What do you think you’re cooking?

Make your food even more sustainable

Just as the food you eat, the cookware and food storage options you choose play a significant role in your overall health. While making dinner, most people consider the associated energy consumption and whether their produce is organic or treated with pesticides, but the materials used in the actual cookware is important to ponder as well.

Most cookware is made from non-renewable metals which are “un-naturally” mined from the earth. And if you prefer non-stick pans, they are most commonly coated with Teflon. Teflon is the registered trade name for polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), a class of plastics known as fluoropolymers. The Fluoropolymers are created using perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which the EPA deemed as a carcinogen in 2005. It’s important to note that non-stick pans only contain trace amounts of PFOA, but they contribute to its significant manufacturing emission into our environment.

When you refrigerate leftovers, do you place them in plastic resealable containers similar to tupperware? If you are using a plastic container, make sure that it’s BPA-free. Bisphenol A (BPA) is a key industrial chemical used to make polycarbonate, a raw material found in hundreds of plastic household goods and other products. It has been linked to various human health concerns and issues. Better still are the Pyrex glass style containers, which feature vented lids that can be put directly into the microwave with no fear of leeching toxins into your food.


Top Tips for Cookware

  • Avoid Teflon. Several cookware manufacturers have come up with nonstick options that don’t use PTFE or PFOA. These include anodized aluminum, well-seasoned cast iron, and pans with an enamel coating.
  • All for Aluminum. This metal is very popular throughout a variety of industries and it’s thankfully 100% recyclable. Negatives include open-cast mining, significant deforestation, and metal corrosion. If you intend on using aluminum cookware opt for pots and pans which are made from recycled aluminum, and be light on the salty or acidic food to avoid corrosion.
  • Cook with stainless steel or cast iron, while benefiting your utility bill. Clearly, your stainless steel pot can’t actually run the electricity for your home, but the annual recycling associated with steel saves enough energy to power 18 million homes. This means by buying recycled steel products you are saving natural resources. If you cook with induction technology, stainless steel is your best option.

Top Tips for Containers

  • Avoid BPA. Many plastics are made with BPA, a chemical which has been long debated as a danger to your health. When purchasing a plastic container for your food, make sure that is it marked as BPA-free. It is never really recommended heat up plastic in the microwave, but by avoiding BPA you can decrease leaching into your food while heating.
  • Pyrex glass containers instead of plastic. If you are overly concerned with plastic particles possibly leaching into your food, consider a safe and sturdy alternative. The benefit of 304 food-grade stainless steel containers is their recyclability and long lifespan.
  • #1 and #2 plastics. Some local facilities do not collect plastics #3 and above for recycling. If this is your situation, make sure you purchase the containers which are specifically makers #1 or #2 for easy recycling.

When shopping, look for

  • Products made out of recycled and recyclable content.
  • Make sure your plastic containers are specifically marked BPA-Free. Another good thing to avoid is phthalates and lead.
  • Purchase pots and pans which are Teflon free.

Other Considerations

  • Hate seasoning cast iron, love even heat? Another great option to your cookware is ceramics. Ceramic enamel is very smooth and is dishwasher safe. In addition, you get the perfect distribution of heat during cooking, no more burnt or undercooked meals.
  • Wraps instead of boxes. If you are packing away some bread or snacks, considering using a fabric envelope wrap to store your food. This will completely eliminate your need for plastic wrap or foil.
  • Other cookware alternatives include glass.

Benefits…

to you and your wallet by buying a durable, yet eco-friendly product, you save money from constantly having to reinvest in cookware and containers. Honestly, how many times a year do you want to spend big money on cheap and unpractical pots and pans?

to your Health If you choose a BPA and Teflon-free option, you won’t have to worry about who is right and who is wrong in the debate over the health effects of BPA and Teflon. In addition, you can rest assured that your products are not emitting dangerous chemical into your home, thus you can maintain your clean indoor air quality.

to the Earth Those big energy savings associated with heat efficient metals translate into reduced emissions of greenhouse gases. If you purchase a product with a long life expectancy you can help conserve natural resources. In addition, if your cookware or container is 100% recyclable the carbon footprint of your lunch will be a lot smaller than the rest.


Common Mistakes

  • Too much scrubbing. Many pots and pans are heavily scrubbed after use. Consider being more gentle with your product so you can extend its lifespan. Make sure you soak the cookware and use a gentle pad to scrub off cooked on food. Harsh scrubbing may damage enamel and could release undesirable chemicals into your food.
  • Forgetting to recycle. If you invested in a stainless steel or aluminum piece of cookware make sure you recycle it appropriately after use. Aluminum, especially, is very important to recycle because 100% of it can be reused. After you clean your pots well enough to remove cooked food, you can simply place them outside with your other curbside recycling.
  • Not investing. We all know that brand new cookware and containers aren’t cheap! But instead of purchasing the cheapest product on the shelf, do your research! Invest in items that will have a reasonably long lifespan and are very effective in what they do. Buying new plastic containers for your leftovers ever few weeks because the old BPA plastic is starting to be warn down is simply not the way to go.

14 Comments

  1. joey May 5, 2010
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  3. will May 10, 2010
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  10. rstepanov@scgh.com May 12, 2010
  11. myqute July 10, 2010
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  13. sally mckinley November 8, 2012
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