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Why Rice Hulls Are EcoForms Choice of Material

What are rice hulls?

Rice hulls, also referred to as husks, are the protective covering around each grain of rice. Rice hulls insulate and protect the rice seed while it is growing. During the milling process, rice hulls are removed and become a waste product. 

Why use rice hulls?

Over 775,000,000 metric tons of rice are produced per year, on average. As the world population increases, so does rice production as it is a staple food for most of humanity.

Growing this much rice does not come without consequence. It is unfortunately one of the largest destroyers of wetlands globally. However, world hunger would be an exponentially larger issue without it. Until we have found a better solution, rice production will continue to increase along with the world population.

With this much rice production, one can begin to see how much “waste material” AKA rice hulls can potentially be dumped into a landfill. Landfill waste takes many years to decompose while producing greenhouse gases, as opposed to compost which is aerated and breaks down more quickly, while minimizing release of gases. Some of the rice waste material can be used in building materials and cattle feed, but that still doesn’t use all the waste material from that over 775,000,000 tons of rice. Jed Loveday-Brown of Sweetwater Nursery and EcoForms recognized the potential value in such a material, and that’s where our pots come in. 

Most plant nurseries and garden centers are starting seeds and selling plants in plastic. We all know plastic waste is one of the biggest issues the planet is facing today. Sweetwater nursery, a family-owned nursery in Sebastopol, CA, was tired of seeing how much plastic was being used by growers such as themselves. They were in the nursery business because they love growing and sharing plants, and therefore they love the Earth. They knew there had to be a good alternative, and they found that in rice hulls. 

A renewable source of waste material that is entirely biodegradable laid the groundwork for EcoForms pots, starting with their grower series. If rice hulls are created by nature to insulate and protect seeds, it seems that it would be effective to use them in the way nature intended. They began to use rice hull pots for their own starter plants they sold to garden centers all over California. They found that their seeds thrived in the rice hull pots, and root growth was more robust. After a pot was done being used, they didn’t have to worry about leaving any waste behind, as the material would naturally biodegrade over time. Instead of leaving microplastics in the soil, these pots would end up feeding the soil as they broke down. For every plant someone bought from Sweetwater at their garden center, that was one less piece of plastic in the trash. 

EcoForms began to expand their line of pots into several decorative shapes and sizes, offering longer lasting options for indoor and outdoor plants, and colors that range from earthy to vibrant. They are dyed with natural pigments and formed with natural binding agents, holding true to their statement of being completely biodegradable after 5-10 years of use. 

EcoForms versus ceramics

EcoForms pots shine in areas where ceramics might not. They are truly zero waste, and entirely renewable. Ceramics are not necessarily renewable, since clay comes from Earth’s material and doesn’t break back down into the clay that it once was. Glazes often use heavy metals and rare materials such as Cobalt for coloring. This is not to say that it is entirely unethical to purchase locally crafted ceramics from someone who uses sustainable practices. However, there can be ethical and environmental issues with how ceramics are made, especially in parts of the world where there aren't strict regulations on firing emissions and glaze ingredients. 

A renewable material is something that can be regrown after having been used. In the case of rice hulls, they’re regrown over and over, made into material, then eventually returned to the Earth. Since exponential amounts of rice will continue being produced for the foreseeable future, EcoForms will continue to repurpose rice hulls into beautiful, plastic-free and heavy metal-free pots for plant lovers worldwide. Find them in a garden center near you or shop our retail site.


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