When it comes to having a healthy kitchen, the decisions we make on a daily basis can have a big impact on our health and the health of our planet. Fortunately, there are some pretty clever products available to help you ease into a greener, healthier lifestyle. Here’s a roundup of some of EatingWell editors' favorites.
Bottled water is convenient when you’re on the go. But Americans throw away 22 billion water bottles each year. And some reusable plastic water bottles are made from polycarbonate plastics, which contain the chemical bisphenol-A (BPA), which has been linked to the development of precancerous lesions and abnormal development of reproductive systems in animals. Glass water bottles are a healthier alternative to plastic, without chemicals or any aftertaste. But what about breakage? Silicone sleeves on these Lifefactory ($21.99, lifefactory.com) and Takeya ($24.99, takeyausa.com) bottles offer protection against breakage. Bamboo Bottle (not shown, $25, bamboobottleco.com) shields the interior glass lining with sustainably harvested bamboo.
If you tied all the plastic bags used annually worldwide end to end, the chain could circle the Earth 63 times. You can keep 1,200 plastic bags out of the landfill each year by using reusable bags. Always forget your bags? It’s easy to break your disposable-bag habit by carrying one that can be folded into a pouch small enough to fit in your purse or pocket. We like ChicoBag’s rePETe line, made of 99%-recycled materials ($12.99 chicobag.com).
You’re at the fish counter, faced with a variety of choices. What’s sustainable, what’s healthy, what should you avoid? Three at-the-ready resources offer guidance:
Carry a Pocket Guide: Carl Safina's Blue Ocean Institute (blueocean.org) and Seafood Watch (seafoodwatch.org) have handy wallet-size guides for seafood and sushi that you can download or order.
Download an App: The nifty (free!) Seafood Watch App for iPhone and Android from the Monterey Bay Aquarium offers up-to-date information on sustainable seafood with a user-friendly search box for seafood and sushi. It uses your phone’s GPS to load the right regional guide for your location. If you’re worried about toxins in your fish, the “Health Note” details any health advisory information for the seafood in question. And the newest version, with Project FishMap, lets you contribute to the app by adding the names of restaurants and stores where you've found ocean-friendly seafood and locate businesses where others have found sustainable seafood. Blue Ocean Institute also has a FishPhone iPhone App.
No iPhone? Text 30644 with the word “fish” followed by a space and the seafood you are considering. In about 10 seconds you will get up-to-date information from the Blue Ocean Institute, which has facts and sustainability ratings for more than 90 species of seafood.
Photo Credit: Monterey Bay Aquarium
Food packaging generates nearly a third of the municipal solid waste in the U.S. Some manufacturers are trying to curb the trash and the more innovative companies are using "food" to do it.
Here are three examples:
Yogurt containers made from corn. Moving away from petroleum-based packaging, Stonyfield Farm uses 93 percent corn-based plastic for its multi-pack cups, reducing its carbon footprint by 2,000 tons of carbon dioxide a year. If every dairy company in the U.S. made the same switch, carbon dioxide emissions could be reduced by up to 740,000 tons a year.
Plastic packaging made from banana peels. Researchers at Universiti Sains Malaysia have created plastic packaging made from banana peels and the skins of other tropical fruits. Called Fruitplast, the packaging (which is not yet in use) is 10 percent cheaper to manufacture than petroleum-based plastic and degrades in as little as 3 to 6 months.
Chip bags made from potato peels. British potato chip maker Walkers (owned by PepsiCo) is using the potato peels from 100-percent UK-grown potatoes to develop a potato chip bag (due out on shelves within a year). It’s also running delivery trucks on biodiesel that contain 5 percent used cooking oil.
We're fans of the line of everyday kitchen tools from Preserve. These practical items—colanders, food-storage containers and cutting boards—also have an environmental purpose. They’re made with 100 percent recycled materials (both plastic and paper), are BPA- and phthalate-free and can be recycled when their useful life is over. Even better, parent company Recycline partnered with product designers Evo Design to make the Preserve items look great and help the designing process meet environmental standards.
Manufactured in the U.S. to minimize shipping, and designed with nature in mind, the red colander is strikingly similar to a strawberry and the storage containers sure do remind us of a tart green apple. Preserve kitchen products can be found at Whole Foods Market or online at preserveproducts.com; they range in price from $2.79 for a small storage container to $24.99 for a large cutting board.
A single-cup brewing system is perfect when you want a pick-me-up without brewing a whole pot of coffee. The EatingWell Test Kitchen ground, boiled, brewed and sipped to find our favorite single-cup reusable coffee makers. At first glance, the AeroPress ($29.95 at surlatable.com) looks like a mini science experiment. But after a few tries we found the process to be easy and the coffee smooth and rich without sediment or acidity. For drinking, AeroPress coffee was one of our favorites and, with just one small disposable filter, waste is minimal. The Swissgold KF 300 ($11.95 at dancinggoats.com) is a reusable 24-karat gold filter. You place it on your coffee mug, add grounds and brew right into your mug—it lets through most of the aromatic oils but not the grit. An economical single-cup cone filter holder ($3 at dancinggoats.com) works the same way. It uses size #1 disposable filters and brews a slightly more acidic cup.
The ancient Japanese tradition of packing lunch in a bento box, a decorative container with small compartments, elevates the take-along lunch. Bento lunches usually contain a wide variety of foods in artful arrangements; plus, the compartments of a bento box help control portion sizes. The Bento Box Set from Laptop Lunches is perfect for kids ($24.99, laptoplunches.com). Stackable bowls from Vivo (not shown, $19-$39, vivodirect.com) make it easy to "brown bag it"—without wasting any bags.
Which napkins are more environmentally friendly—cloth or paper? For the answer, we asked Pablo Päster, environmental consultant and columnist for treehugger.com, to calculate the impact of setting the table with a year's worth of napkins. He added up the water resources used and gas emissions produced to grow the raw materials, manufacture the napkins and (for cloth) launder them weekly.
Not So Good—Paper: 7.5 pounds of greenhouse-gas emissions* and uses 24.5 gallons of water
Good—Cotton**: 3.9 pounds of greenhouse-gas emissions and 43.3 gallons of water
Best—Linen**: 1.9 pounds of greenhouse-gas emissions and 8.9 gallons of water
*This excludes the greenhouse-gas emissions associated with the degradation of paper napkins once they go to the
**Cotton is a highly irrigated crop and uses a lot of pesticides while linen napkins are made from the more eco-friendly flax plant.
Which milk container is the most environmentally friendly? Pablo Päster, environmental consultant and columnist for TreeHugger.com, calculated the average impact of a quart of each type—cardboard, plastic, glass and aseptic cartons, a packaging method that allows milk to be stored unrefrigerated until opened. He added up the resources used to produce the milk and the container plus those used in transportation and storage from farm to producer and then to your local grocer.
Grams of greenhouse gas emissions per quart*:
*This analysis is a general view that approximates an average value rather than a value that is exact.
Research has suggested that 98 percent of Americans contain trace levels of PFCs (perfluorocarbons), chemicals that are used to repel water, grease and stains and are found in non-stick cookware and food containers. Our bodies absorb PFCs through food, our skin and via fumes from overheated pans. They're linked with liver damage, developmental problems, cancer and, according to one 2011 study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, early menopause. To reduce your exposure to PFCs in the kitchen, you can opt for cast-iron (including ceramic-coated) or stainless-steel pots and pans. When using non-stick cookware, do not cook over high heat and do use wooden or other non-metal utensils to prevent scratches.
More Ideas for a Healthy Kitchen