When was the last time you took a look at how much plastic you’re using to store food in your kitchen? It’s a habit many of us don’t think twice about. We reach for single-use plastic zip-top bags when we’re packing a sandwich for lunch, toss scraps and leftovers into plastic boxes and bowls, cover casseroles with a layer of plastic cling wrap or freeze foods inside single-use plastic bags. Plastic is, most likely, everywhere in your kitchen. And it’s time to swap out all of that plastic and start using better, more eco-friendly food storage solutions.
All of the plastic we use to store food and save leftovers is something of an eco disaster. Research suggests that over 90 percent of plastics never get recycled, instead finding their way into landfills and, even worse, oceans. And plastics are made with chemicals that harm ecosystems in numerous ways.
But there’s more than just the environmental impact to think about when you’re storing leftovers or packing lunches. Reaching for plastics – whether single-use or reusable – can have a harmful effect on your health. Plastics can pose dangers for your heart health, put you at an increased risk for cancers, impair your natural immunity and wreak havoc without you even realizing their impact.
So, whether you’re working towards greener, more sustainable habits or you simply want to make your home goods better for your health, it’s time to take an inventory of your food storage solutions. If you’ve been relying on plastic wraps, sandwich bags and resealable containers for years, you’re very much due for an upgrade. Here’s how to choose food storage products that are eco-friendly and better for you.
Avoid plastic as much as possible
When you’re choosing food storage containers, the most eco-friendly approach is to avoid plastic altogether. But that’s often easier said than done.
Plastics are so prevalent today that it’s hard to find products that aren’t made out of plastic. Think the items you’re using are plastic-free? You might be surprised when you check their labels. According to research, more than half of the world’s non-fiber plastics come from plastic packaging and containers alone.
And the problem with plastic goes well beyond its chemical dangers. Plastic has become an overwhelming pollutant, with millions and millions of tons of plastic waste generated in the U.S. alone each year. In fact, the average person is responsible for roughly 300 pounds of plastic trash annually.
But there is a bit of good news (if you can call it that!). Most of the plastic waste that’s generated worldwide is from single-use plastics. So, instead of scouring your kitchen for every last piece of plastic, you can focus your efforts on reducing the amount of single-use plastics you rely on for food storage – or, even better, eliminating them completely.
To make this sustainable switch, start by taking inventory of what’s in your kitchen. Make a list of all of the items you’re using to store food items, both in your pantry and your fridge (and don’t forget the freezer, either). Then, you’ll be able to pinpoint where you can make swaps and cut back on your single-use habits.
If you’re going to use plastic storage containers, choose eco-friendly products
It’s worth noting that making individual changes to your use of plastics isn’t going to single-handedly solve the large-scale plastic waste problem. But when all of our individual changes come together collectively, we can make some meaningful change in both the prevalence of plastic products and our plastic waste problem.
And reducing your plastic usage is tough. Plastics really are everywhere, and it can be difficult to give up every single plastic food storage container in your kitchen in one go. So, if you can’t completely eliminate plastic – or need to hang onto your existing plastic storage containers – that’s totally okay. As the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) points out, there are instances in which plastics are both a reasonable and necessary choice.
Instead, focus on choosing reusable plastic containers and dropping your use of single-use products. Reusable is always better than single-use, and this is a great first step to slash both the amount of waste you’re creating daily and reduce your reliance on plastics. As the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) reports, it’s the single-use plastics that are the most problematic. Reusable products are key for both the environment and your own wallet.
Try these clean, green food storage solutions
So, what can you turn to if you’re giving up plastics? You have so many eco-friendly options! As increasingly more people are searching for cleaner, more sustainable food storage solutions, a wealth of new products have been created. And now, there’s a green alternative to everything from zip-top bags to cling wrap to sealable plastic containers.
Here’s an overview of eco-minded options that will cover all of your kitchen needs, whether you’re stashing food at home or on the go.
If you’re looking for a wealth of different size options, secure and well-sealed lids, and a food storage container that can go anywhere and handle everything, glass containers are the best choice. They’re serious workhorses – they’re safe to use in the freezer, microwave, oven and dishwasher. And unlike plastic containers, glass alternatives don’t hang onto odors or become discolored by food stains. Oh, and should they break on you, glass containers are 100 percent recyclable!
Plus, you can use glass containers for all different kinds of food storage. There are options available for storing dried goods in your pantry as well as versatile options that’ll work in the fridge or freezer as well as in your cupboard. And you’ll find glass containers in every size (including little lunchbox-friendly sizes).
One of our favorite glass food storage containers is Anyday’s microwave cookware. These colorful frosted glass containers are big enough to hold plenty of leftovers, and they’re microwave-safe (yes, even with metal on their lids!) You can pull them right out of the fridge, pop them into the microwave and set them on your dinner table.
Silicone food covers
Silicone food covers are a reusable alternative to your single-use plastic cling wrap. They’re stretchy and seal tightly, but you can pop them in your dishwasher and apply them to all kinds of different foods. Made out of food-grade silicone, these covers stretch right over your leftovers, like halves of onions, avocados, apples and other fresh produce; there are also options to place on partially-used sticks of butter, blocks of cheese and even Mason jars. Plus, you can even find silicone food covers available for bowls, bottles and more, just in case you need a lid for a glass bowl or casserole dish.
We love Food Huggers, a brand that offers a wealth of silicone food covers and covers for bowls and other glass or ceramic containers. This brand offers a lifetime guarantee for each one of its eco-friendly covers, and the products are both BPA-free and FDA-approved food safe – and you can toss them right in your dishwasher when they’re in need of a wash.
Here’s an alternative to plastic cling wrap that won’t leave you dealing with an absolute mess every time you want to cover your food: Beeswax wrappers, which are a sustainable and pliable food storage solution. These wrappers are typically cotton sheets that are coated with beeswax, which makes them both sticky and moldable in your hands. All you have to do is lay the wrapper over a dish, a piece of food or over a jar or cup. The heat of your hands will soften the beeswax, allowing you to form a well-fitted seal.
Beeswax wrappers are as easy to work with as they are eco-friendly. They’re biodegradable, versatile and often are made with sustainable ingredients. Plus, they can be reused over and over again; just rinse the wrappers under cold water and they’re good to go (and they won’t get tangled up or stick to everything but the container in question!).
Reusable silicone bags
One of the toughest single-use plastic items to give up is zip-top plastic bags. They’re convenient, they come in an array of sizes and they’re wonderfully portable. But you don’t have to say goodbye to these must-have bags – today, there are reusable silicone alternatives!
Reusable silicone storage bags are a huge helping hand in the kitchen and beyond. You can use them just like you would the single-use originals; they’ll hold liquids as well as solid foods, and they’re fridge, freezer and pantry safe. Some varieties are even microwave- and oven-safe, and many can be popped right into the dishwasher for effortless cleaning. They’re handy whether you’re storing snacks, bringing food on the go or even for keeping items organized inside your purse, backpack or car.
Our go-to pick for reusable silicone bags are Stasher Bags. Made out of food-grade silicone, these impressive bags are flexible yet highly durable, and they can be put in the dishwasher, oven, microwave and freezer, all without getting damaged. Plus, they’re available in just about every size and shape you could imagine, including tiny pocket-sized pouches for little items and standup Mega bags that hold over 100 fluid ounces.