Going Plastic Free

It started with paint. Or whatever that stuff is that OXO GoodGrips uses to label its plastic measuring cups and spoons. One humid day, I was happily measuring flour, when I looked down to find that my thumb was now green and the formerly labeled handle was now blank. I guess I had just assumed that whatever markings were faded had come off during washing. But we don’t have a dishwasher anymore. So then I became obsessed with the idea that the paint was ending up in our food. I wrote angry letters but got NO information about the content of that paint. I did get (for free) a set of measuring cups with stainless cups and the same “grips” for handles. Which did not solve my problem AT ALL–same paint. I also got a patronizing assurance that OXO products meet safety standards in Europe, and since those are higher than any standards in the US, that was actually sort of comforting.

Being in this my-therapist-is-on-vacation-so-I’ll-obsess-over-cookware mental place means that I am now worried about everything plastic in our kitchen. Anxiety is more of a hyper, compulsive kind of thing that incites activity, if not always rational activity; obsessive-compulsive disorder is actually an anxiety disorder, although thankfully not one that I deal with. (Depression, however, did not put me in any sort of place even to write angry letters or, well, to do anything except sleep.) No, I did not throw everything plastic away. But I immediately go to Amazon to look for stainless measuring cups and spoons. Wow, were they expensive. On to etsy! There, I found some awesome and charmingly dented vintage stainless measuring cups.

Enter, Super Mom-In-Law, to the rescue! Be jealous, those of you with less awesome mothers-in-law–the day after reading about my disgust with my measuring cups and my hope to switch them out for stainless, she called me to tell me that she had found some for a good price (the woman is a magnet for a good deal). I now have two sets of nothing-but-metal measuring cups and the most awesome set of measuring spoons ever. Seriously. They fit inside spice jars and go from 1/8 tsp all the way to, get this, 1 1/2 tbsp. Little things make me oh so happy! So, the “green” things in my kitchen now include:

sifter (wood handles), measuring spoons, cups, ice cream scoop (for muffin batter--try it! no spills. less waste.)

I also LOVE these plastic free kitchen items we got as gifts, mostly wedding gifts: ceramic nesting mixing bowls from Nigella Lawson & Bliss Living, bamboo cutting board, chicken-shaped wooden cutting boards from Martha Sterwart (they were a joke, but I use them! hilarious!), stand mixer. We also have pyrex bowls, a wooden rolling pin and, my pride and joy, an all-wood drop-leaf table. It even has two drawers and the all-wood stools fit in spaces under the drawers. Our kitchen is so tiny, and it makes a huge difference. But I’m also amazed at how good it feels to roll out dough on a wood surface, sit and eat at wood and just plain have wood around. It’s nice! It’s the background to all those photos, by the way. Oh, and the “greenest” purchase I have ever made? My vintage cast iron skillet made by Le Creuset. The enamel on the outside (was it originally red or orange? it’s both, now!) is all beat up, but after a good scrub with coarse salt and one seasoning in the oven (rub pan with oil, put in oven upside down for 1 hour), it shines. The best part is that someone else did all the original seasoning for me. Tip: rust on a cast iron skillet can be easily removed with a good scrub–use coarse salt because soap will take off the oil that makes case iron an almost entirely non-stick but chemical free pan. Mine was $24, including shipping. A new Le Creuset can go for well over $150. The star of my kitchen really deserves its own photo:

Good for the planet. Good for my family. Best deal ever.

So far, so good, right? Right. But if I’m going to plan for Baby, I want to have an (almost) entirely plastic-free kitchen. And nursery. I don’t want plastic toys, teething rings or baby bottles. I don’t even want plastic food storage. That’s right, I want glass baby bottles. Is this necessary? Depends on who you ask. Why do I want it? I am the kind of person who will end up thinking “plastic is toxic, plastic is toxic” every time I go to heat up a baby bottle or send a lunch to preschool, knowing the food will be warmed in a plastic container. The toxins in plastic (BPA and many, many others) get released when the plastic is damaged, and, often, heating it up is enough to damage it. The regulations in the US are just not good enough. “Phthalates are common in soft plastics, like baby teethers and bath toys, and can affect the endocrine, immune and reproductive systems.” (Read more about safe feeding products at the hilariously named Granola Babies.) And if you think I’m crazy, then you haven’t read the blog posts out there about how truly terrible it must be that breast milk is pumped through plastic tubes, stored in plastic bags in the freezer and warmed in plastic bottles. This is not, in the scheme of things, high on my list of the truly terrible. If I pump, I’ll see if we can afford a green option. I’m not that deep into this research yet. But I assure you, I am not even close to the crazy end of this particular spectrum.

