Challenge Day 3: Make storage sustainable

One of the easiest ways to cut down the trash you create at home is to choose reusable storage options. But, making the transition does take some investment. I’ve been slowly adding options over time.

Note: While I might highlight specific brands in this post, it’s just because I like them. No money or free products have exchanged hands.

Starting with the basics, I have a set of Pyrex glass food storage containers. While they’re on the heavier side, I vastly prefer these to plastic. They’re durable, can go in the freezer or the microwave, and they don’t absorb food smells the way plastic sometimes does. I pretty much only use these for storing leftovers and packing lunches.

Mason jarStorage jar

The classic mason jar is one of my favorite storage vessels because of how versatile they are. I use them for storing dry goods and leftover soups and stews. I pickle and ferment things and grow sprouts in them. And, of course, you can use them for canning. I have different types of lids for the different uses.

For storing dry goods (beans, rice, lentils, flour, etc.) I also really like these glass jars with a latch. They’re a bit wider and easier to scoop things out of than the mason jars. Mine are from IKEA.

IMG_2286IMG_1604To replace plastic bags and wraps, I really like these silicone storage bags. They have a wide base so you can stand them up to fill them, and they have a plastic seal that slides on and off the top. I primarily use these for storing things like cooked beans and homemade veggie broth in the freezer.

I also have these stretchy silicone discs in various sizes that can be used to wrap partially used harder vegetables like the onion pictured here, or cover a jar or bowl. I do also have some reusable fabric wraps (like Bee’s Wrap) but I find I don’t use them as much as other options.

While I have mostly purchased versatile, durable storage options that I like, I know that’s not always possible or preferable for everyone. These reusable storage options are an investment, and the idea of having to buy something new (wrapped in plastic and cardboard, of course) to reduce waste does feel like reinforcing many of the problems of our consumer culture.

Here are a few other ideas that don’t involve buying something new:

  • Try to find secondhand storage containers and mason jars. Check thrift stores or local Freecycle/Buy Nothing groups in your community for free or cheap options.
  • Reuse containers from food your purchase. Glass jars from things like pasta sauce and sturdy plastic containers from things like cottage cheese or restaurant takeout can be washed and reused to store things (don’t microwave the plastic). The reusable lids I have for my mason jars will fit many commercial glass jars as well.
  • Use the classic plate on top of a bowl method for storing leftovers. This isn’t quite as airtight as a storage container, but it will keep things in good shape for a day or two.
  • If you do use plastic storage bags, wash and reuse them, and then recycle when you’re done! Plastic food storage bags can be recycled along with plastic grocery bags — but not in your municipal recycle bin!

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