Things On My Desk: A Verterra leaf bowl that I put through the dishwasher

I've been using the bowls I ordered from Verterra — the dishes made from pressed leaves – for a couple of weeks now. They're sold as disposable, but can be hand-washed and reused without much issue. They'll warp a little as they dry, but they tend to retain their essential bowlness. I've even heated up some stuff in the microwave which freaked me out a little, not because I thought they'd lose structure, but because I thought the food might cook into the leaf a little bit making them more difficult to clean. But so far that hasn't happened. What has happened is that I put one in the dishwasher. It's pretty much unusable now — it went pretty flat — but what's good to know is that it stayed in one piece. The Verterra bowls are clearly pressed from a single leaf, so the worst that's going to happen if you put one in the dishwasher is that you lose the bowl, which is supposed to be disposable anyway. I didn't even notice any bits of plant matter on any other clean dishes. When we first pointed these out, someone said they were a representative of Verterra and would ask the CEO about whether or not it would be possible to see the same technique being applied to local leaf stocks, since importing a bunch of disposable plates from Asia isn't exactly the greenest option in the world. We still haven't heard back, but it's a fair question. Otherwise, though, I'm really impressed by these. I feel a little weird about mail-ordering semi-disposable plates and bowls, but if I could pick these up at a local store I'd probably keep several stacks of different sizes on hand. Verterra product page []
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12 Responses to Things On My Desk: A Verterra leaf bowl that I put through the dishwasher

  1. Joel Johnson says:

    I live in Brooklyn. There’s a Whole Foods pretty close to me in the Lower East Side, but I rarely ever go there. But I’ll check it out next time I’m in Manhattan!

  2. Adam Fields says:

    Did you have the heated dry cycle on? It looks like the heat warped it. If so, try one without it for comparison.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Yea, that’s what we should do. We should cut down the Asian rain forests so we can have cool rain forest plates that had to be shipped here from Cambodia on huge tankers.

    You know, so we can be pithy and interesting as the planet crumbles. But at least we’ll be thought of as pithy and interesting, so, you know …

    Worth it.

  4. Anonymous says:

    If you would have gone to the website before commenting, you would have seen that these are made from fallen leaves, there is no deforestation involved.

  5. Purly says:

    That’s great! It sounds like a very green option for disposable plates. I hope they start making them in the US.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I have been contacted by Mr Michael Dwork. He disputes my critiques, I believe my comments to be valid, readers may choose to disregard my previous posts, and should make their own inquires.

    Richard – Murwillumbah, Australia.

  7. bayamus says:

    I’m really sorry but if you are trying to be “greener” then why use disposable plates at all?
    I really don’t see the point.

  8. 5000! says:

    Alright, I’ll definitely have to give these another look. Sounds like they’d be great for things like potlucks, and, strangely, I go to potlucks pretty frequently.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Critique of Michael Dwork, founder of Verterra

    (& Columbia Business School 2007 winner of the A. Lorne Weil Outrageous Business Plan Competition)

    By Richard – Murwillumbah, Australia, 30th October 2008.

    I am an occasional reader of Time magazine and stumbled upon a business article by Jeremy Caplan on Verterra Dinnerware in the October 13, 2008 edition (Australian) of Time (page 52). Also at:,28804,1706699_1707550_1846340,00.html

    Jeremy Caplan’s article is careful not to over-state or claim. However, it strongly implies that Michael Dwork had an “idea” in southern India in 2006, that Mr Dwork developed his idea with “engineer friends”, “crossed Asia to find plants for his plates”, “through Laos, Thailand and Cambodia”, “testing dozens”, “in search of the perfect leaf” and so on. Before settling on a palm leaf in southern India – wow.

    I think it should be known that plates and bowls steam-pressed from the leaf-base (sheath) of the Areca (the so called ‘betel nut’) palm (Areca catechu) have been manufactured in southern India since long before 2006.

