Most of us want to live plastic-free lives, however, we often find it’s not that easy. Most of our food come wrapped in plastic and whilst most is recyclable, if we don’t dispose of it correctly, it can still end up in our seas or damaging our environment. We also find that environmental damage doesn’t necessarily impact us directly and we can, therefore, put it to the back of our minds. It can leave little motivation to actually make any changes. But what if I told you that plastic can have a direct impact on our health. I’m someone who suffers from endometriosis and fertility problems.
When I was researching ways around this, I often came across articles telling me that the BPA found in many household plastic items could be causing my endometriosis to worsen and could be impacting on my fertility issues. Whilst the evidence might not be conclusive in this area (and of course there are plenty of people who have healthy children whilst having a household full of plastic items), this was something I could absolutely take control of in my quest for health. Below are 5 items I immediately got rid of and switched to plastic free items:
Food Containers and Storage
The first thing I did when I discovered that plastic could be bad for our health was throw out all of my plastic tupperware containers. I learned that these are particularly bad for reheating food in or storing hot food straight out of the dish. Instead, I bought glass containers. Whilst the ones I bought do have plastic lids, these are generally ok as long as the food isn’t touching it. There are pros and cons to the glass containers.
The obvious pros are they’re good for the environment and our health. The cons are, they can be heavy, particularly if you’re storing a big portion of food and have to carry it to work and they don’t stack as well in the cupboard. They do work out a little more expensive than the plastic tupperware, however, they do seem to last longer (hello discoloured plastic!) and they don’t hold onto the nasty food smells you get with plastic.
Overall, I found this a really easy swap and felt good about doing it for my health. I would also recommend checking whether you can recycle your old plastic containers or take them to the local tip/waste centre for more environmentally friendly ways of disposing of them.
General Food Storage
Once you’ve finished swapping out your tupperware, I would move on to general food storage. This was not something I had to work on too much as I already used mason jars to store many of my dry goods such as rice and pasta (you can read our article on 5 uses for the mason jar here). These work so well and I’ve found them easier to store than just having the bags of rice and pasta lying around the cupboard.
If you’re worried about the cost of replacing all of these items or wondering if you have to if you can just leave the goods in the bag the answer is of course no. I would recommend working on replacing the tupperware in the first instance as this usually come into contact with hot food. When food is cold the BPA found in plastic is less likely to leach into our food and so storing dry goods in plastic containers is less of an issue.
Pots and Pans
Once I had swapped out my plastic storage containers, I moved on to my pots and pans. I was used to buying cheap non-stick pans from the local supermarket and they never lasted very long. They would often be scratched within a few months of using them. Whilst I couldn’t find anything that said my scratched pots and pans were bad for my health, the idea of consuming the non-stick coating of my pan as I was eating my food put me off.
What I did realise was I needed to invest in better quality pots and pans. I decided to move away from traditional non-stick pans when I was doing my research and discovered that I needed to buy either stainless steel, cast iron or ceramic. I discovered that cast iron could, not only, be costly, it takes a bit of work to maintain and I was all about low maintenance! I already had some stainless steel cookware which are great for cooking anything other than sauces and liquids but I missed my non-stick. I managed to find some pots and some frying pans which have a non-stick ceramic coating derived from sand. I’m a few months in and the coating is as good today as it was when I got them. Not a chip in sight!
Overall, I would say investment is key here. Invest in good quality pots, pans and frying pans and you won’t go far wrong. Whilst it may be a struggle with an up front cost, you will spend less in the long run as you won’t be replacing your cookware so often.
Water Bottle and Jug / Pitcher
As we’ve gathered by now, plastic is not only harmful to our environment but can be toxic for our bodies as well. Probably one of the best known environmentally unfriendly plastic sources is the plastic bottle. When we buy bottled drinks they almost always come in a plastic bottle. The ones that are glass tend to be more expensive (you know the ones I’m talking about!). When we buy a meal deal that comes with a drink, guess what, it’s plastic and whilst high streets are getting better at providing recycling bins, they’re not always easy to find when we’re eating on the go. So where do our plastic bottles go? Yep, you guessed it, landfill.
There is also a toxicity risk of drinking water directly from the plastic bottle. Similarly to heating food in plastic containers, if the water bottle has been allowed to go warm there is a risk the chemicals in the plastic could leach into the water which you are obviously directly consuming. I decided I wasn’t going to take that risk and bought myself a glass water bottle. I carry this with me wherever I go. If you’re worried about the glass breaking, most come with a protective cover or, alternatively, you could use a stainless steel bottle. These can be used for both hot and cold drinks and keep the liquid inside either hot or cold for long periods of time. In my experience, I would also say the stainless steel bottles are lighter than the glass ones so a bit easier to carry around, although for me, there’s something about being able to drink water from a glass or bottle that’s transparent. If you’ve ever drank water out of a mug you’ll know what I mean, it’s just weird!
The same can be said for our water pitchers. Whilst we might not drink directly from them, I’d rather not have my water sit for hours in a plastic one. I, therefore, went for a simple glass water jug and it’s done the trick for me!
I didn’t swap out my cling film immediately when I decided to try to move to a plastic free kitchen. For me, my main motivator was my health and I decided that if the cling film wasn’t touching my food then I was ok. I also had to think of my bank balance and I wanted to space out my plastic free purchases. However, if you think about it, cling film or plastic wrap is just as bad for the environment as plastic water bottles. Everytime you wrap something up in it, you throw it away afterwards. It can’t be recycled so it just goes straight to landfill. I decided that, regardless of whether it was ok for my health or not, I had to start doing more for the environment where I could.
Whilst it’s easy to find alternatives to cling film, such as beeswax wrap, this is not the most convenient of all the swaps on the list. Cling film neatly wraps food up and often doesn’t come apart again. The same cannot be said for the beeswax wrap. You also can’t use it to cover food in the microwave. However, there are some easy ways around this such as using your glass storage containers to both store your food and reheat in the microwave (just be careful removing them as they get hot!). You’ll also find that you don’t waste the sheets as you might with cling film as it doesn’t fold up as cling film does when you rip a bit off!
Overall this swap is one for the environmentally conscious amongst us and it has definitely helped ease my mind a bit using it.
As part of my health drive, I had been advised to drink filtered water. Whilst I do live in a country where the water is safe to drink, this was still advised by endometriosis gurus out there. For many, they prefer the taste of filtered water and I must admit I can now taste the difference when I do drink unfiltered tap water!
I looked into water filters and found that many were either entirely made of plastic or the filter itself was plastic. There are definitely some that are better than others, for example with BPA free plastic filters but I wanted to try something entirely plast free first. I looked into the various options out there and found that they were either quite expensive or huge, and I only have a small kitchen! I did find some charcoal water filters which I have been using.
These are charcoal sticks that you place in a jug of water and they absorb all of the nasties in your unfiltered tap water. I have noticed a difference in the taste of the water and they’re so easy to use. Each stick lasts for 6 months and afterwards you can use them in your bathroom to absorb any unpleasant smells! They are good value for money as you don’t have the initial outlay for the jug followed by the cost of each filter. The only downside to them is they don’t absorb anything that’s floating in the water that a typical filter might do. You also do have to buy a glass jug if you don’t have one already. Overall a good purchase though if you want to try out drinking filtered water!
I hope the above ideas have given you a good starting point on your journey to a plastic and toxic-free kitchen and life. You don’t have to change everything at once but making small changes along the way will go some way to helping both your health and the environment.