Plastics Are Ruining my Look

From CarveWright.com
There are all sorts of good environmental reasons to cut back on plastic:  The fact that it's made from petroleum (and all ensuing complications) are the biggest ones.  Cut down on plastic consumption, and you cut down on the amount of oil you use.  There are also some scary health reasons (phthalates, DEHA, and BPA, I'm looking at YOU).  Sadly none of these have led to me cutting back on plastic touching my food.  I think I know have a reason that might, although it pains me to admit it:  aesthetics.

Yes, you read that right.  Plastic keeps my kitchen from looking suitably retro-Victorian for my taste, and so it has to go. I'm still trying to figure out exactly what that says about me as a human being.

But what should be used instead?  I honestly started out having no clue...my entire life disposable plastic has been a standby in the kitchen.  Many switches though are simple and easy...and are part of a scheduled overhaul in my kitchen.


Instead of plastic shopping bags:

Buy some reusable bags or baskets.  I got some three years ago and while they've lost the flat bit for the bottom, otherwise they're still going strong.  Because they're sturdier, the ones that are about the same size as plastic bags actually hold three plastic bags worth of groceries.  The only real difficulty is making sure they make it to the store.

Or, better yet, sew your own bags.  If you have old denim or odds and ends of fabric you love, this is a simple way to use them, even if you don't have the most sewing experience.  I've even seen totes made out of items that would otherwise be thrown away, like crocheted grocery bags or sewn together juice pouches


Instead of plastic containers for leftovers:

They even come in smoothie size.
Use glass!  A big part of what got me thinking about all of this recently was a post over at Months of Edible Celebrations where the author mentioned that blenders were designed to also fit mason jars, so that cold or room temperature items could be stored in the same container they were blended in!  This blew my mind...apparently it was a common practice 40 years ago, and here I was MOURNING the loss of my Magic Bullet in our last move--a very expensive bit of machinery to do the exact same thing I could be doing with my regular blender and some glass canning jars.  

If you have small children like I do, camp plates are also your friend.  They've been a staple in European nurseries for ages for a reason.


Instead of Sandwich Bags:

When packing lunches, there are a number of nice reusable lunch containers on the market.  I confess, I like brown paper bags best.  They can be recycled, I won't cry if they're lost or tossed instead, and they make great craft projects and incubators for pies.  As for what goes in the bag, our great grandparents would have wrapped their sandwich in wax paper.  That applies to other kitchen items, too...Alton Brown swears by storing cheese in waxed paper in the fridge.  That way the live bacteria can still breathe.

Storage: 

Glass or metal kitchen canisters have a great vintage look, and make it easier to buy in bulk.  If you can't find a good set, you can get a plain glass or ceramic set and add pretty decals.  I'm looking forward to an eventual new set, since mine are pretty hand me downs, but have seen better days.

Labels at The Project Girl
Another common staple until recently has been the breadbox.  Before plastic bags and additives kept bread fresh for days, even weeks, after it was baked, it had a fairly limited shelf life.  Breadboxes were designed to keep it as fresh as possible while keeping vermin (and/or small children) out.

There are also some ideas that can cut back on messy things headed for the trash(making it less likely you'll need plastic liners to stay sane).  For example, it is simple and easy to build a compost heap if you're lucky enough to have land.  By putting your biodegradable kitchen refuse (but not animal parts like bones) in a crock that gets dumped on the compost pile, you cut down on your trash, and add a lot of nutrition to the heap.  Even better if it's vegetables that were used for stock, since those are already partially broken-down!  Victorian kitchens also often had specialized crocks for things like a sourdough start, pickles, and sauerkraut...all of which do best at cool, but non refrigerated conditions due to their live cultures. 

One other potential problem area is plastic wrap, which I personally use everywhere.  Julie, at Towards Sustainability has written a great article on that issue, pointing to baking paper, foil, and cellophane as alternatives. 

Anyone else have other ideas to throw my way?

8 comments:

Kjerstin said...

Mason jars... in a blender... consider my mind blown.

I have to agree on the aesthetics thing. Phthalates freak me out, but even more important is that glass looks prettier and has a smooth, solid texture that's much more pleasant to use. Love it for the human foible that it is...

Jesse said...

If you haven't taken a look yet Kjerstin, her post is a wealth of information and links...including a video about how to do it properly (and safely).

~~louise~~ said...

Hi Jesse!
WOW! Some GREAT ideas here!!! I was just telling Marion that I wanted her to cut down on buying frozen veggies in microwave bags. They are just awful!!! It amazes me that since she is 91 that she even likes them.

Thank you so very much for mentioning my post. The feedback has been amazing!!!

I'm all for brown paper bags. I even requested that the grocery store replace those hard to open, environmentally damaging plastic bags in the produce aisle to be changed to brown paper bags. I guess I'm aging myself but I do remember the days when grocery shopping meant a slew of paper bags to use for book covers for the kids books. Hopefully, we saved a lot of trees, or did we?
Have you ever visited, Inger's blog, Art of Natural Living? She's in my sidebar. I'm sure she has some GREAT ideas over at her fabulous blog!!!

Thanks again, Jesse...

Jesse said...

No, I hadn't looked at hers yet, thanks!

thalassa said...

Awesome topic!!!

I have a few to add to your list!

...check out the post on making your (sheer) own produce bags for the grocery/farmers market (great for stuff like cherry tomatoes and okra): http://wisdomofthemoon.blogspot.com/2008/01/cheap-easy-fabric-produce-bags.html
Plus, you can buy a string bag (I love these-- http://www.ecobags.com/Our-Classic-String-ECOBAG ...been using the same set of 5 for the past 3 years now), or make your own from some yarn...its pretty easy, I have a couple just that are large produce item sized (for apples, onions, etc).
Another option (I've been working on a post on household hacks to replace reusables) is adding a pour spout to a jelly jar to store stuff like dishwasher detergent (http://www.mynewoldschool.com/2011/08/04/diy-free-easy-clever/) or a pump for dish/hand soap (http://apartmentfarm.wordpress.com/2011/08/11/the-banishment-of-the-soap-bottles/)...

Jesse said...

Thal, you just answered three different questions I've had since writing this post! I haven't gotten rid of everything, yet (going slow), but I stopped buying plastic bags. I had my very first, extra-special, "Oh, sh$t, what do I do with this extra chopped lettuce?!?!" moment today. I think you just solved my problem...plus those spouts are first thing on the agenda come payday.

Jesse said...

Have to add...I've never heard of Lehman's before. I'm going to need to make myself a wish list.

thalassa said...

lol, yeah...I LOVE Lehman's--dangerously, at least for the pocketbook!!

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