Like many people, I’m making a concerted stab at going greener in the kitchen. I’ve already replaced much of my plastic storage with glass, so my next step is to reduce single-use plastic by cutting down my dependence on baggies, especially for snacks and sandwiches on the go. At least four different plastic-free but baggie-like food-safe alternative materials are now readily available in many stores and online for reusable, portable food storage, making progress toward zero waste easier than ever.
This option is the heaviest but also the sturdiest and most versatile material. Bags of pure silicone can go from freezer to stove-top boiling, and they are safe for the microwave, oven, dishwasher, and backpack. The good ones are air-tight and leak-proof. Stasher products (starting at $7.99 for the palm-size pocket bag) have emerged as the gold standard of silicone bags, with a pinch-lock zip function that works like a baggie. They make slim bags, like the snack and sandwich bags, as well as stand-ups for easy fill. Jyddor’s silicone bags ($21.99 for a five-bag set) are quite a bit more affordable, but use a rigid easy slide-zip system that may not be as convenient for some.
Polyethylene vinyl acetate, a kind of non-chlorinated vinyl, is widely used for all kinds of products. Blue Avocado’s (re)zip bags (sets start at $19.99) are made out of food-safe, FDA grade PEVA (lead and BPA free) and are most like traditional baggies, transparent and lightweight for pack and go. They are durable and leakproof, with a double lock closure, and both the lay-flat and stand-up styles compress for convenient storage. Though not suitable for the microwave, they can be easily washed (even in the dishwasher’s top rack) for repeated use. The company says each bag can replace up to 300 disposable baggies per year. Kaizen Home Goods makes a very affordable set ($9.97 for a lay-flat 10 pack) that sports many of the same features (but these need hand washing) and seems to be of sturdy, high-quality material the company describes as “100% clean, toxic-free PEVA.”
Food wraps out of cloth have been used for centuries, but we’ve got better choices now than bundling a sandwich in a linen napkin. LunchSkins FDA-grade sandwich and snack bags ($10.99 for a two-bag set) are light but sturdy and dishwasher safe. Made of a lined quick-drying fabric originally made for pastry bags, they come in eye-catching patterns with sturdy zippers, and each reusable bag can replace roughly 500 plastic baggies over its usable lifetime. (Dedicated to “a life less plastic,” LunchSkins specializes in a wide range of high quality biodegradable and reusable products, from straws to shopping bags, and a portion of each purchase goes to the Oceanic Preservation Society.) Phoenix-based baby products company Bumkins also makes a variety of reusable food-safe zipper bags (starting at $8.95 for a snack-size set of two). These come in soft, durable fabrics that not only are waterproof and machine washable but totally adorable — and not just for kids! Patterns range from cartoon characters to some gorgeous watercolor-style abstracts.
Bee’s Wrap Sandwich Wrap
Though not as versatile as the zip-top bags, these little gems have great appeal. The Vermont company’s natural alternatives to plastic wrap ($6 and up) are made out of organic cotton, beeswax, jojoba oil, and tree resin. They smell delicious, easily wash clean with cold water, and are reusable for about a year. Just place your sandwich or other snack in the middle of the wrap, fold it like plastic wrap, and secure with the attached string and bee button closure. The warmth of your hand softens the wrap, which conforms to your food as it cools. Sandwiches never had it so good! (And by the way, the company’s other wraps can seal containers and nicely cover odd-shaped fruits, vegetables, and cheese to keep them naturally fresh in the fridge.)
Karen Campbell can be reached at email@example.com.