consumers to make better informed purchasing decisions. The platform makes it easy for people to align their sustainability priorities with everyday spending, by receiving personalized carbon footprint data and insights into their shopping habits, while earning rewards for choosing more sustainable retailers. 

Users can search over 15,000+ brands according to their people and planet scores, derived from social and environmental metrics from over 30 data sources that Karma Wallet has mapped to the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals. As a trusted data partner of Karma Wallet, Plastic Pollution Coalition enables consumers to compare retailers based on their commitment to plastic-free business practices. Filter companies according to the values you care about, which now includes an option to find PPC Business Members exclusively!

Karma Wallet was just named to the Inc. 2023 Best in Business list, is a Certified B Corp, and is a member of 1% for the Planet. Additionally, they are soon to launch their Karma Wallet Card: a prepaid, reloadable debit card that gives back to people and the planet. This card offers up to 20% cash back with thousands of sustainable merchants, provides eco-friendly rewards, and educates consumers about the social and environmental impact of the companies they shop with. 

You can support better companies with your dollars this year. Visit Karma Wallet for easy ways to switch to more sustainable brands.

MADE SAFE

What we buy matters. Our purchasing decisions send market signals that lay the foundation for large-scale change, and through them, we have the ability to build safer and healthier communities. 

MADE SAFE is a nonprofit organization that provides rigorous scientific and independent certifications for products free of any toxic ingredients known or suspected to harm human health, animals, or ecosystems. Products with the MADE SAFE (Made With Safe Ingredients™) seal are screened to ensure that over 6,500 Banned / Restricted List substances are avoided in product ingredients to eliminate chemical hazards that people are commonly exposed to in everyday routines. This takes the guesswork out of finding products that are safe for your family and the environment, making it easy to adopt better habits and support responsible brands this new year. 

In an effort to “revolutionize how consumer products are made,” the MADE SAFE team works with brands to develop ingredient formulas that adhere to substance-level specifications and ultimately meet the stringent certification standards. Unlike other certifications in health or sustainability, they are not beholden to corporate interests, and thus have gained an impeccable reputation of independence and trust. 

Connect with Amy Ziff, MADE SAFE Founder and Executive Director, during our upcoming webinar on January 18th—Plastic-Free Resolutions: Protecting Your Health in 2024. She will be moderating the event and brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to what will surely be an enriching conversation.

Naturepedic

Did you know that most conventional mattresses contain toxic polyurethane foams (including memory foam, soy foam, and “eco” foam), which are derived from petrochemicals and typically contain plasticizers, harmful flame retardants, antimicrobials, and preservatives? 

Naturepedic, pioneer of the organic mattress revolution, completely eliminates polyurethane foam from all its mattresses, instead providing comfort and support with environmentally safer materials, such as organic wool and organic cotton—materials that are MADE SAFE certified and GOTS certified organic. For babies and kids, Naturepedic provides innovative food-grade waterproofing made without polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a plastic of high concern as defined by GreenScreen® Benchmark 1. All of Naturepedic’s mattresses are also GREENGUARD® Gold certified to demonstrate their high standards for chemical management and prevent air pollution in our homes.

Recently, Naturepedic reinforced its position as a leader in the mattress industry by implementing a kraft paper roll-packing machine that allows the brand to roll-pack all mattresses, mattress toppers and comfort layers in fully recyclable kraft paper instead of single-use plastic. This effort alone will keep 55,000 pounds of plastic out of landfills each year. 

Last year was Naturepedic’s 20th anniversary, and we applaud their commitment to non-toxic products, continuous carbon- and plastic- footprint improvement, and transparent business practices for consumer safety. The company was recently featured in our 2023 Plastic-Free Holiday Guide, and are members of 1% for the Planet. 
Consider upgrading to healthier sleep for your family with Naturepedic.

Perpetual

Perpetual is a new PPC Organization Member and an established leader in the reuse space. Through multi-stakeholder engagement, they are working to catalyze system shifts that enable reuse infrastructure to be scaled and accessed by all. 

