Sunday, February 2, 2014

Ridding the Kitchen of Plastic

My initial thought was to write a post in regards to organization and upcycling, two of my favorite topics, but after learning more about the dangers of plastic, it turned into a kitchen overhaul. Let me explain how this amazing overhaul started.

During Chiberia, a clever term used by Chicagoans to describe the arctic temperatures we had for weeks, I was stuck in our house and started to see my house differently.  The rooms seemed smaller and my organizational gears started to move.  I was ready to de-clutter any closet or cabinet I opened.  I know, that might sound a bit crazy and overwhelming, but I was on fire.  You don't realize how much junk you keep but when you start going through drawers it is very clear that keeping all those little things: that old cell phone, that book you loved, a painting you did, it all accumulates fast. I was feeling pretty good after purging many items and seeing the donation boxes full. I knew it was time to tackle the pantry.

I tackled this pantry before when I purchased a few fancy smancy IKEA glass jars, but I still had a lot of plastic containers for all of my baking stuff.  When you are gluten free, you tend to keep a lot of baking ingredients on hand. I knew I needed to move these ingredients into glass jars. You see, I just recently learned more about plastic. We all know about BPA and how it is be linked to health problems.  What I did not realize was that it is hiding in other places because it is a major ingredient in polycarbonate plastics which are often used in other plastics.  The scary thing is that this may or may not be on the label.  Here are just a few places that unknowingly BPA lurks: canned foods, formula cans, some Nalgene and Sigg water bottles, milk jugs, baby bottles and sippy cups, toys, pacifiers, soda cans, and plastic dishware that is "microwave safe". Any time your food is touching plastic or a container that has BPA then you are ingesting small amounts. Studies have also shown that BPA is released 55 times more when exposed to boiling water.  The more contact you have with BPA the more chances you have at becoming sick. 

So you say, "I use all BPA free products now. I should be OK right?" Well it is a start but honestly, no, BPA is not our only worry. Have you heard of phthalates? They are a group of chemical "plasticizers" that are used in all kinds of products and they are even in the indoor air we breathe. It is believed that most of the phthalates in our bodies come from our food, most likely the packaging of our food. Phthalates are hormone disrupters and have been linked to low sperm count and low sperm quality. There was also a study where pregnant women with high levels of phthalates were more likely to have baby boys with subtle genital changes.  That is scary stuff!

In 2009, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found an average of 287 toxins in umbilical cords of pregnant mothers and found BPA, mercury, fire retardants, pesticides, phthalates and many other toxins.  Our children are exposed to hundreds of chemicals before they are even born that can cause them problems early in life or set the stage for disease down the road.  It boils down to the fact that plastics are man made from chemicals, many from petroleum products. 

There is an overwhelming amount of information that is available on the dangers of plastics in our lives and so it did not take me long to I realize my kitchen needed to be free of plastic.  Now that I am aware of the dangers of plastics I could not serve my children on plastic dishware. I need to do my best to keep them safe from dangers, seen and unseen.  Plastic has become my enemy and I was going to free my kitchen of this dangerous chemical.  If you know my partner, this was going to be another fun conversation.

I woke up the next day and said, "Julie, I think we need to get rid of all the plastic in our kitchen". She did not answer how I thought she would.  I figured she would say something to the effect of, "there you go again, making some crazy changes!" But she didn't, she was really wonderful and supportive. The poor dear. She knows she cannot stop my crazy train once it is going, so she just said, "as long as you find a suitable replacement, I'm fine with it." I looked on the internet and read what others are doing and found some choices for dishware for the kids.  Here is what I found that works for us:

Use what the rest of the family uses
Stainless steel

When I was cleaning out my cabinets I found a lot of glass jars. What a great way to repurpose my jars.  I started to swap out the plastic containers with glass.  The only problem was the glass jars had the original labels from the manufactures.  Here’s a great tip. The best way to remove the labels off your jars is to soak them in vinegar water with a couple drops of lemon essential oil. After the label softens, scrape off as much of the label as you can. That last little bit of stubborn adhesive will come off with a small amount of straight lemon essential oil. Just put a drop or two on the sticky part, rub with your finger, and then wipe it off with a towel. Boom! Clean, pretty, safe, and FREE storage jars.

