Between this post and one on Monday about a remarkable tobacco-y textile, it looks like cigarette butts, of all things, are getting a lot of play this week. Unlikely candidates, I know, and I certainly don’t want to endorse un-green and more-gross-than-glam tobacco use. However, a new cigarette filter/gardening concept called Greenbutts does deserve a bit of attention.

It’s odd how some folks who smoke in public litter cigarette butts with absolutely no qualms. Perhaps because filters are so small, they’re thought of being exempt from counting as litter. But when it comes down to it, cigarettes butts are waste and all that waste does add up to the tune of around 4.5 trillion littered butts a year. And yes, cellulose acetate cigarette filters (which may contain trace amounts of pig's blood) do biodegrade but it takes between 10 to 15 years depending on environmental conditions. And as those cellulose acetate filters degrade, harmful toxins can leach into ecosystems.

And here’s where Greenbutts come in. Realizing that cigarette butt waste is problematic and folks are going to continue to puff, like it or not, the San Diego-based designers of Greenbutts have conceived a patent-pending, biodegradable plant-sprouting cigarette filter made from organic cotton and natural de-gummed hemp that’s bound with water and wheat flour. Yes, a natural cigarette filter embedded with plant seeds. Toss the contents of your ashtray in your back garden, cover with a thin layer of soil, and voila! A couple of weeks later the butts are gone, replaced with a patch of flowers or grass.

The “throw it and grow it” concept behind Greenbutts, it seems, works best in a home environment where a planter or plot of dirt can easily fill in for an ashtray. Toss a Greenbutt filter on a public sidewalk and it won’t instantly bloom into a beautiful flower … like traditional seeds, a Greenbutt needs soil, water, and sunlight to grow. Plus, the designers behind Greenbutts don't endorse littering of any sort, but rather butt collection and cultivation. 

Again, Greenbutts is a patent-pending concept and not commercially available; who knows if they'll ever emerge as an actual product. When I first read about 'em, my greenwash alarm immediately went off but the more I think about it, the more it makes sense. It's my hope, that Greenbutts won't encourage smoking but give greenies who are having trouble kicking the habit, an appealing way to reduce their tobacco-related environmental footprint, or buttprint, if you will. 

Via [TreeHugger]

Bottom image/thumbnail: Greenbutts

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

Bergamot, begonia, bougainvillea and butts?
Have a smoker at home? With Greenbutts, stubbed-out filters sitting in that overflowing ashtray could be planted in your garden and emerge as flowers or grass.