Great Eco-Friendly Gift Ideas For You, Your Home & Kitchen | 11 Gifts

Here are eleven eco-friendly gift ideas that I’m using in a gift basket. These eco-friendly gift ideas are for the home and kitchen and they are appropriate for anyone.

Gifts
Eco-Friendly Gifts

This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see my Affiliate Disclosure in the legal page link in the footer for further information. If not otherwise stated, all prices are intended in Canadian$.

Oct. 30, 2020 by Deborah Esplin

Eco-Friendly Gift Ideas – Food Storage Solutions

Debbie Meyer Green Boxes

Debbie Meyer Green Boxes are food storage boxes created to improve the storage time of produce, fruits, vegetables, and some staples like bread. They work. They keep foods fresh longer, are washable in the dishwasher and are well-made and durable.

They come in a set of sixteen boxes in three different sizes with lids. They are food-grade, BPA-free, and safe for the microwave and the fridge as well as the dishwasher.

Stasher Stand-Up Bags

Stasher Stand-Up Bags are made of food-grade silicone. They hold up to 56 ounces and can be put in the dishwasher, the freezer, the microwave, boiling water, and the oven up to 400 F. This model has a large bottom and a ziplock lid so it makes a great storage solution for food and can be used for cooking. The Stasher bags are very durable and reusable and make great containers to store, carry, or cook food.

They come in Clear or Aqua.

Collapsible Silicone Containers

Collapsible Silicone Containers are a great food storage solution. They collapse so they take very little space to store, but when opened increase in size by three-fold and can hold a lot of food.

These ones come in a set of four and they are safe for the dishwasher. freezer and microwave and are PBA-free. They have snap-lock lids so they are also leak-proof and air-tight. They make a great storage solution.

Roll-Up Silicone Bag

Roll-Up Silicone Bags are very useful as they can be rolled up for storage and take very little space. They are made of food-grade silicone, they are PBA-free and can be used for freezing, microwaving, sous-vide cooking, marinating, and cooking up to 260 C. They are leak-proof, hold 1000 mL (4 cups), and can also be used as lunch bags. Useful and easy-to-wash.

They come as a set of three bags.

Check out the companion video here:

Ziplock Silicone Storage Bags

Ziplock Silicone Storage Bags are so useful and the ziplock closure makes them leak-proof as well. These bags are PBA-free and come with twelve silicone storage lids, in four sizes, that you can use instead of plastic wrap. The set includes six bags and twelve lids.

Silicone Storage Lids

Silicone Storage Lids in a set of twelve lids of six different sizes. If you just want the lids then here is a great option. They are stretchable, washable, and eliminate the need for disposable plastic wrap.

PEVA Reusable Food Storage Bags

PEVA Reusable Food Storage Bags are made of PBA-free PEVA material and are washable and reusable. They come with a ziplock closure so they are leakproof. This is a set of twelve bags in three different sizes.

Silicone Storage Bags with Slide Lid

Silicone Storage Bags with Slide Lid are another option for silicone storage bags. These bags hold 1000 mL (4 cups), are PBA-free, and come in a set of four bags. They can be put in the freezer, microwave, dishwasher, and fridge. With the slide-closing lid they are also leak-proof.

Debbie Meyer Green Bags

Debbie Meyer Green Bags are a good choice for storing produce, fruits, and vegetables.  They are PBA-free. They are washable up to 200 times and help food stay fresh longer. They come in a set of twenty bags of three different sizes. Make sure to only rinse them with water, not soap.

Net Bags

Net Bags are a great choice for a gift. With net bags, you no longer need to use the plastic bags at the grocery store to protect your fruits, vegetables, and produce. Plus they are just generally really useful. You can use them to store and carry all kinds of items. They are inexpensive and can be washed. This is a set of twelve in three different sizes.

There are many brands but this brand of net bags comes with the weight of the bag on a tag sewed into the seam so that your grocer can remove the weight of the bag from the weight of the product for items that are purchased by weight. This is a set of 10.

