Since starting the Plastic-Free July challenge, and in our overall quest to live a more sustainable, healthy, ethical lifestyle, we’ve realized more than ever how much plastic is around us all the time, ESPECIALLY in our kitchens.
We bought some groceries the other day, plastic-bag free (great start!) but then we looked at the purchases… and they were all pre-packaged in plastic! Pre-packaged plastic is actually what led Lauren Singer (founder of The Simply Co) to live a zero-waste lifestyle. We highly recommend her TED talk if you’re passionate about living a life completely plastic-free!
We mentioned some of the environmental impacts of plastic in the beginning of July, but one are we haven’t really touched on is the health impacts of plastic.
First, let’s have a quick mini toxic breakdown course.
Chemicals in plastic leak into your food. If you’re like us the first time you heard that, you were probably thinking “Whaaaaat?” But it’s true!
Migration is the transfer of chemical substances from plastic to food. AK.A. unwanted chemicals moving from your plastic container into to last night’s leftovers. This is also called “leaching.”
Migration occurs most commonly in fatty, acidic, or salty foods, but really occurs whenever plastic touches food or beverages. Migration increases when plastic is heated, so when you avoid microwaving plastics or putting them in the dishwasher you stop a lot of it.
And that's a great place to start: stop microwaving anything in a plastic container.
Three of the biggest, and most harmful, chemicals in plastics are bisphenol A (BPA), phthalates, and polyethylene terephthalate (PET). They act as hormone disruptors.
- BPA mimics the hormone estrogen. BPA is used to make plastics hard and lightweight, like reusable water bottles.
- Phthalates are chemicals used to make plastics lighter and more flexible, like in plastic wrap and shower curtains. Phthalates mimic the hormone testosterone. Both can cause cancer, damage to the reproduction system, and behavioral changes. Children and babies still in the womb are most sensitive to the effects of chemicals.
- PET is the third plastic, and most commonly found in water bottles. It’s also been linked to infertility and having developmental defects. We actually have a whole post about plastic water bottles that goes way more in depth about these chemicals and their negative effects.
Various people, typically those backed by companies making plastic (just sayin'!), argue that the amount of these chemicals we’re consuming hasn’t been proven unsafe. That’s absolutely true! But they haven’t been proven safe either.
In fact, in more recent studies, scientists have discovered that the amount of BPA it takes to cause damage is a lot lower than we thought. Animals with BPA in their systems are more likely to have miscarriages, cancer, and and be obese. Humans have significantly higher amounts of BPA than those animals do in our systems. In fact, over 90% of people have BPA in their systems.
It’s undeniable that migration is occurring, the true questions are “How much?” and “How much until it’s toxic?” Well, we’re not sure how much.
The FDA claims that the amount of chemicals migrating isn’t a lot, but accumulation isn't accounted for when they say that. Think about it: if each time we buy food packaged in plastic and a little bit of chemicals leach, those chemicals add up in our body with each exposure.
Maybe a better question is, “What products are there WITHOUT these chemicals?”
Since there are studies that show health implications we don't want, and not enough definitive research saying it's safe, we are all about skipping it whenever possible, especially in the kitchen around the food we eat.
And we've made it simple to start making switches! This whole post is packed full of information to help you create a plastic-free kitchen!
Bee’s Wraps. An alternative for plastic cling wrap, they are washable, reusable, and compostable. Made out of organic cotton, beeswax, organic jojoba oil, and tree resin, they are safe for touching any types of food. Bee’s Wraps come in a variety of sizes to wrap up your sandwiches, cover up your bowls, and store fresh grapes in the fridge. Another great brand, Khala Cloths also comes in multiple sizes and the company is part of 1% For the Planet! If you're in the Boulder, CO area, you're supporting a local company!
Stasher bags. These are self-sealing, airtight, plastic-free, dishwasher safe bags perfect for storing snacks, sandwiches, leftover pizza… you get the idea.
Salad dressing bottles. Salad dressing from the store is usually pretty unhealthy and always packaged in plastic. There are a lot of recipes for making your own salad dressing… but where are you supposed to store it?! In one of these glass salad dressing bottles of course!
Fabric bowl covers. Some foods need to be stored with a bit a bit of breathability, which is where plastic wrap gets its appeal. But, plastic wrap is bad and so annoying, seriously! I stopped using plastic wrap long before I knew the environmental impacts because of how annoying it was! We love these fabric bowl covers from Edgy Moose. Seriously, how cute is that name?
All those to-go containers we mentioned a few posts back also double as storage containers for your kitchen!
Stainless steel containers are a sustainable on-the-counter storage option. They are plenty of cute ways to label these containers, or you can buy one with a way to see its contents. These containers have a glass window and this version has a see-through lid. Perfect for displaying the contents inside!
Ice trays. Ice is a staple for iced coffees, sweet tea, fresh watermelon lemonade, and the whole month of July. W & P Designs also has a variety of silicone and stainless steel ice trays. The water bottle ice tray is ingenious.
Cookie box. This box is not only perfect for loading up at your local bakery, but for storing cookies at home. You know all the ingredients you’re putting in your cookies at home, you wouldn’t want the chemicals from your tupperware containers leaking into them! This box protects them from chemicals, and keeps your dog from eating all of them.
