When we have people over in the summer, BBQ is usually involved. Apparently my husband makes really good ribs (I say “apparently” because I’m a vegetarian – I have to take other people’s word about the awesomeness of my husband’s meat). There’s also usually some kind of creamy potato salad, buttery corn on the cob, and a gloppy, messy dessert.
I’m always torn between using disposable plates and bowls, or my own “real” dishes. The disposables are easy and save so much time on clean-up, but are bad for the environment and don’t always hold up well to sauces and hot foods. Plus, they’re often ugly.
My real dishes look great and can handle whatever I put on them, but I only have service for between seven and eleven, depending on what kind of dishes we’re using (clearly it’s time for an IKEA run, while my kids are at camp and not breaking dishes). And if one gets broken in the back yard on the bricks, it would be an absolute nightmare to clean up. Plus, I have to wash them. There’s already enough clean-up to do after a party.
Because of all of those reasons, I jumped at the chance to review VerTerra Dinnerware. They sent me a big box in time for a BBQ I was hosting.
The most amazing thing about the VerTerra dinnerware pieces is that they are made from fallen leaves. Fallen leaves and water – and more than 80% of the water used in the dishes’ production is reclaimed and reused. They’re not talking about leaves that fall after they cut down palm trees, either, but palm leaves that have fallen naturally to the ground. One of my guests called them the roadkill of dinnerware. Well, yeah. And the entire process uses about 10% of the energy used in recycling.
All VerTerra dinnerware is produced in factories owned by the company – no shrugging their shoulders about what’s happening in their plants. They’ve created hundreds of fair-wage jobs in Southern Asia, providing their workers with a safe work environment and access to medical care.
There are no glues or toxins used when making VerTerra pieces. No chemicals or waxes. There is nothing that can leach into food. In fact, you can use VerTerra in the refrigerator, freezer, microwave, and oven (see their website for safety guidelines).
And when you’re done with them, they are 100% compostable! If you compost them, in two months, they will have returned to the earth. (I don’t compost, but at least I was throwing away a renewable resource that wasn’t harvested. So I had that going for me.)
But how are they to actually use? My guests and I put them to the test.
First of all, you don’t need to clean them before use. The leaves are sprayed with high-pressure water, then steamed and UV sterilized. They arrive clean and ready for you to use.
Second of all, the dishes are beautiful. There are many different sizes of plates and bowls available, and even trays. They look great on the table. They look unique. People will ask about them.
Third, they held up beautifully to everything we put in them. And it was no problem to cut meat on them using metal utensils. We had saucy BBQ on the plates, and olive oil in the little bowls for dipping my fresh bread in. In fact, I left one of the bowls of olive oil out all night to see how the bowl would do, and it was fine! The website says you can put hot soup in the bowls, and I totally believe it.
I can’t wait to use these again!
I only found two downsides to VerTerra. The first (and smaller one) is that since the dishes are a little thicker than plastic dishes and not as uniform in shape, they take up a bit more storage space than disposables. But I think this trade-off is totally worth it. And it’s not a huge amount of space. They stack nicely. They’re just closer in thickness to real plates than disposables. Believe me, it’s a downside but also an upside.
The second (possible) downside is cost. If you don’t mind spending a bit extra to get environmentally-friendly products then this won’t be an issue. You can buy many of these pieces for less than $0.50 each depending on how many you buy. There are party packs containing different sizes of dishes. If you’re not sure which sizes you need or you want to try them out before ordering a large number for a party, you can buy a sample pack for $10 that has samples of a whole bunch of different sizes and products. And if you’re shopping for a restaurant or catering hall or something like that, you can shop from their wholesale department. They even have cutlery!
This might actually make me look into composting, so that my next dinner party can be completely guilt-free. Or maybe I’ll just invite some guests who compost, and send them home with a nice big doggie bag full of plates. :-D
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