The hip, youthful founder of To-Go Ware, Stephanie Bernstein, dropped by TDG's office the other day to show off her simple-yet-effective sustainable products: reusable bamboo dinnerware and a kit of stainless steel cookware.
The Berkeley-based Bernstein calls To-Go Ware a "meme spreader," and says she likes to think of those who use her products as "ambassadors for change." Her main goal is reduction of disposable plastics and dishware across the planet. She's trying to accomplish that with recyclable stainless steel pots ($18.50) and bamboo flatware ($7.50), which she assured us is sourced from sustainably grown plants.
Bamboo is heat and stain resistant, won't impart or absorb flavors, and is known for being lightweight and long lasting. To-Go Ware's utensils are hand finished with food-safe wood oil.
Some of the elegant bamboo utensils are sold in a cute fabric carrying case that is made by WEAVE, a women's cooperative on the Thai-Burma border. Bernstein says her partnership with the co-op has helped disadvantaged women gain self-respect and a better life. Other kits (all $19.95) come with cool holders made by CONSERVE. The Delhi, India-based NGO makes them out of recycled plastic. Ragpickers are paid to bring in discarded plastic bags, which are then made into the holders. No dyes are used, so the array of colors results from the source material. Some holders are made with recycled newspaper as well, making each one especially unique, depending on the headlines and stories available.
Bernstein says it takes 80 to 100 plastic bags to make one yard of fabric for the holders, and each yard makes 3 products. Bernstein says To-Go Ware's goal is to salvage 1 million plastic bags by the end of the year.
Bernstein thought of the idea back in 1997 when she was at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. "I went for ice cream with my sister, and we were served 'to-go' plastic even though we ate it there," Bernstein explains. "I thought, why don't we do something about this?"
Bernstein admits that some hardcore critics have questioned the need for her products, saying that one could simply take along silverware he or she already owns. "I tell people that's great if people will actually do that," Bernstein responds. "My goal was to make something that people will actually want to take with them, to make it easier."
To-Go Ware products will soon be available in Urban Outfitters stores, and is carried in Whole Foods locations west of Chicago. They are also in specialty shops like East West Living in NYC. You can order on the company website.
Enter your city or zip code to get your local temperature and air quality and find local green food and recycling resources near you.