Eco-Friendly Gift Ideas – Laundry Solutions

Tru Earth Laundry Strips

Tru Earth Laundry Strips are an eco-friendly solution instead of laundry liquid or crystals that come in plastic containers. The plastic containers can often be recycled but much of our recyclable plastic ends up in landfills. Tru Earth laundry stips come in a cardboard envelope that can be recycled. They come in different packaging quantities and there are three types:

Tru Earth Fragrance-Free Laundry Strips

Tru Earth Fresh Linen Laundry Strips

Tru Earth Baby Laundry Strips

Tru Earth Wool Dryer Balls

Tru Earth Wool Dryer Balls are a way to reduce the static cling of your clothes in the dryer thus preventing them from sticking to each other. With these dryer balls, you no longer need to use anti-static dryer sheets which can not be recycled and may not be healthy for the home. Plus the wool dryer balls bounce around and cause your clothes to move better in the rotating drum so that your clothes dry faster. Wool dryer balls generally cut your dryer time by 10 to 25 percent. And they can be reused for years.

I have been using all of these products for at least three months, some for six months and I am impressed with their reliability and performance.

Check out posts on other topics here: Blog Table of Contents.

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Please comment. I would love to know what you think.


 

 

 

How To Know If Your Silicone Products Are Safe And Good For Food

This is part of a series on How To Reduce Your Use of Plastic in the Home

Sept. 1, 2020  Deborah Esplin

Do you know if your silicone products are safe and good for food storage? Do you know what silicone is and what are the advantages and disadvantages? Do you know how to test your silicone to see if it is pure and good to use with food? Can silicone be recycled? Do you know how silicone is made? These questions and more are answered in this blog post with 8 tips and answers around whether silicone bags are a good replacement for disposable plastic.

Silicone storage

What Is Silicone?

Silicon is an element in the Periodic Table. Silica is an oxide of silicon and is very abundant in the world and it is most often found in nature as quartz or sand. Silicone is made from carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and silicon.

The silica is extracted and made into silicon and then mixed with the other ingredients to make silicone. The direct materials that go into making silicone are all renewable resources, but the manufacturing process is multi-stage requires the use of high-heat furnaces that are fueled by fossil fuels. So the manufacturing of silicone is not 100% eco-friendly.

Silicone is sometimes called rubber or synthetic rubber, but it is not natural rubber. Silicone is also sometimes called plastic, but it is not plastic as it is not made from fossil fuels. Depending on whom you ask, it may be called rubber or plastic and sometimes an elastomer, but it is actually a polymer that behaves like rubber and like plastic.  Silicone research has a long history and has slowly become more and more common as more types and uses for silicone are invented. It was the material used in 1969 for the sole of the boots worn by Neil Armstrong when he walked on the moon.

In the 1980s the first silicone cooking tools were invented; spatulas. Over time silicone bakeware, storage ware, and other products for food and kitchen use were invented. Silicone storage bags are a fairly recent addition to the lineup.

Is silicone safe?

Is silicone safe to be used with food and in contact with food? Both the US and Canadian governments recognize food-grade silicone as safe for contact and use with food. Generally, silicone is considered to be chemically inert, which means that it will not react with foods and not leach chemicals into the food.

However, there have been some studies that have found that silicone may leach certain compounds when it has been in contact with alcohol. One study found that soaking silicone baby bottles nipples in milk for 6 hours did not cause any leaching however soaking silicone in alcohol after 72 hours did cause some leaching of chemicals called siloxanes.

However, who is going to soak their silicone in alcohol? The European Union considers some siloxanes to be endocrine disrupters, however, Health Canada says that the siloxanes from silicone may have an effect on the natural environment but are not considered to be a threat to human health.

The most important thing is that you should only buy food grade or medical grade silicone to use with food and that you follow the instructions for that product. Silicone products can generally be used for cooking, baking, storing, and, freezing but they do have temperature limits and those limits can vary with the manufacturer so it is important to follow the recommendations for each product.

Is silicone durable?

Silicone is very durable. We do not yet know how long it lasts for but it has a long lifespan. Many silicone products can be put in the dishwasher but not all. It is important to respect the recommendations of the manufacturer to get the longest use out of your silicone. For use with food as an alternative storage solution to plastic and as a cutting mat, silicone should be safe and last a long time.

Can silicone be recycled?

Yes, silicone can be completely recycled, but you may not find a recycling facility in your area. Most municipal recycling programs do not take silicone. However, some manufacturers will take their products back, but not all. That is something that you could check when you buy the products.

There is also TerraCycle which is a program in Canada and some other countries around the world where you can send back many materials, including silicone for recycling. However, there is a cost to this. TerraCycle does have some free recycling programs, but they do not yet a free program for silicone. They accept the material, but you must pay to send it to them. As a group or community, people could share the cost and send their silicone back to TerraCycle.