This is a breast pump from the 1830s. Plastic and rubber free? Yes. But would YOU use it? I looks like a medieval torture device! And probably felt like one, too.

As my mother pointed out, some things must be plastic: nipples/tops for the baby bottles, lids for the glass containers, the baby-proofing cabinet locks and outlet covers, the shower curtain. Even the glass baby bottles have silicone “protectors” (although I’m not sure what they’re protecting–maybe they prevent the bottle from slipping?). Plastic is part of modern life, and it’s a great invention. As I mentioned before, I LOVE my BPA-free, built-in-filter Water Bobble. The idea, here, is to keep it away from my food as much as possible, especially if I’m going to keep throwing it out at the slightest scratch–talk about bad for the planet! I have no desire to go back to the days when we had cast iron but used cleaning products laced with arsenic, cyanide, mercury and any other poison you can think of. (I just read in The Poisoner’s Handbook about an entire household of servants who died because the cook forgot to rinse out a pot after polishing it. Why? The polish everyone used at that time contained cyanide as a main ingredient. She cooked the stew in cyanide. I do not long for history’s kitchens! I love my freezer!) It’s expensive, I know, but it gives me peace of mind, and it lasts a lot longer than plastic in my kitchen and a lot less long in the landfill. Glass is 100% recyclable. And for the record, I have thought about the fact that glass shatters, but assuming we don’t start throwing stuff against the wall or feed the baby from wine glasses, the food-storage-grade glass should hold up just fine.

It’s all about balance. We live in an old building with beautiful wood floors. Pro: no chemicals from icky, gross wall-to-wall carpeting. Con: God only knows what’s under the paint chipping off that radiator. So I’ll put some sort of barrier to keep Baby from the radiator and hope the kid doesn’t ingest lead from, oh, I don’t know, chewing on the walls. You can’t take care of everything–I know this because I have tried to take care of everything and went nuts in the process. I have papers to prove it. So plastic bugs me, while glass, wood and metal just feel good. What bugs you? What will you absolutely not have in your house?

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Comments

  1. says

    Actually the best bottle nipples are natural latex; playtex makes them. I used to heat the formula in a glass measuring cup, then pour it into the (toxic, toxic, toxic!) plastic bottles!

  2. Margaret Garte says

    Good for you! Ambitious goal, but worthwhile. Just so you know (for moments of weakness!), the vast majority of plastic baby feeding products (bottles, cups, utensils) are BPA free at is point. I recognize that BPA is not the only potentially dangerous toxin that plastic can contain, but it is good to know that the BPA-free “revolution” in baby products happened entirely because concerned mothers made it happen. I think the area where you might find the most trouble moving away from plastic entirely will be the transition phase from bottles to sippy/child cups, since you presumably would not want an infant/toddler to hold their own glass bottle or cup. Perhaps though, there are options that I just have no idea about! As you mentioned, it all a matter of moderation, and eliminating risks when possible and practical.

  3. says

    Glass, no, but stainless is getting to be more popular. I don’t know how big the kid would have to be to use this, but since it converts to a straw cup, it seems geared toward toddlers. Plus, it’s so cute! http://www.granolababies.com/safe-sippy-2/prod_894.html

    I’m also a big fan of letting kids use cups with no lid of any kind. (Lots of work and clean-up, but good for language development.) But again–plastic. Because everything else is either too heavy or crumples up.

    • Margaret Garte says

      Good to know about language development- I had never heard that (though I have heard the same comment made about straws)! I will try the topless cup with Jack, especially since he really enjoys his feeding independence.

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