Thanks to some keen Black Friday sales, we replaced our plastic food storage with glass food storage.
Not all of it.
We realized in going through our plastic containers that some of them aren’t really practical to replace with glass. The big cookie tubs, for example. (That would be, the tubs where we store cookies after we’ve baked them.) Plastic’s not going to hurt the cookies, and I can’t see using up glass containers just for cookies. The small cups we use for salad dressing, or peanut butter, or any number of liquidy goodies for packed lunches seemed logical to keep, too. And last, the small bowls of Tupperware I use for storage of baby food. And that only because Miss Genna likes to feed herself and she also likes to drop things onto the floor and my tolerance for cleaning up broken glass is pretty low. The food is heated in a glass container if need be, and then transferred to the plastic if she’s going to be feeding herself.
But everything else – glass. Pyrex, actually. With plastic lids.
So far, I completely love it. It’s been nice, particularly, to be able to heat up leftovers in the same container they were in in the fridge, whether we want to microwave them or heat them in the oven.
The lids are very tight-fitting, and haven’t leaked at all in Randy’s lunchbag, which is nice, as well.
(If you’re wondering what’s in the cupboard – the bottom shelf is the glass plus the lids. The top shelf is the small baby food bowls there in the center. Next to them are the plastic cups for salad dressing etc. The taller cups go with my Magic Bullet (love), and the black and multicolored plastic parts on the far right go with them. In the back is the yogurt maker, a food grinder, and a few other kitchen-y things. And on the left is some ice cube trays and I think an egg tray that we use for snacks sometimes.)
Alright. I’ve had it with news coverage, ads, political campaign statements, and everything else that talks about reducing our reliance on foreign oil in a way that implies that the only way America uses oil is in cars. Cars are a part of it, yes. But look at all the other ways we use oil:
- plastics – EVERYTHING plastic, from disposable spoons to heart valves
- disposable diapers
- polyester fabric
- going back to plastic, think about the plastic used by the medical industry. IV tubing, syringes, etc.
I mean, look around your house. A while back, when I first undertook the project to reduce my family’s reliance on plastic, I realized how much of it is in my house. Fake wood? Plastic. Upholstery backing? Sometimes plastic.
It’s not just about driving. Modern life relies on oil. While finding alternative fuels is important, we need to be thinking about alternatives to oil in the millions of everyday items that currently rely on oil as an ingredient.
As you may know, our family set some goals of reducing waste and reducing our exposure to plastics this year. here’s an update on progress.
Waste: We’re doing good with recycling, and are recycling more than we did last year, though I’m constantly frustrated that we can’t recycle MORE. I have a backlog of cardboard boxes (limit: 4 per recycling pickup) and need to figure out how to acquire FEWER boxes. Unfortunately, it’s a side effect of my business. Many of the things I order arrive in cardboard boxes. I send out customer orders using re-used cardboard boxes when I can, but some of the boxes are so large that, realistically speaking, I’ll never have an order THAT big. For a while, I had friends who were moving all over the place, and they got my boxes, but they’ve been piling up a bit lately. Plus, we moved numerous boxes from my mom’s house when we cleaned it out (those were re-used, too – the boxes her dialysis supplies came in). Some of those have been deposited – full of books – at Half Price Books, but I think they just throw them away, so that’s not a great solution.
The other challenge continues to be reducing the amount of waste we bring in. We’ve made great strides in this area, but hit a big bump with W’s fourth birthday in April. Holy cow, the packaging! My goodness.
I did a major basement purge in March and ended up with about three large garbage bags full of trash, which I didn’t feel all that bad about. We recycled the paper we could, but most of it was actual, genuine garbage. And since it meant that that junk was no longer cluttering up my basement, well, it didn’t feel too bad. It was mostly stuff I’d needed emotionally after my dad died, but with the recent death of my mother, I no longer felt I needed to hang on to. So that was a good thing.
Plastic. I had hoped to remove our plastic (vinyl) shower curtain in April and replace it with a nice cloth one. That did not get done, I’ve frankly been so busy trying to play catch-up with Wallypop that I didn’t have time to do any personal sewing. The shower curtain is no longer at the TOP of my personal sewing list, but it is on there, and it will get done. I take solace in the knowledge that the curtain is very old and is likely done offgassing.
