By Fredrica Syren:
As my family continues our journey towards a plastic free life, we have replaced almost all plastics in the kitchen. Food storage had been one area I struggled with at the beginning — only because I really didn’t know what I could use instead. I know how bad plastic food containers can be for your health. Many years ago when I was diagnosed with a thyroid problem, my endocrinologist told me I should try to eliminate as much plastic from my life as possible due to the dark side of plastics. (They may contain hormone-affecting chemicals.) It really made me look at how much plastic surrounds us and how hard it is to avoid completely.
Plastic contains toxins (such as BPA, the most controversial) that leach into soil, water, wildlife and our bodies. These very harmful toxins cause damage to our hormones and nervous system, and create all kinds of problems and illnesses. Research shows that since the WWII there has been a dramatic increase in breast cancer and that girls reach puberty earlier. These developments have been linked to BPA exposure.
Furthermore, when plastic ends up in a landfill, it can take 1,000 years to break down because it’s not biodegradable. During this time, it will pollute both soil and water. Even recycling plastic is not always an option because the truth is that most of it is downcycled, a process of converting waste materials or useless products (such as plastic) into new materials or products of lesser quality and reduced functionality. For example, a plastic milk carton can’t be recycled into another carton, so instead it becomes plastic lumber. After its life cycle as “lumber” is over, the plastic will end up in a landfill anyway because it cannot be recycled again.
The first thing I did was look for glass food containers I could use for storing cooked and raw leftover food in both fridge and freezer. Then I got smart and started saving old mason jars for food storage. They are perfect for freezing cooked beans in portion sizes; the large ones are great for storing soups and stews. Green-Mom’s Emma Grace wrote a great article about how you can use glass jars to make smart meals on the go.
Then I learned how to also store fresh produce in glass jars in the fridge, and I knew I had to try that. One trick to keeping carrots, celery or radishes crispy longer is to fill the jar with water and keep the veggies immersed. Lettuce, kale, Swiss chard and other green leafy veggies tend to stay fresh a longer in glass jars as well. For mushrooms, use a cloth as a top instead since they need more ventilation. What’s so great about storing produce this way is that it stays fresh longer when lots of veggies and fruit aren’t muddled together in a large produce bin. Plus it’s also easier to organize the produce and easier to find things in jars.
I love coming up with new ways to eliminate plastic from our lives, to keep my produce fresh longer, and to be able to reuse old glass jars of different sizes.