Food Storage: Rethinking Plastic
Packing lunches and snacks to go, you probably reach for the shelf of mismatched plastic containers in your kitchen. It’s convenient—maybe you even re-use disposable take-out containers. However, plastic storage containers are not the safest or most environmentally-friendly way to pack your food to go.
Many plastic containers can leach chemicals into food—especially Bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates (used for PVC), which both mimic estrogen and can impact hormone levels. Studies have shown that these chemicals can promote breast cancer cell growth and decrease sperm counts. They are especially harmful for still-developing bodies, so be cautious about packing your kids’ snacks to go in plastic.
You definitely don’t want to microwave your left-overs in plastic containers, whether using #2, #4 or #5 plastics (considered safer for food) or using the more dangerous plastics #3, #6 or #7. All plastics contain some undesirable chemicals that, when heated, can enter your food (take-out containers are the worst culprits). The more plastic is heated and cooled, the more it breaks down and leaks into your food. It’s also a good idea to wash plastic by hand in lukewarm water to avoid the release of harmful chemicals caused by contact with ultra-hot water.
Also, consider the environmental impacts: most plastic is petroleum-based, so it increases carbon emissions if incinerated (if not properly incinerated it releases a carcinogen) and becomes a carbon sink if dumped in a landfill. Additionally, producing plastic from crude oil requires much more energy per kilogram than many other materials.
If you’re looking for the convenience of popping your leftovers in the microwave without having to transfer on a dish, check out the glass alternatives below. And for a safe, stylish and easy way to pack snacks, try using stainless steel.
- Several sizes of cubes and bowls – great for kids and adults!
- Tempered glass is much stronger than regular glass, shatter-resistant and stain-proof
- Glass is BPA, PVC and phthalate free
- Fridge, freezer, microwave and dishwasher safe
- BONUS: 1% For The Planet Member who supports Fair Labor Practices
- Cost: $12 for set of 2, $19-23 for set of 4. Purchase here.
- Styles: bento boxes, lunchboxes, lunch trays
- Stainless steel is unbreakable – no risk of shattering
- BPA, PVC, petroleum and vinyl free
- Pressure-fitted lid snaps shut and packs neatly in bags
- BONUS: 1% For The Planet Member
- Cost: $25 for set of 3, $7-20 for single. Purchase here.
- Styles: snack boxes, bowls, lunch boxes, fruit holders
- Flexible, pliable and collapses to half-size
- BPA-free silicone is food-safe, hypoallergenic and bacteria-resistant
- Microwave (bottom only), dishwasher, freezer and oven safe
- Cost: $8-25. Purchase here.
- Styles: stackable 2-teir and 3-teir with handles and single containers; utensils with pouch
- Food-safe 14/1 grade stainless steel (less nickel than other food-grade stainless steel)
- BPA and phthalate free
- Bonus: Green America approved and Big Tree Carbon Committed. Made responsibly.
- Cost: Utensils: $10-13. Containers: $5-25. Purchase here.
- Styles: round nesting containers, box containers with dividers, insulated food jars
- Food grade type 304 stainless steel (BPA, lead and phthalate free)
- Lids are recyclable Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE)
- Leak proof
- Cost: $22 for set of 3, $10-17 for single (depending on size). Purchase here.