Our porcelain over cast iron kitchen sink has slowly eaten all but 2 of our kitchen glasses. The temptation is strong to just replace those with plastic cups, but I think we’ll stick with glass – maybe thicker glass this time – unless I can find some metal ones. I’ll be keeping an eye on secondhand and antique stores for a bit before we hit the retail stores. I’ll also be buying more ceramic glasses from Crackpots at the next Craft Saturday in June.
I’m feeling like it’s time to pay more attention to this plastics issue, so my goal is to investigate alternatives to the large plastic bottle we use in our bubbler (water fountain). I’ve heard rumors that there are glass bottles available, but never looked into it. Would I be able to lift a 5 gallon glass water jug??
Filed under: Plastics/BPA
Of course, when I listed out all of the plastics in my house, I excluded a large number of plastics – those that are hidden. Hidden plastic is nearly everywhere and difficult to avoid. Some of this plastic, in my house, I’m not worried about. More on that later.
So, where is hidden plastic lurking?
- The waterproof coating on cardboard beverage containers (or any other cardboard food container, such as ice cream tubs, Chinese take-out containers, etc.). Our family does not drink cow’s milk; we drink soy, rice, or almond milk. That milk comes in plasticized containers. Yuk. The solution to animal milks and juices is to buy your drinks in glass containers. There are several brands of milk and juice available in glass bottles. The solution with nut milks would be to make your own.
- Many paper cups and plates have been treated with a plastic layer to make them waterproof. Obviously, the solution here is to use glass, ceramic, or metal.
- Canned food and soda. Surprised? The insides of cans are sometimes coated with plastic. (This site has a list of which ones do and don’t have Plastic/BPA)
- Furniture. Many pieces of furniture contain PVC.
- Cars. Holy moly, look around the inside of your car!
There are two main things that concern me about plastics.
1. Chemical off-gassing from PVC. PVC, or vinyl, is, according to The Center for Health, Environment, and Justice, “one of the most hazardous consumer products ever created.” It off-gasses (or evaporates) chemicals into the air, such as mercury, dioxins, and phthalates. These chemicals “may pose irreversible life-long health threats.” Phthalates are a class of chemicals that can cause reproductive harm, allergies, behavioral problems in children, and diabetes, among other things.
PVC can be identified by its label of the number 3 inside the arrowed triangle commonly found on plastic products. It cannot be recycled.
PVC is also found in a lot of children’s and baby products and little ones can be exposed when they chew on it.
2. Leaching chemicals into food, particularly Bisphenol-A, or BPA, which is an endocrine disruptor and mimics the hormone estrogen. (If you’re going for man-boobs, keep drinking that water out of plastic bottles!) A big problem with BPA is that it doesn’t stay put in the plastics that touch our food. It migrates into our food, and it has an easier time migrating when it’s heated. Here is a good article about the concern with BPA and foods. And here’s another one.
But there are some plastics that don’t worry me as much.
1. I know that some of our old furniture has plastic. The chair I’m sitting on right now is covered with vinyl. Now this has no scientific basis, but the chair is also from the 1960s and has not been recovered. I plan to recover it eventually, but in the meantime, I personally think that most of the off-gassing has already occurred and we’re relatively safe.
2. Plastic toys, especially older ones (like from my childhood) and toys for older kids. At 4, W is no longer chewing on his toys (obviously). I’d prefer if they weren’t all plastic, but I don’t worry as much about it now as I did when he was still slobbering on everything.
3. The little bits of plastic that are found in everything from my refrigerator to the clock radio to our telescope and the keyboard I’m typing on. Two reasons I don’t worry about them. First, they’re not likely to be PVC and I worry less about offgassing from non-PVC plastics. Second, there is absolutely nothing I can do about them.
4. When plastic does more good than harm. Plastic bike helmets, for example. There’s not a really good substitute for this and I’d never ride a bike without one.
Here is a good article about good plastics and bad plastics that explains in a more coherent fashion why some plastics are OK.
A camera crew from a local TV station is coming to my house today to talk about “Plastic Free Living.” I don’t know if that’s what they really plan to do the story on, but I think that truly plastic free living would be truly impossible. Even with unlimited funds. Maybe if you moved to a remote location and lived completely self-sufficiently, and your radio was from the 40s and you found an old telephone and you never needed commercially-prepared medicine and you used a horse for transportation.