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Easy being green: Wean yourself off plastics

McClatchy-Tribune Newspapers

If you'd like to reduce your family's exposure to plastics, here are 10 places to start.

1Food storage. As you can, replace plasticware with glass, porcelain or stainless steel. Until then, just be cautious in how you use plastic storage containers. Don't put plastic in the microwave, ever. Heat can break down plastic so that it leaches chemicals into food. Try not to put plastic in the dishwasher — it's too hot in there, as well — although you do have to clean the stuff. If you put it in the dishwasher, use the top rack, away from the heating element. Older plasticware tends to leach the most, so replace it first.

2Other kitchenware. For plastic glasses and sippy cups, see No. 1. There are glass, metal or wooden alternatives to plastic mixing bowls, colanders, funnels, cutting boards, spatulas and spoons. Ditto for plates and silverware. Some blenders and food processors come with glass bowls. Instead of a vinyl tablecloth, use real cloth.

3Plastic wrap and bags. There aren't as many practical alternatives to this one. Try aluminum foil. For microwaving, you can cover foods with paper towels. "I can't speak to the safety of freezing in freezer bags, but I do it because at some point you just don't have a choice," says Susan Nagel, a professor of obstetrics, gynecology and women's health at the University of Missouri.

4 Lunch stuff. Another tricky one, since you can't send your kids to school with breakable food containers. Reusable Bags has started stocking some options, including snack-size stainless-steel containers and cloth snack bags. "We've been waiting for somebody to do this," says Vincent Cobb, founder of the online store Reusable Bags. "We've been looking all over the place."

5Water bottles. Yes, Virginia, it's possible to live without a plastic water bottle. Nalgene, which pioneered the shatterproof sports bottle, is now making BPA-free polycarbonate bottles. "I'd still recommend something else," Nagel says. "Use stainless steel or glass."

6Canned foods. Many of the metal cans used for food are lined with a resin that contains BPA. Instead of canned fruits and vegetables, buy fresh or frozen. Instead of canned beans, buy dried. Look for tomatoes in glass jars, or try canning your own.

7Baby bottles and formula. Use glass baby bottles if possible. If not, several companies make BPA-free bottles. Also avoid liquid baby formula in metal cans, since the liquid can absorb high levels of BPA from the can lining. Powdered formula is a much better choice.

8Plastic toys. Remember the uproar over the news that Thomas the Tank Engine was covered in lead paint? We need to bring the same level of awareness to plastic toys. Instead, look for natural products like wood.

9Cosmetics and baby products. Phthalates are often used in bath and beauty products as carriers for fragrances. Buy unscented soaps, shampoos, lotions and baby powder instead.

10Stop buying junk. This is the most important change you can make, according to our experts. "This is really hard for Americans, me included, because we're such consumers," Nagel says. "If we can, we need to just slow that down and not buy so many products, especially those that are disposable."

Easy being green: Wean yourself off plastics 01/24/09 [Last modified: Saturday, January 24, 2009 3:31am]
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