If silicone does end up in a landfill, like plastic it does not biodegrade like plastic and it is less likely to leach harmful chemicals into the environment, like plastic. Silicone is less likely to break down into small pieces that are then eaten by birds, animals, and sea life.

You Can Repurpose Your Silicone

There is no reason to send silicone to landfill. Send it to TerraCycle or repurpose it. When your silicone products do reach the end of their lifespan they can be repurposed. They can be cut into potholders, used under hot pots to protect counters and tables, used as jar openers, used to make spacers in potted plants, used to stop pipes from banging, used to fill mouse holes, and used for many other common household purposes. There are many uses of silicone once it no longer performs as intended. There are videos and articles that describe uses for silicone so there is no reason to send it to a landfill.

Other Advantages of Silicone

Using silicone storage wear will cut your use of disposable plastic. Silicone does not support the growth of microorganisms and has a very low air transfer rate so generally silicone keeps food fresh and prevents freezer burn (see my video of Sept. 8, 2020, with the results of the testing of different foods stored in plastic and silicone). Silicone does not break or crack and most products are water-tight and do not leak.

How To Test The Quality Of Your Silicone?

Food and medical-grade silicone should not have fillers as these fillers can leach chemicals into the food. You should always look for products that say food-grade, medical-grade, or approved for food-contact on them. You can also test the quality of your silicone with this method.

    • Pinch and twist one of the flat surfaces. If you see any white then there are fillers in the product and it should not be used with food. Instead, you could use that product to store crayons, jewelry, or other objects that will not be consumed as food or medicine.

Summary

Silicone is generally considered safe for food storage but it is important to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. Buy only food or medical grade silicone and do not send it to landfills at the end of its life.

In my opinion, the benefits of silicone, as a replacement for using plastic wrap and plastic bags for food storage, are greater than the possible risks of using silicone. Disposable plastic in landfill poses a much greater risk to our health then silicone. See my video from  August 28, 2020,

that describes the risks around disposable plastic in landfills and the very low recycling rate.

Check out the previous blog post that describes the risks of plastic in the environment, Why You Should Get Plastic Out of the Kitchen with 5 Tips.

Check out posts on other topics here: Blog Table of Contents.

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Comments are welcome. I would love to know what you think.


 

Why You Should Get Plastic Out of the Kitchen with 5 Tips

This is part of a series on How To Reduce Your Use of Plastic in the Home

Aug. 25, 2020  Deborah Esplin

plastic waste
Plastic waste

This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see my Affiliate Disclosure in the legal page link in the footer for further information. If not otherwise stated, all prices are intended in Canadian$.

Why you should get plastic out of the kitchen

Wake Up Canada. We have a plastic waste crisis and we need to get disposable plastic out of our kitchens.

We produce more waste per capita than any other country

This blog looks at the quantity of waste we produce, why so little plastic gets recycled and gives you 5 Tips to Reduce Your Use of Disposable Plastic.

We need to get disposable plastic out of our kitchens

This is the first in a series of videos on reducing our waste and alternatives to single-use plastic in the kitchen and in your life.

More waste to landfill per capita than any other country

Are you ready people of Canada? This is not good. We produce the most waste to landfill per capita of any country in the world. As a Canadian, I am not proud of that.

3.3 million tons of plastic waste is produced in Canada according to Oceana Canada study released on Oct. 25, 2019.

2.8 million tons of plastic waste goes to landfill. That is 86% goes to landfill, while 9% is recycled, and 5% is incinerated. That is a very low recycling rate, but we are right in line with the rest of the world.

According to National Geographic in 2018, the world average is that 91% of plastic waste is not recycled. So we do not need to feel so bad, Canada, as we are not alone in having a very low recycling rate for plastic, but we still need to fix this problem. We are in a plastic waste crisis. See the two examples below as examples of types of plastic waste.

57 million plastic straws per day

In Canada, we use 57 million plastic straws every day, according to the Oceana Canada study. Most of this plastic is single-use and it can not be recycled. The Trudeau government is planning to ban the use of plastic straws among other items, but the implementation has been delayed because of the pandemic.