Perpetual’s current focus is to provide efficient and safe reusable foodware solutions for cities. Their team is designing open-loop systems for four communities in the U.S. through participatory cross-sector engagement and Ecosystem Mapping. They are establishing city-wide reuse systems that can exist in perpetuity for and from the communities in which they are built, overcoming inefficiencies and “imagination gaps” that can’t be tested in pilot programs. To bring proven reuse systems to city scale, they engage in workstreams such as: Interactive Community Design Processes, public and private funding mobilization, Life-Cycle Assessments (LCAs), and Circularity Assessment Protocols (CAPs) with academic partners like University of Michigan’s Center for Sustainable Systems and University of Georgia’s Circularity Informatics Lab.

Some of Perpetual’s most important work has been advancing reuse solutions for a global audience through their Living Landscap­e of Reusable Solution­s, a global list of for profit and nonprofit programs, campaigns, and systems that has demonstrated the feasibility of reuse around the world and inspired further action. From technical assistance and policy advocacy support to shipping & logistics solutions, the database includes both formal and informal ways of rapidly adopting reuse and refill systems. Their team authors a practical and informative bi-weekly newsletter showcasing these solutions and providing readers with pathways to stay connected and inspired. Sign up for it here.

Recently, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Hilo, Hawaii, Perpetual’s team has progressed to the next phase of unique systems design, incorporating feedback gained from community workshops, industry knowledge, and ongoing discussions with stakeholders. Their work in Galveston, Texas, and Savannah, Georgia will soon follow similar processes. Stay tuned!

Does your business or organization align with our mission to build a world free of plastic pollution and its toxic impacts? Apply to join our global movement.

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PPC Business Member Ecovative announced today that it is opening access to a major European patent to all individuals and businesses who wish to use its MycoComposite™ mycelium materials in their own innovations and businesses in Europe. The renewable MycoComposite material offers a nontoxic and more planet-friendly alternative to plastics and other fossil fuel–derived materials made from compostable and regenerative mushroom mycelium.

Ecovative’s MycoComposite material enables the manufacturing of products that are free of forever chemicals (PFAS) and other toxic substances too commonly found in household products, like formaldehyde. Ecovative’s patent outlines a strategic blueprint for the creation of eco-friendly and renewable mushroom mycelium composites—and makes it available to others to use. 

In 2023, Plastic Pollution Coalition nominated Ecovative to be considered for the prestigious Earthshot Prize, which aims to infuse more optimism into solving today’s biggest environmental challenges by highlighting the ability of human ingenuity to bring about positive change, and inspire collective action.

Mushroom Mycelium is a More People- and Planet-Friendly Choice

Ecovative’s MycoComposite is made of mycelium grown on unused parts of plants, such as hemp scraps, that would otherwise be wasted by the agriculture industry. As a material, MycoComposite requires reduced inputs of energy, water, and other precious resources compared to other material options. It is a non-toxic option for replacing single-use materials, which can help reduce climate-warming CO2 emissions and other pollution across a wide range of industries.

The European Open Patent Program for MycoComposite is intended to encourage innovation in plastic-free products. The patent is already in use around the world in protective packaging, construction materials, architecture, and innovative applications to replace petrochemical use. Several successful businesses have already been launched using MycoComposite, notably Loop Biotech, which makes mycelium coffins and urns.

Loop Biotech has seen firsthand the huge demand for innovative, planet-friendly solutions enabled by mycelium materials. I started this company to help humanity leave a positive footprint on the Earth, which is only possible when we collaborate with living organisms like fungi.

— Bob Hendrikx, founder of Loop Biotech

How to Collaborate with Ecovative

A sharp rise of interest in Europe for entrepreneurial applications of MycoComposite make it a good place for testing the potential of open access patents to spur an increase in innovations and businesses around mycelium technology. MycoComposite licensing and partnership opportunities will continue to be available outside of Europe. The company owns numerous patents and patent applications related to mycelium manufacturing and product development globally.

The goal of Ecovative has always been to provide the ‘picks and shovels’ for a new generation of businesses realizing the potential of mycelium technology. The growing demand for environmentally beneficial products and processes is creating immense new opportunities not to reinvent the wheel, but to change what the wheel is made of, and we’re excited to see the new discoveries and scalable solutions made with this versatile technology, for the benefit of Spaceship Earth.

— Eben Bayer, Ecovative co-founder and CEO

Learn more about how sustainable businesses can get involved with the open MycoComposite European patent and find out what it means for the future of mycelium materials. And take action in your own life to refuse single-use plastic.

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