Microwave cover. We mentioned how heat can increase the migration in products, and your plastic cover probably isn’t an exception. But this glass cover is, and it’s super cute!
Drying rack. As much as we wished our dishes were washed and dried and put away in a timely manner, they may sit in the drying rack for a bit longer than we’d like. Which is totally okay if you have some cute, plastic-free dishes to display in a stainless steel rack or a bamboo rack!
Bowls. Nesting bowls are kitchen necessities, and these glass ones are perfect for any kitchen.
Cutting boards. Plastic cutting boards are great for their durability, but these bamboo ones are even better! They’re durable as well as beautiful so they can double as serving boards.
Pot scrapers. These little bamboo pot scrapers are exactly what you need to scrub anything off your dirty dishes. If you buy an extra, you can also use it to scrape ice off your windshield in the winters!
Spatulas, serving spoons, tongs… Bambu is your one-stop-shop for any kitchen utensils you might need!
MASON JAR ACCESSORIES
If you store liquids in a mason jar, then this spout from W & P Designs is great for pouring them out!
Drink Tops. This drink top from EcoJarz fits on top of your mason jars so that way you can drink out of it on the go!
Bamboo storage lids. These lids are a lifesaver to store extra dry pasta in your pantry, or extra smoothie in your fridge.
Soap dispenser. This two-piece metal lid goes on any of your mason jars in order to turn them into a liquid soap dispenser.
Herbs. Gardens are a great idea, but not always possible. Growing herbs in a mason jar is an easy SHE shift you can make to have fresh herbs for cooking and decorate your kitchen. This detailed post will help you in your quest.
Produce bags. You might have a cute fruit bowl to display all your farmer’s market goodies, but first they have to get there. For all your fruit transportation needs, try out these produce bags from EcoBags.
Reusable grocery bags. There are plenty of great ones out there, and most large department stores are already selling them. We have major heart eyes for the bags from The Tote Project, 2nd Story Goods, and a few other brands.
Purchase your oils in tinted glass. The tinted glass cuts down on light getting into your oils, which causes it to go rancid. You can understand why that’s not good. Most oil companies know that, and make an effort to package their oils effectively. Cooking with coconut oil is the best option (we LOVE coconut oil! Talk about a great brain food!) but for the rest of your oils, always buy tinted glass.
Try and buy all of your other foods packaged in glass instead of plastic. This is much easier to do in the store, so look around for another option if what you usually buy comes in a plastic container. The great thing about this is that when you’re done, you can wash the glass container and use them again and again! You can also shop at stores with bulk bins and bring your own containers.
Tea. In one of our #SHE365 posts, we suggested making the switch from bleached to unbleached tea bags. Unfortunately, bleach is not the only chemical lurking in our tea bags and thus in our tea. Usually the tea bags have some sort of plastic coating, contain glue, or are made out of nylon, and these chemicals not only seep into your tea but affect the taste. Paromi teas come in beautiful glass jars, and each tea bag is individually packaged in a biodegradable bag that provides maximum taste and maximum freshness.
Canned goods are plastic-free and seem like a great option when in actuality, you should avoid canned goods like the plague. The lining is filled with BPA that gets into your food and is simply not good for you. Go to your local farmer’s market and pick up some fresh food that’s in season! It tastes better… possibly due to the increased amount of nutrients and decreased amount of sodium! You can also find some homegrown and homecanned foods in mason jars, like these delicious peaches, canned by Jake & Amos, or over at Kauffman’s Fruit Farm.
Washing your dishes is important, we’re sure you know why. Dish soap has enough chemicals without the plastic container it comes in, but this solid bar of dish soap is a nice eco-friendly option.
Check out Goodwill or your local thrift store when purchasing new items for your kitchen. They have plenty of fun ceramic dinner plates for less than a dollar, glass jars upon glass jars upon glass jars, and metal cookie cutters instead of cheap plastic ones. It’s better for your wallet, and a great practice in sustainability by giving new life to previously used objects.
While non-stick pans are plastic-free, what makes the pan not sticky are chemicals released during cooking. Phthalates are a primary ingredient leaching into your food. When possible, buy cast iron pans (then iron migrates into your food and that’s a good thing!!!) or glassware.
Start by replacing the products you do have when they break before buying new ones. All of the plastic you’re using now is going to be on this earth for a long time, so you may as welll use it now while you still have it.
Shopping plastic-free is not only environmentally friendly, but budget friendly. It’s expensive. ECO Lunch Boxes did a lunch study on how much a family who packs their lunch everyday (1 adult, 2 kids) would save by switching to a plastic-free kitchen. The answer is $453 A YEAR. That’s insane! Think of how much money you could save… or instead spend on ethically made yoga pants. We won’t judge either way. But seriously, switching to a more SHE kitchen can help you make other SHE shifts in your lifestyle because of all the money you’re saving.
We included so many tips and products not to overwhelm you, but to help you. There are so many products out there to ease you into a plastic-free lifestyle, and so many people alongside you to cheer you on. We want you to know that while it might be hard to make so many changes at first, it gets easier the less changes you have to make. Every step is worth it, no matter the size.
What is the first product you’re going to buy for your kitchen?!