In order to better serve and protect my family, I recently took on the job of purging my kitchen. The kids have been old enough to handle breakable items rather than plastic sippy cups for a while now. More importantly, I read a book that really kicked my ass into gear, in a way that only a really good book can do. Mind you, when I say recently and getting into gear, terms that imply a short time frame, I am still operating within Tilted Mom’s time frame. Which means I decided to do this about a year ago, I sporadically did research on different items for 6 months whenever I had a few minutes and thought of it, then spent another 6 months actually purchasing new items and throwing out old ones. Slow solutions. To further clarify, when I say purchased, I mean purchased online and waited for them to be delivered, I don’t shop in stores.
Another caveat – I am not a complete zealot. Except for the produce I get from our CSA, The foods I purchase have largely been stored in plastic containers or bags for quite a while before I get my hands on them. So what’s the point spending time and money to get rid of plastics inside our home? I like the thought of minimizing my family’s exposure as much as possible once it’s in my control. Tilted Mom Guilt is running high these days thanks to my daughter’s health problems, and I will assuage it however I can.
Additionally, the ass-in-gear book I read did a particularly good job of putting effort and results into perspective. I learned that the best time to make those efforts are before my daughter hits puberty. There is a strong connection between endocrine disruptors, which mimics hormones, and early onset of puberty. Early puberty, in turn, is associated with increased risk of breast cancer. I was especially inspired to make these changes now while my daughter is still young enough for the lower exposure to the hormone mimickers in certain plastics to make a difference in her future health. I learned this and more while reviewing Breasts, A Natural and Unnatural History by Florence Williams for HEAL.
In purging my kitchen, my biggest focus was on containers that I heat, my kids’ food containers, and drinking cups. There are a plethora of online resources to dig through if you want to assess your kitchen plastic safety. Here are three of the most accessible.
The Cheat Sheet
Not As Bad;
Recycle # 1 polyethyelene terephthalate (PETE)
Recycle #2 high-density polyethylene (HDPE)
Recycle #4 low-density polyethylene (LDPE)
Recycle #5 polypropylene (PP)
Recycle 3 PVC (polyvinyl chloride) which can leach phthalates.
Recycle #6 PS (polystyrene) foam, don’t eat off that.
Reccyle #7 Polycarbonates which can leach BPA, (bisphenol-a), the hormone mimickers. (Though some safe corn based plastics are now labeled #7 too, just to confuse matters)
1. Replace plastic food storage containers with as much glass as possible.
2. Replace kids’ plastic lunch boxes with metal ones, and snack containers with fabric bags.
3. Replace kids’ melamine dishes (of questionable safety) and my stoneware (too heavy for kids and too big for dishwasher) with Correlle, which should be safe for us all and useable by all.
4. Replace plastic cups with mostly glass and a few exchanged Tervis tumblers.
1. I had a lot Pyrex containers but all the plastic lids had cracked. Turns out you can buy just the lids. So I replaced a lot of lids and now I am ready to go with glass for most of my storage. But I also kept 3 Rubbermaid containers. They went BPA free 2009, and sometimes you just need some Rubbermaid.
2. I ended up using the metal Planetboxes from Pottery Barn Kids; they are expensive, heavy and AWESOME! For years, we have used Land’s End insulated metal canteens which are also expensive, heavy, and awesome. For snack containers we really love Island Picnic snack bags, made from organic cotton and machine washable.
3. Correlle is working out wonderfully. Whew. Plus I found a really pretty pattern and now my table, when set, almost looks like a grown-up’s.
4. My real glass glasses also make my table look nice. So far the only broken one (and if it falls, it breaks on the tile floor) was my fault. I am confident will happen again. Swollen fingers are one of my chronic problems now, especially first thing in the morning when I am rushing to make breakfast, pack lunches, and handle glasses. I’ll let you know how long it takes me to break the whole set.
Because we live in FL and spend a good deal of time outside, there are many situation is which glass is truly impractical. Tervis Tumblers are awesome for those situations and as of 2011 they are now BPA free. I looked into exchanging my old tumblers for new BPA free ones and found that while the exchange is allowed within the context of a lifetime guarantee it is cumbersome, lengthy, and sometimes expensive to do. I just bought four new ones instead.
I am still working on my wrapping and bagging solution. Ziploc bags and cling wrap, which no longer contain BPA or PVC, may still leach other scary chemicals at high temperatures, just like foil wrap may leach aluminum with heat. So, in theory I could use them for cold temperature storage but with all the other non-plastic options in my kitchen, I find that I can usually avoid them completely. If something must be wrapped rather than contained, wax or parchment paper has been working well.
If at any point in this post I have sounded at all self-righteous, smug, or even organized, let me remind you it took a year to pull off these changes. It’s not like I re-decorated my home, all I did was change out some kitchen items and it took a year. I am not even that proud that I pulled it off; mainly I am relieved I can mark it off the list. But I will admit that when I look at my neatly stacked Pyrex in the refrigerator or my kids plastic free lunches I feel a bit less tilted. And that might make me a bit smug.