Get ready for more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans by 2050—that’s the word from the United Nations, if pollution from plastic products does not stop. As Earth Day approaches, home cooks may feel unsettled as they reassess their use of plastic in the kitchen, especially for storing and toting food about.
As any school child hell-bent on an Earth Day field trip will tell you, conventional plastics are made with petroleum products that do not biodegrade. He or she will blame the plastic grocery bag for creating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch—a staggering accumulation of plastic waste in the Pacific Ocean—while adults may be concerned about hormone-disrupting chemicals leaching from plastic containers into their food.
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So, here are some simple steps conscientious cooks can take right now to reduce the use of plastic in the kitchen.
Drinks To Go
To ditch plastic water bottles forever, replace them with glass water bottles. Kids who can’t take glass to school can keep drinks cool with double-hulled, food-grade stainless steel water bottles. Life Without Plastic offers another option: a nonreactive ceramic bottle for both hot and cold beverages.
The Lunch Box
Shed plastic lunch boxes in favor of canvas lunch sacks made from natural fibers. Divided lunch kits or bento boxes in stainless steel and bamboo are easy to find online, as are more daring tiffin-style stainless steel kits. Brave souls may opt for ECO lunchbox’s Furoshiki ECOlunchwrap, a Japanese-inspired colorful cotton cloth that is twisted and knotted around your lunch.
Reusable pouches and sandwich wraps made with cotton and beeswax are thoughtful alternatives to clear plastic bags and small plastic containers for hauling snacks and sandwiches. Or, pack dry treats in stainless steel containers with stainless tops; leakier snacks are good in small stainless containers with food-grade silicone lids.
Glass jars, Mason jars, and stainless steel or enamel containers with rubber rings or silicone gaskets are the best bet for airtight pantry and cold storage.
Muhs Home offers gorgeous white enamel canisters with silicone gaskets from Japan. Glass jars from Weck feature food-grade rubber rings, while Blisshaus sells five sizes of handsome glass jars with white rubber seals. For serious freezer storage, Life Without Plastic has airtight, watertight, food-safe stainless steel containers with silicone seals. EcoJarz has a neat stainless steel lid with a silicone plug that instantly converts a canning jar into a water bottle or bulk food storage container.
You don't always have to buy new either. Keep an eye out for these practical items at thrift stores and you'll accumulate a suitable collection in no time. Repurposing glass jars from pre-made pasta sauces or pantry items is also a great option—and free.
Other Storage Ideas
What else can you do right now? Buy whole heads of lettuce to spin in cloth sacks, switch out plastic ice cube trays for old-fashioned stainless steel ones, and wrap beeswax cloths around leftovers in the fridge.