According to Worldometer, our population is just about 38 million. That means more than 1 straw per day per person is being used. This makes me wonder if this statistic is right? Oceana Canada is a very reputable non-profit group and I trust their information. However, there is another article that looks into the origin of this figure and questions if it is not too high. Even if we use less than 57 million straws per day, our use of disposable plastic straws, that can not be recycled, is too high.

15 billion plastic bags per year

According to the Oceana Canada study, we send 15 billion plastic bags per year to waste. The sad fact is that many of these plastic bags can be recycled, but they are going to waste.

Why does most plastic go to landfill?

Why is only 9% of plastic waste recycled? Even though most major cities in Canada have municipal recycling, that includes various types and amounts of plastic (it varies across the country), most of the plastic goes to landfill. I know in my area, Montreal, grocery bags can be put into the municipal recycling programs. But?

Dirty plastic can’t be recycled

For one thing, not all plastic can be recycled. Dirty plastic can not be recycled. (Check out the previous link for more information.) If there is any kind of food waste or residue on the plastic, it can’t be recycled.

Composite plastic can not be recycled

What is composite plastic? It is plastic layered and bonded with any other material like paper, metal, wax, or cardboard. Many of our common and useful items are made from composite plastic. For example, potato chip bags are made of layers of metal and plastic and can not be recycled in normal recycling programs. Disposable coffee cups are also made of composite materials and can not be recycled. Many food take-out containers, frozen-food containers, and other types of containers are made of composite materials and can not be recycled.

There are ways to recycle composite materials, but specialized machines are required according to a National Geographic article.

Inks and Glues contaminate plastic

The inks and glues that are used in many products to make them look attractive and to bond the layers of material together also contaminate the plastic making it harder for the plastic to be recycled.

There must be a market for recycled plastic

There has to be a market for recycled plastic. Recycling companies are businesses and they need to make a profit. They need to be able to sell their recycling material output. If there are not enough businesses that need the resin or materials produced through recycling, then the recycling companies will not recycle. This is one of the big reasons why so little plastic waste is recycled.

Plastic can only be recycled 2 or 3 times

The National Geographic article from April 4, 2018, describes why plastic has limitations in terms of recycling. What makes plastic plyable is that it is made of long-chain polymers. Each time plastic is recycled, the chains get shorter. After two or three times, the plastic can no longer be recycled.

This is also another reason why recycled plastic has a limited market. The shorter chains are less useful as a raw material to the companies producing plastic items. If they use recycled plastic, they will only use a small amount. Most of the raw material will be virgin plastic resin because they get a better finished product that way. Using too much of recycled plastic content in a finished product reduces quality and durability.

This article in the U.S. National Library of Medicine describes some of the challenges of recycling. There are uses for recycled plastic, even of lower quality, but the system is market-driven so demand drives supply.

12% of Canada’s plastic waste is shipped overseas

12% of Canada’s plastic waste is shipped overseas for recycling which can mean incineration or sitting in a pile somewhere polluting some other country on the planet. However, the number of countries that will take our waste is decreasing. All countries in the world are facing this problem and some of them no longer want us to export our problem to their land, air, and water. (Check out the Marketplace article on this in the previous link.)

Countries that used to take some of our overflow plastic waste, no longer want it according to this article from The Globe and Mail, May 15, 2019. Our plastic waste is piling up.

More numbers on our waste management

Canada scores 8th in the world for total waste management and the USA scores 12th out of 195 countries in the world. The higher the score, the worse the overall waste management according to the Global Waste Index for 2019. This ranking scores the worst 36 countries in the world.

Plastics are made from fossil fuels

Plastics are made from fossil fuels so they are made from and require the use of non-renewable resources.

8 million tons of plastic waste ends up in the ocean annually

According to National Geographic magazine 8 million tons of plastic waste ends up in the ocean every year and this is increasing every year. As well, the article states that 80% of this ocean plastic comes from landfills. It was not directly dumped into the ocean.

Even if our plastics go to the landfill, they end up in water, rivers, and eventually in the ocean. In the ocean, they spread around the world, pollute everywhere and sicken our ocean life.

Plastic takes centuries to break down

According to the National Geographic article just referenced above, it can 400 or more years for plastic to break down. We don’t really know how long it takes. Some scientists estimate up to 1000 years. During this time, the plastic is breaking down and leaching chemicals into the soil and the water. These chemicals are poisoning animals, sea life, birds, water, food, and us.

