Fallen leaves birth eco-friendly dinnerware company

Even given the fact that I really like the product, I almost like the story and product development even more.

CHICAGO ( – Every fall Americans rake up their leaves, stuff them into paper bags and kick them to the curb without ever thinking about the business opportunity they are throwing away.

Michael Dwork used to be one of those people, but that changed during a stint in India a few years ago while the 31-year-old was completing an MBA internship program. Dwork found himself marveling at the sight of the makeshift plates local peasant women were hand-crafting from fallen palm leaves, which they pressed in crude ovens along the side of the road.

“They looked absolutely horrible, covered in mold,” recalled Dwork. “I totally fell in love with them. There was no design, there was no sanitary production, there were no 50 other things, but at the end of the day, the concept was really cool.”

The natural process gave Dwork the idea to start VerTerra Dinnerware, an eco-friendly maker of compostable plates, bowls and serving dishes. Fast-forward to today and VerTerra ( is a growing, Brooklyn, New York-based startup that produces a million pieces of disposable dinnerware in its India factory every month. The company supplies these products to wholesale customers, such as hotels and caterers, as well as food service operators, including those serving meals in the box seats at Cowboys Stadium and the U.S. food tent at the upcoming Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics.

Holistic Design Studio in Torino