Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Breaking up with Plastic - Part I

If you're like me, you might just crack if you hear one more thing about how "bad" plastic is. But, indulge me for just a second so that I can get these posts out of my system. I promise I'll try not to revisit the subject on a regular basis! Breaking up with plastic has been a years-long process for my family (just like greenifying our cleaning supplies). We still haven't eliminated every piece of plastic from the house, but the collection has gotten much, much smaller. The fact of the matter is that plastic is convenient. It's lightweight and you usually don't have to worry about it breaking. You might even be convinced that there's nothing wrong with it, and I'm not here to argue, I would just rather be safe than sorry. Safety trumps convenience, especially when it comes to food and drink containers...this is where it all started for me. Remember Nalgene bottles? We had a bunch of them. Here's an old picture:

When it first came out that these bottles were potentially dangerous, I was heartbroken (haha, probably a slight exaggeration, but if you know me, you know how much I LOVE water and having some with me at ALL times - these bottles were my main mode of water transportation for years). Anyway, we got rid of them (well, we tried to recycle them...hope that worked out). I still miss them, mostly the bright neon colors and the fact that I could drop them from any height and they'd remain perfectly intact, but I don't miss the stink (gross). We switched to metal water bottles (first aluminum and stainless steel, but now only stainless steel). We've been using our stainless steel bottles (Klean Kanteens) for a few years now, but I'm thinking about making the switch to glass. I get annoyed having to handwash the metal ones, hate when the paint chips off, and have always liked the ability to actually see what it is I'm drinking through a clear container. (I'll get to some ideas for glass water storage in Part II).

So why not just switch to safer plastics? Well unfortunately it's not quite that simple. Turns out new BPA-free versions could be just as bad as the old stuff. Check out this article for more information. The best thing to do is to replace your plastic food and drink containers with materials like glass, stainless steel, and silicone. In the past week I've seen that two major plastic container companies (Ziploc and Rubbermaid) are finally getting on board with offering safer storage solutions which was great to see!

Ziploc VersaGlass
Rubbermaid Glass with Easy Find lids
Of course an even greener thing to do is to reuse glass containers you already have (like empty canning jars or pasta sauce jars, especially for storing dry items like grains and beans).

If you're not ready to part ways with plastic food and drink containers yet (I'm still holding onto a few things myself), the best thing you can do is to NOT heat up any foods/drinks in them. Extreme temps are the main danger with food and plastics. So even if you're storing foods in plastic, be sure to always transfer them to something glass before popping them in the micro. Also, be sure to get rid of (recycle) any old, cracked, or cloudy plastics. Damaged plastic is no good for business either.

So have you broken up with plastic yet? If not, what's holding you back? If you have, what are some of your favorite alternative food/drink storage solutions?

Preview for Part II: Kid/Baby stuff...this one is tricky!


  1. I like it Rachel! You're right, I don't really have to worry about the meat thing...although I have a hubby and a pediatrician who think otherwise for our little guy, we'll see about that.

    I don't do all of our shopping at the co-op, but bringing our own containers to fill up is one thing I really love about shopping there (especially when it comes to buying things like spices!).

    Most importantly (quoting you), I think just AWARENESS of "our (plastic) consumption" is a giant leap in the right direction :)

  2. Wow! If Ziplock and Rubbermaid are getting on board, there must be a consumer shift in consciousness. That's awesome.

    My husband and I use glass containers for work lunches, etc. but they've always been so expensive (like $5 or $6 each). I bet now the prices will start tumbling down.

  3. Totally Genevieve, that's what I'm hoping for a lot of things (a shift in consumer consciousness making a difference with the "big guys")!