Check out some pantry pictures!*
Just look at all that upcycling!*
Kitchen pantry, love my IKEA kitchen!*
This is an overflow shelf downstairs that used to be cluttered with ziploc bags of stuff. It looks so much better now!

Replacing dishware can be pricey.  The most affordable way is to visit your local thrift store but my favorite one is temporary closed due to expansion.  So I decided to visit the restaurant supply store.  It is another great way to get affordable, durable, quality stuff.  Plus you can purchase matching sets which would be difficult at a thrift store. 

I came home with 8 tempered glass plates, 8 stackable glass bowls, 8 stainless steel cups (they are supposed to be for french fries but we will be drinking from them), metal 2 oz ramekins, stainless measuring cups and spoons, large stainless spoons, bamboo utensils and a small cast iron skillet to match the rest of our cast iron.*
The kid dish drawer.*
Here is how big the plates are that I choose, with my hand for size reference.

Our new "kid" plates are simple, classic, SAFE and can be used forever.  Maddox really likes them and  I love how they all stack up so easily.  

Another major item that needed addressing was sippy cups.  Both my kids really like the Avent soft sippy spout so I wanted to stick with that style, also I like the bottle/sippy/storage solution that that system offers with the sealing discs.  We used them a lot when we traveled for snacks and such.  My alternative solution was Pura Kiki.  It is basically the same system as the Avent and the nipples/spouts even fit both, but the cups are stainless steel instead of plastic.  They have silicone nipples, silicone sippy spouts and sealing disks that all work together.  We are going with 4 for now and hopefully that will be enough.  You can get them here on my Amazon store if you need some.

I have cleaned out 5 paper grocery bags worth of plastic from my kitchen. I cannot believe we had that much!  I feel really good about the changes and I like having less in our kitchen.  I am now be much more aware of the containers that our food comes in and that will be a driving factor in my food purchases.  I am realistic and know that I cannot eliminate all plastic from our food but I can make a conscious effort to avoid it wherever I can.

You know those little numbers on the bottom of your plastic containers? Here is what numbers 1-7 mean.  Check out this Mercola article to find out.

Now that you know the effects of plastics, here are some things you can do to avoid plastic in your daily life.

  • Replace storage containers in kitchen with glass or stainless steel.
  • Replace plastic drinkware for kids and adults with glass or stainless (find some options here).
  • Use your own glass, stainless or ceramic coffee cups when you go out.
  • Travel with your own water bottle that is glass or stainless. I never leave home without mine!
  • Take your own containers when getting take out, especially places that use styrofoam/#6 containers.
  • Use your own shopping bags at the grocery store, Target ,Wal-Mart or anywhere! Target and Whole Foods even give you credit for your bag and they hold much more than cheap plastic bags.
  • Never microwave in plastic. Really you should not even be heating food in the microwave, but more on that later.
  • Avoid canned food, including soda unless it specifically says BPA free on the can.
  • When shopping, be conscious of what you are buying and bringing into your home.
  • Say no to straws when dining out and switch to stainless ones at home.  We have them, they rock. Find some here
  • Ditch the produce bags at the grocery store and take your own reusable bags. Find some here.
  • Buy in bulk when you can, skip the packaging all together and you get just what you need.
  • Use cloth diapers on your babies. This is a personal favorite! Did you know if you have baby in disposables their diapers create 1/2 the household waste?
  • Make your own household cleaners.

I know there this was a lot of information but I felt it was important to share.  Let me know your thoughts on the subject.
When you know better, you do better.

Be healthy!