There are small steps we can take to dramatically reduce the plastic use in our everyday life, ultimately helping to protect our health and the planet.
The United Nations has declared the plastic pollution of our oceans “a planetary crisis.” Each year, about eight million tons of plastic waste (the equivalent of setting five garbage bags full of trash on every foot of coastline around the world) ends up in oceans our, according to National Geographic. And scientists now estimate that more than half of the world’s population might have plastic passing through their bodies, although they’re unsure what all that plastic is doing to us.
As of 2015, the United States was the largest generator of plastic packaging waste on a per-capita basis. This is a big problem because these single use plastics end up in landfills, oceans, waterways, and our environment. Most commonly plastics will eventually breakdown into smaller pieces called microplastics, but may never fully degrade in cold marine environments that lack sunlight. These toxic chemicals easily get transferred to animal tissue and eventually enter the human food chain.
From utensils, to food storage, to cleaning products – plastic has become a normal part of life. Production of plastic took off in the 1950s, and since then we have created 9.2 billion tonnes of the stuff (over 6 billion tons of that never made it to a recycling bin either…).
There are small steps we can take to dramatically reduce the use of plastic in our everyday life, ultimately helping to protect our health and the planet. Here’s how to start reducing the amount plastic use in your kitchen right now.
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5 Essentials To Help You Reduce Plastic Use In The Kitchen
1. Glass Storage Containers For Fridge, Freezer And Pantry
Glass containers with snap lock, or tight sealing, lids are essential for storing food in the fridge, freezer and pantry. Add to your collection as you get to know your food storage requirements. Using glass to store, freeze and serve food ensures food is not contaminated with nasty chemicals such as BPA, PVC and Phthalates. This is a wonderful way to help you reduce plastic use.
2. Beeswax Wraps
Beeswax wraps are naturally antibacterial and breathable. They can be used many times to wrap or cover any kind of cool food, including vegetables, fruit, cheese, sandwiches, salads, cooled casseroles and leftovers. You can even roll pastry or dough on them.
3. Glass Bottles And Jars
Glass bottles and jars are super handy for storing bulk produce, home baked snacks, leftover food, smoothies and much more. To start your collection, save and reuse jars from previous purchases, buy jars and bottles at charity stores or ask family and friends to save any unwanted jars for you. Collect jars in assorted shapes and sizes.
4. Stainless Steel Drinking Straws
Plastic drinking straws are one of the top ten items littering the world’s beaches. It’s a no brainer that we have to start refusing plastic straws! Stainless steel drinking straws won’t leach toxins into your drink. Stainless steel is recyclable, so it’s a great zero waste choice. Lessen the burden on the environment and the plastic use even further by choosing straws that come without packaging.
5. Soap Bar And Stainless Steel Dish Swisher
Many regular dish liquids come packaged in plastic bottles. Making simple changes to the way you wash up will have a positive impact on the amount of plastic waste produced in the kitchen. A great way to reduce plastic use in the kitchen is using a soap bar, along with a steel dish swisher, for a great low waste alternative. Choose a soap bar made from natural ingredients, with minimal or no packaging.
10 Ways To Store Vegetables And Fruit Without Plastic
1. Leafy Greens
Leafy greens are known for their propensity to wilt or brown quickly. To keep your greens from spoiling too soon, first remove any tight bands or ties, then rinse and dry fully before wrapping loosely in a dry tea towel and placing uncrowded in the fridge.
Kale, a hardier green, will stay crisp and full when placed in a cup of water like a bouquet in the fridge.
Main Types: Arugula, cabbage, dandelion greens, mustard greens, watercress, spinach, lettuce
2. Bulb Vegetables
Instead of plastic use, bulb vegetables should always be stored in a cool, dark, dry place with good air circulation (a.k.a. a cellar or cool pantry). A dark corner of the kitchen pantry should work too!
Main Types: Shallots, scallions, onions
You should store your tubers just like your bulb vegetables, in a cool, dark location that has good air flow. What you’re trying to avoid is your potatoes getting too much sun and greening or growing “eyes.” That’s no good! Reduce plastic use in not that hard!
Main Types: Sweet potatoes, yams, potatoes
4. Root Vegetables
Beets, carrots, and the like, tend to wilt before they mold. No one wants a soggy carrot! To store properly, cut the tops off (leaving any top on root vegetables draws moisture away from the root, making them lose firmness) and then place in an open container with a moist towel on top, or dunk in cold water every few days to rehydrate.
Main Types: Beets, carrots, radish, turnips, rutabaga
5. Fruit Vegetables
Think colorful, fleshy vegetables with soft insides! Veggies like this have a greater tendency than others to mold, thanks to their high moisture content. Only wash these vegetables right before you’re ready to eat them, as wetness will decrease your storage time.
Main Types: Bell peppers, cucumber, zucchini, okra, squash, eggplant
6. Inflorescents & Mushrooms
Inflorescent vegetables like broccoli or cauliflower should be put in an open container or wrapped with a damp towel then placed in the fridge. However, they will likely have the best flavor if used the day of! Mushrooms, on the other hand, should be stored in a paper bag in the fridge.
Main Types: Artichoke, broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms of all types
7. Soft Fleshy Fruits
Berries (often called fleshy fruits) are extremely fragile. When storing, do not stack them high but lay them out in a single layer if possible. Doing this will keep your berries from getting mushy or being crushed during storage. Eat soon after buying!
Main Types: Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries
8. Stone Fruits
Without plastic use, you still can make your fruit look so fresh and delicious! Stone fruit (a.k.a. fruit with a soft skin and pit inside) usually come with the summer heat. Apricots, plums, peaches, and avocado should be kept in a brown paper bag on the counter until ripe, then placed in the fridge when at their peak. Eat quickly afterwards! Cherries and grapes on the other hand should be stored in an airtight container without any moisture. You don’t want these to mold on you!
Main Types: Avocado, plum, apricot, peach, cherrie, mango, grapes
9. Citrus Fruit
Citrus fruits should always be stored in a cool place with good airflow (never in a container). They will stay steadily ripe for a while on the counter, as their protective outer rind keeps them from going bad too quickly. This is a wonderful way to help you reduce plastic use
Main Types: Oranges, lemons, limes, tangerines, grapefruit
Apples can be stored on a cool counter or shelf for up to two weeks. For longer storage, place them in an open cardboard box in the fridge so they stay crisp. Pears, on the other hand, should be ripened in a paper bag on the counter, then put in the fridge at their peak. Don’t let these go too long! This is a great tip for those who want to store fruit without plastic use.
Main Types: Apples, pears, quince
Melons are use usually wrapped in plastic, but now let’s reduce plastic use with this simple tip. Melons should be stored uncut on the counter and out of the sun. Once cut, simply put the slices in a container with a dry tea towel. This will soak up any leaking moisture and prevent the melon from getting too soggy. Eat quickly after cutting!
Main Types: Watermelon, casaba, honeydew, cantaloupe
Whether you’re just learning how to recycle or you’re discovering what zero waste is, cutting back on plastic use in your cookspace can help reduce your negative impact on the environment, save you money, and even protect your health. We hope you found some ideas that can help you take simple steps to reduce your dependency on plastic use in the kitchen.