Best Food Storage Containers for Eco-Friendly Kitchens
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.