I have been writing a lot recently about making sure I am using stainless steel or glass containers and dishes for our food, but I don’t think that I have mentioned why I am trying to avoid plastic. I will never forget reading a study in college that evaluated stool samples of two different groups of people; maybe just the thought of evaluating stool samples is enough to make me remember the article. One group was fed food that was stored and microwaved in glass and the other was fed food that was stored and microwaved in plastic. I don’t remember the details, but the main finding of the study was that there were plastic particles in the stool samples of the group whose food was microwaved in plastic, but not in the stool samples of the group whose food was microwaved in glass. After that I started making sure I only microwaved food in glass containers which isn’t hard to do because we don’t own a microwave. I have halfheartedly also used glass to store food as well, but not as much as I should. So here is a little motivation for me as well as anyone else making the switch from plastic:
- Manufacturing plastic produces more toxic emissions than manufacturing glass does(1), these toxic emissions are what we as humans end up breathing, and unfortunately people who live in China and other manufacturing intensive countries probably get the worst of it.
- Glass recycling is more environmentally friendly than recycling plastic because it produces less toxic chemicals (1) and not all plastic can be recycled in many municipalities across the country.
- Health concerns associated with use of plastic used for food containers and packaging include potential exposure to dioxins, phthalates, Bisphenol-A (BPA), and antimony(1). While there is a rising awareness of the potential health concerns associated with BPA which has lead to many “BPA free” products, however, there is now concern with bisphenol-S (BPS) which is being used as a replacement for BPA in many products(2).
This is just a short list, if you are interested in the topic or would like more details about what dioxins, phthalates BPA, antimony, and PBS actually are, there is a ton more information out there on the World Wide Web. I invite you to do your own research on the topic; however for me, just knowing that I have the opportunity to positively impact the health of my family simply by limiting our use of plastic containers for food storage is a good enough reason enough to start making a more whole-hearted attempt to switch to glass and stainless steel.
For dry food storage we usually leave food in its original package or if it is from the bulk bins at the store we put it in glass jars that we bought quite a while ago at Ikea. They have the hinged locking lids that I love and are easier to open and close than screw on lids (and the lids don’t get lost), they look like this:
Photo source: www.ikea.com
We have a variety of sizes, but here is a link to the 34 oz jar in the Ikea online catalog. While I really like these jars and even use them to store homemade yogurt sometimes, if I need more storage jars I will probably start to save glass spaghetti sauce jars, that seems a little greener than going out and buying more jars. One word of caution, be careful reusing glass pickle jars. We discovered that the pickle flavor is hard to get rid of even after you clean a pickle jar and pickle flavored grits are not that good.
Where I have been lacking in glass food storage is with all our food in the refrigerator, primarily leftovers. We usually make extra when we cook dinner so that we will have lunch for the next day which means there are always random containers of food stored in the fridge. While in the past we have had a few glass storage containers, we have always ended up using primarily a random assortment of plastic containers, so I decided that it was time to invest in glass containers to store leftovers and other miscellaneous food in. Here is what I decided to purchase:
Photo source: www.amazon.com
It is the Pyrex 14-Piece Storage Plus Set with
- 2 round 4-cup dishes
- 1 round 7-cup dish
I purchased the set from Wal-Mart online because I found it for the best price there ($18.99); however I am sure it is also available from other retailers both online and in stores. I also purchased an extra 7-cup dish for $9.67. Yes, I know the lids are plastic, but for the most part food does not come in contact with the lids for extended periods of time. I chose this Pyrex set because it is oven and freezer safe as well as made in the USA. Matt asked for round containers instead of square or rectangle because they are easier to clean.
While still on the topic of food storage, I want to mention plastic bags. We have (almost) always used reusable grocery bags, and with Austin’s ban on plastic bags at the checkout we have become very good at it. Where we struggle is with those plastic produce bags and bags that you get bulk items in such as grains and nuts. If I can I just don’t put things in bags, but I also don’t like my produce rolling all over the shopping cart and the conveyor belt at the checkout, and rice and nuts need to be contained. To help solve this problem I just ordered some produce and bulk bags from Amazon. For produce I ordered Flip and Tumble reusable produce bags (a set of 5) for $11.47:
Photo source: www.amazon.com
And for bulk foods like grains and nuts I ordered two small Bring It Recycled Cotton Reusable Bulk Food and Produce Bags for $3.99 each:
Photo source: www.amazon.com
My grand total for “greening my routine” and avoiding the use of plastic for food storage comes to $48.11. That brings the total for my remaining “green my routine” money down to $383.38 (if you don’t know what I am talking about refer to this post). I will have to figure out what I want to do next to “green my routine”, I might continue in the kitchen, move to another room in the house, or even start looking outside…
(1) Natural Resource Defense Council. Smarter Living: Shopping Wise, Food Storage Containers. Accessed October 7, 2014. http://www.nrdc.org/living/shoppingwise/food-storage-containers.asp
(2) Alliance for Natural Health. Is “BPA-Free” a Lie. Accessed October 7, 2014. http://www.anh-usa.org/is-bpa-free-a-lie/