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Best Food Storage Containers for Eco-Friendly Kitchens

Updated on February 7, 2013
Marye Audet profile image

Marye Audet-White is an internationally known food writer, food editor for Texas Living, cookbook author, and food blogger.

Glass cruets for oils and flavored vinegars
Glass cruets for oils and flavored vinegars | Source

When you hear the term eco-friendly food storage what comes to mind? Reusable products like glass? Recycled plastic? There are numerous options for earth friendly food storage containers on the market today; many of them are probably in your kitchen right now.

Grandma's Kitchen Was Eco- Friendly

Grandmother and Great-Grandmother used items like mason jars and crocks for food storage. When the refrigerator came into common use glass manufacturers began making "refrigerator jars". These jars were often rectangular in shape and had a cover that slipped on top to seal in the food and keep it fresh. They came in all colors of glass and were common until the middle of the 1950s.

When the first plastic wrap was created in 1953 homemakers flocked to the stores to buy it. It was made of PVC and you could use it and throw it away, a benefit to the busy homemaker of the past.

What that homemaker didn't know was that plastics carry toxins and they last forever in the dump.

Health Concerns of Plastic and Aluminum Foil

All of that modern convenience may have come with a price. Both plastic wrap and aluminum foil may contain materials that can compromise your health.

Plastic Wrap

The New York Times reports that plastic wrap may contain polyvinyl chloride (PVC)m which has been shown to be an endocrine disruptor. This is found in cling type wraps that are used both in stores (to wrap meat and cheese) and in your home.

Endocrine disruptors change the way hormones travel through your body and the way your body responds to them. They can cause infertility, miscarriage, thyroid, and other serious health problems.

Aluminum Foil

You would think aluminum foil would be pretty safe to use but you would be wrong. Aluminum has been linked to Alzheimer's Disease.

In addition, aluminum takes a toll on the health of the environment. Lester Brown of the Earth Policy Institute reports that each ton of aluminum that is produced leaves a ton of chemicals which pollute both surface and underground water supplies. The energy used by aluminum manufacturers is roughly enough to power the entire continent of Africa.

If you love aluminum foil you can buy Reynold's Wrap recycled aluminum and then continue to recycle it.

Still, when it comes to eco-friendly food containers, glass is king.

Eco-Friendly Food Storage Containers for the 21st Century

There are two things to consider when deciding on food storage.

  • Safety –Is the product made from materials that won't leach harmful toxins into the food stored in them? Are these products safe for the environment?
  • Ability to Be Reused – Can the product be reused or recycled?

There are many choices when it comes to food storage containers and most of them are environmentally friendly to one degree or another. It is important that each person do the research and come to their own conclusions based on what they believe.

Items like Rubbermaid are good for the environment in that they can be used over and over again and will last for decades. There is concern, however, about a substance found in many plastics called BPA. BPA has been linked with many health issues in humans, including cancer. Some of the Rubbermaid products do contain this material. You can see for yourself which products do and which don't at the Rubbermaid site.

What Food Storage Should You Choose?

Although more expensive than plastics, glass and stainless steel are the best containers to store food in.

Glass Food Storage Containers

  • Glass is easy to clean and in still reasonably inexpensive.
  • When tightly sealed it protects the food within it from picking up odors from other foods.
  • It is easy to recycle if it breaks.
  • It doesn’t stain or hold odors
  • It can be used in the microwave.

Although glass has many excellent qualities it does break and chip easily.

Stainless Steel

  • Stainless steel is easy to clean
  • It keeps foods fresh
  • It doesn’t break
  • It doesn’t stain or hold odors
  • It helps keep warm foods warm

Where to Find Eco-Friendly Food Storage Containers

While you can find most of what you are looking for at the local kitchen store there are other places to find food storage containers. Just be aware that if you are picking up the plastic type you are risking BPA exposure.

Glass Containers

Look for glass containers at the thrift shops, garage sales, and even your local Ag Extension agent. You can also find them in the classified section of the newspaper, or on eBay. The most common glass storage containers are going to be old fashioned Mason jars. These are fabulous to hold soups, stews, or leftovers in the refrigerator. They can also hold rice and other grains on the pantry shelf.

While it is important to make sure there are no chips if you are going to actually use the jar for canning, a small chip will not hurt if you are using the jar for storage.

