Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Reducing Plastic

Julia from Color Me Green shares her resolution to reduce plastic from her kitchen and life.

I was recently reminded by an article in the New York Times about the dangers lurking in plastic. It highlighted a study which "found that endocrine disruptors that are sometimes added to PVC plastic cause mice to grow obese and suffer liver problems"...suggesting that endocrine disrupting chemicals such as BPA and phhalates may be related to American obesity epidemics, among other health issues.

What you may not know is that these endocrine disruptors are found in everyday products all around us, from BPA in plastic water bottles, aluminum can linings, and grocery store receipts to phthalates in plastic wrap, PVC building materials, shower curtains and even children's backpacks (ahem Disney).

Meanwhile, it was promising to see another study showing how quickly people were able to reduce their levels of BPA and phthalates by avoiding them for just three days. While I try to limit my own exposure to canned foods, I have been using plastic quite liberally for food storage. I've decided that one of my 2013 resolutions is to reduce plastic in my life.

Currently, I use plastic yogurt containers, tupperwares, and freezer bags for carrying lunch to work and for storing leftovers in the fridge and freezer. I have been wanting to get glass containers for food storage, but putting it off because large plastic yogurt containers are plentiful and always multiplying in my home, and glassware is expensive. Also because plastic is lighter and less dangerous for carrying lunch to work on my bicycle. But I should just suck it up and buy a set of glass containers - or maybe metal. My two concerns are needing containers that are compact so they won't take up too much room in my biking bag and are airtight so they won't leak (being that I carry my change of clothes in the same bag to work).

I also want to buy reusable cloth bags for buying bulk goods at the grocery store and more jars to store dry goods at home. Lately, I've been stocking up on such a large variety of bulk goods that they just end up staying in their plastic bags once they make it to my kitchen cabinet. I tried to buy some cloth bags a few years ago, but they were too small and too likely to spill.

I already use a stainless steel Sigg as my water bottle. I continue to try to choose beer from the tap or glass bottles rather than cans whenever available (Which is a shame because one of my favorite breweries, Sixpoint, chose to sell their beer in cans because cans are less energy intensive to produce and transport than glass...everyone should just get BPA out of cans.)

I can also ask cashiers if they have the option of not printing my receipt, so that neither of us have to handle receipts.

One thing I'm not sure how to get around is storing slices of bread in my freezer, since I can't go through a loaf quickly enough to keep it in the bread box. This has been discussed before in the comments on My Plastic Free Life with no real solution.

I also can't talk about plastic without acknowledging that a big use of plastic in my life over the past year and a half has been storing my clothes in plastic bags  due to ongoing bed bug problems (It's standard protocol in order to keep them from hiding in your stuff and from carrying them around to other places.) It's been easier to just keep my clothes in the bags then have to reclean all of them every time the problem recurs. Some of my clothes actually have that plastic smell from being in bags for so long. It is what it is and I've had to accept it. Hopefully, I can move past my paranoia enough to take my clothes out of bags soon.

Silent Spring has some more suggestions for simple steps to avoid BPA and phthalates in food. Can you think of anything I'm missing? Are there any changes you made to eliminate plastic from your life?


Rivenfae said...

My suggestion would be instead of buying bread start making it yourself as freshly made bread lasts longer "on the shelf" than store bought and you can control the size of the loaf.

Julia (Color Me Green) said...

thanks for the suggestion Rivenfae - I do already make my own bread, typically a loaf at a time. But since it takes us two weeks to eat a loaf, into the freezer it goes. i could consider making a half size loaf at a time, but it's much more time efficient to make bread in larger rather than smaller batches.

Eco Yogini said...

i am such a fan of my glass containers- and often go to value village (thrift store) to pick up extra mason jars- they rock for storing stuff in the freezer!

as for lunch- i hear ya on the weight issue. Walking with about ten different glass or steel containers isn't fun. but- i would say that steel is the way to go for weight.
We have a hemp cloth shower curtain and i wouldn't ever go back to (even) BPA free liner. It was pricey, but since i was replacing my plastic liner every few months anyway, in 10months it paid for itself.
I think when it comes to bread- if you reuse the plastic bags you are doing great. Honestly- we can only do so much and the fact that you are making homemade bread with no preservatives or nasty ingredients, no shipping pollution, you are saving in other areas.
oh! and I LOVE my pogsacs by lioli, but i know ppl who have made their own produce bags :)

Anonymous said...

Maybe wrap the bread in paper first to prevent contact between the bread and the plastic. I use alot of mason jars for food storage. You can purchase non-BPA lids at Lehman's and probably other sources too.

Anonymous said...

I recommend using wide mouth canning jars for lunches and food stoage. They don't leak, they are cheap to replace, and the lids don't rip or tear. We purchased purex glass bowls (and off brand) with plastic lids several years ago. In a few weeks, the off brand lids didn't fit the bowls and in less than a year, the Pyrex lids ripped. Total waste of money. Canning jars are so much more versatile!

Life Without Plastic sells stainless steel containers in sizes ideal for bread storage.

Betsy (Eco-novice) said...

So sorry to hear about the bed bugs. Ack.

Christy said...

I'd love to know of other solutions for freezing foods. I have zucchini, kale and blueberries from my garden and local farms in my freezer and so far nothing else seems to work for space concerns and freezer burn.

I am slowly increasing stainless steel and glass containers in my cupboard as the plastic disappears or breaks. But boy oh boy can they be heavy in my bag. That and expensive when my kids lose them at school. I've been putting name labels on everything and some have eventually made their way back home as a result but some never return.

Julia (Color Me Green) said...

i like the idea of wrapping the bread in paper before the freezer. thanks!


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