    Indeed, in 2006, steam-pressed Areca palm plates and bowls were already in Indian city stores and on display at trade expos in southern India, and have been imported into Australia with the name of Eco-Vision Bioplate since 2005 or earlier. Areca plates have also been imported into Germany, Switzerland and United Kingdom since or before 2003.

    Jeremy Caplan’s article includes a photo of Mr Dwork leaning on a small palm tree. I can say, with reasonable certainty, that this small palm is of the species Areca catechu, the common, plantation, Areca palm.

    It seems Mr Dwork copied a well established product (material and method) and imported Areca plates into the US market – which is hardly an “entrepreneurial gamble” and is definitely not an original idea.

    Mr Dwork was a member of the ‘entrepreneurship class’ at Columbia School of Business. Mr Dwork went on, with ‘his idea’, to become the 2007 winner of the A. Lorne Weil Outrageous Business Plan Competition, and received $100,000 in seed funding from the Eugene M. Lang Entrepreneurial Initiative Fund – which is remarkable considering the Lang Fund’s emphasis for originality.

    What is outrageous is Michael Dwork appearing to grab the credit and failing to acknowledge Indian ingenuity, Indian producers and Indian exporters who have manufactured quality steam-pressed Areca plates identical to the Verterra product, and who have done so for years before Michael Dwork arrived in 2006.

    For a history of the Areca plate visit:

    This limited critique has been sent to the following:
    Michael Dwork
    Jeremy Caplan via Time
    Time magazine
    Columbia School of Business
    United States Patent and Trademark Office
    The New York Times
    New York Post
    And others.




    Critique of Michael Dwork and Verterra – continuation.

    The overdeveloped salesmanship practiced by Michael Dwork and Verterra includes the assertion that shipping palm leaf sheaths from India to New York is okay because rural people would otherwise only burn the sheaths. This claim by Verterra is deceptive.
    Although palm leaves may sometimes be burnt for mosquito control, it is arrogant for Mr Dwork to infer that Indian farmers are not aware of the benefits of putting organic material into the soil (composting/mulch).
    Also, in rural India cooking is usually over a fire, and dried palm sheaths are an excellent fuel for the domestic fireplace. Removing Areca palm sheaths from rural areas may have unforeseen impacts, as other sources of cooking fuel need to be collected from the forest or fields.

    Verterra are proud to own extensive production facilities in India, which is, no doubt, the optimum for New York based Verterra’s balance sheet.

    Although Verterra’s facilities provide employment, its wider value for rural development is questionable, and may even be detrimental for rural self-esteem, as the villager labours for the foreign company that stole ‘their’ product.
    Other producers of Areca plates include village cooperatives, the greater benefit for rural development would be obvious.
    If your concern is to support rural development in India, please consider Areca products from village manufacture.

    I like to have Areca palm containers for display in the home. However, from the environmental perspective, the promotion of any single-use dishware is not appropriate – unless intended for areas with serious water shortages.

    In Australia, artists make delightful baskets and sculptures from the leaf sheaths of the Bangalow palm Archontophoenix cunninghamiana, which is also an Arecaceae Palmae.

    Richard – Murwillumbah, Australia.

    Yes, I am a frequent visitor to India, and I do not have any financial interest in any business associated with Areca products.

    14th November 2008.

  10. Gainclone says:

    It’s the same with expensive violins. You put them in the dishwasher, and they become one leaf.

    That’s why I use tiny kitchen servants.

    And inexpensive violins.

  11. Anonymous says:

    They stock a variety of similar plates and bowls at the St Michael’s Church Fair Trade store in Oxford (UK), or at least they used to. I’ve also seen a posher version at Marks and Spencer’s — I bought them last year for Christmas cookie plates for the neighbors. No idea if they’re still there, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they come back for the holidays.

    Maybe worth investigating if you live in the UK?

  12. Anonymous says:

    I’m 99% sure I saw these at Whole Foods recently. I tend to forget where the various BB writers live (I know, bad reader!) but perhaps that would cut down on the mail ordering?

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