As well, while plastic breaks down, it breaks into little pieces that are eaten by marine life, animals, and birds. This plastic material makes these animals sick. We are poisoning our planet with plastic. We are polluting our land, our water, the oceans, the animals, bird, sea life, and ourselves.

Hormone disrupters and carcinogens

Some of the chemicals in plastics are hormone disrupters and carcinogenic. This medical journal, The Journal of Carcinogenesis, discusses the carcinogenic potential of PVC, polyvinyl chloride, to cause cancer. PVC is a known carcinogen and is one of the most common plastics manufactured today.

As well, some of the chemicals in some plastics are hormone disrupters. Hormone disrupters cause havoc with our endocrine system and are linked to health problems. One of the hormone-disrupting chemicals is BPA and that is why many plastics, especially those we use to hold food or water, say they are BPA-free. And it is an important piece of information to look for when you are buying plastic products for food or water. There are serious health effects linked to the chemicals in plastic. BPA is just one of several. Check out this link to see more. We are polluting our food and ourselves. It has to stop.

Clearly recycling isn’t the sole answer

I can hear the shouting from across the country. I have reusable shopping bags, I reuse the produce bags from the store, I recycle my bags when I’m done with them. I know. In my area, plastic stretch wrap is not accepted, while grocery bags are. We are all trying, but it is not enough. With 9% of plastic waste being recycled, it’s clear that recycling is not the only answer. It is part of the solution, but it is not enough.

We have to turn off the tap

How do we do that? By cutting our purchase and use of single-use, disposable plastic. We need to find alternatives to this plastic and stop using it. That is not an easy request as disposable plastic is so useful and convenient. But we have to try. Together. We have to do this together and here are 5 tips to start from various sources but mainly from the Green Education Foundation.

TIP 1 – Some restaurants are starting to allow people to bring their own reusable, washable coffee cups. Invest in an unbreakable coffee cup with lid and take it with you. Here are three suggestions for insulated coffee mugs from Amazon. (Please see my affiliate disclosure in the legal link at the bottom of this page. Please also note that these links are to Amazon Canada.)

COFFEE MUGS

Contigo Autoseal Stainless Steel Coffee Mug 16 oz.

Ello Cole Vacuum-Insulated Stainless Steel Travel Mug

Sivaphe 12 oz. Tumbler Insulated Stainless Steel 

TIP 2 – Bring your own reusable, washable straw with you and put it in your lunchbox. Get one for every member of your family and always have it with you. There are three kinds of reusable straws: silicone, stainless steel, and glass. Some people do not like silicone straws, but they have the advantage of being flexible, inert, and will not transfer heat or cold. If you do buy silicone make sure that it is food or medical grade silicone. Metal straws are good, but not for hot or really cold drinks as they get very hot or cold to the touch. The glass straws are made of unbreakable glass so they are a good option as well. Glass straws will transfer some heat or cold, but less than metal. Here are some products from Amazon of each kind of straws that I feel are good value for the money.

REUSABLE STRAWS

ALINK Reusable silicone straws set of 10

Antonki 100% reusable stainless steel metal straws, set of 9

Alink Clear Glass Straws, set of 4

TIP 3 – Give up gum. It is made of plastic. Yes, according to this article from the UK, most gum contains plastic or other surprising materials and these materials are approved by the FDA. Whether the gum goes into your gut or into landfills from your garbage, it is more plastic entering our bodies and our landfills.

  1. TIP 4 – Buy products in boxes instead of plastic bottles. This is a hard one as so many of the products that we buy are packed in plastic containers. As much as possible, try to buy your products in cardboard, glass or metal packaging.

TIP 5 – Buy in bulk. This way you are avoiding any kind of packaging especially if you bring your own containers from home.

In the next blog post, I will look at silicone. What is it? Is it a good option for food storage? This series will continue for a few blog posts, looking at other options that you can use for storing your food instead of plastic wrap and disposable plastic bags.

I need your help, Together we can do this

Are you ready to take action? Join my Facebook group, Reduce Plastic Use Challenge, where we share information and the success and frustrations of trying to cut the use of disposable plastic in the home. Together we can do this but alone we can not.

Go to my Blog page to see my list of blog posts. There may be other articles that you want to read listed on the page.

Here is the video companion to this article. Check it out.

 

Check out posts on other topics here: Blog Table of Contents.

Join my monthly newsletter to get new posts in your mailbox and access to the recipe cards and tip sheets.

Comments are welcome. I would love to know what you think.