Also look on eBay and other sites for the old fashioned refrigerator jars. These are collectible but they are still affordable. The look beautiful in the refrigerator as well.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel works well for food storage and usually lasts for a very long time. You will most likely need to pick these up at the local restaurant supply store and it will cost more than the glass option. Keep in mind that these containers are the same as what are used in the professional kitchens. They are durable and utilitarian.

The containers are generally square or rectangular in shape and come in several different sizes. Covers are usually sold separately.

Get in the Habit of Eco-Friendly Food Storage

Using eco-friendly food storage containers is easy on the environment and easy on your health. The containers will not change the flavors of the food or spill easily. While the upfront investment may be more, ultimately you will save money because of not having to replace them.

Eco-friendly food storage is good for you and for the environment.


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    • profile image

      Patti 6 years ago is another great place to find vintage refrigerator jars

    • cathstuff79 profile image

      cathstuff79 7 years ago from QLD, Australia

      Great article to raise awareness, thank you!

      We've converted to stainless steel water bottles and I have been replacing my plastic containers with glass ones that can go in the freezer, dishwasher, oven or microwave - there is no need to transfer frozen food into a different container to defrost or cook, so it cuts down on washing up too.

      The plastic containers I'm no longer using for food, will now be used to store my home-made, natural cleaning products. I don't want any un-recyclable plastic going to land fill, so I will make use of the old containers until they wear out or break. The idea is to stop buying plastic, not to waste what you already have.

    • rpalulis profile image

      rpalulis 7 years ago from NY

      I'm a huge fan of Eco-friendly food storage. I just recently learned that out local grocery stores will stop offering plastic bags at the check out. It will either be paper or bring your own. I love this!

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 7 years ago from London, UK

      Great advice and well written hub.

    • Marye Audet profile image

      Marye Audet 7 years ago from Lancaster, Texas

      Kaye, no it isn't.

    • Kaye McCulloch profile image

      Kaye McCulloch 7 years ago from Australia

      Great information. What about for freezing food? is stainless steel suitable?

    • prasetio30 profile image

      prasetio30 7 years ago from malang-indonesia

      Very inspiring hub. You remind us about the important thing in using Eco-friendly food storage. Thanks for share with us. I learn much from detail of this product. Take care!

    • HealthyHanna profile image

      HealthyHanna 7 years ago from Utah

      Hub after my own heart. A little education goes a long way. Plastics are filling up our landfills and polluting our soils. We really need to be more responsible for our environment.... inside and out.

    • chspublish profile image

      chspublish 7 years ago from Ireland

      Good article. Recently I have made some effort to switch to stainless steel where I can. It's a shame we have so much plastic about that will not be recycled or reused and will hurt the environment. However articles like this, are a clear reminder and encouragement to acquire eco friendly storage items and keep at it. Thanks for the hub.

    • brandrocker profile image

      brandrocker 7 years ago

      Nice suggestions. I strongly recommend glass and stainless steel containers. After all, you can not risk your health at any cost. Thanks for the suggestions.

    • SteveoMc profile image

      SteveoMc 7 years ago from Pacific NorthWest

      Thanks for sharing these ideas. I never really thought about it, but now I will.

    • carrie450 profile image

      carrie450 7 years ago from Winnipeg, Canada

      Thank you for these tips Marye.

    • Lita C. Malicdem profile image

      Lita C. Malicdem 7 years ago from Philippines

      The lure of the modern disposable types of food storage will diminish after your readers read this hub. It's so practically eco-friendly and with your reminder, I'm pretty sure that we will all think about it for good and do it- for the sake of our environment!

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 7 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Great information - I'm all about eco-friendly options. Its funny how our ancestors were environmentally savvy without even knowing it. Far from the use it and toss it generation we live in now.

    • K9keystrokes profile image

      India Arnold 7 years ago from Northern, California

      I really appreciate the reference to how our grandmothers were so Eco-friendly, something I had not considered before, yet so very factual. The beauty of our kitchens has been lost to some degree, with the inventions of "time saving" components. Possibly we should all slow it down a bit and take good look at what all of this time saving is doing to our world...Thought provoking and some very lovely Eco-friendly food storage selections too-boot!


    • trevzooms profile image

      trevzooms 7 years ago from Honest within myself

      Hi, I like this hub, good clear cut information.


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