8 Everyday Alternatives to Help Your Family Go Plastic-Free

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by: Lindsay Hutton
You've likely heard about Bisphenol-A (BPA) and phthalates in plastics, but do you know the effects they can have on your family's health? According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), BPA, found in many reusable water bottles, food containers, and the liners in aluminum cans, has been found to cause endocrine disruption, physical and behavior problems in children, and reproductive problems. Although the Food and Drug Administration has deemed the levels of BPA found in food and plastic products safe for humans, some scientists are now looking into whether plastics contain even more chemicals that mimic the hormone estrogen and can be harmful to your health. Phthalates, a chemical used to soften plastics, has been linked to developmental and reproductive toxicity, early puberty, asthma, cancer, and endocrine disruption. Additionally, plastics found in landfills and the ocean can leach chemicals into groundwater and contaminate water sources for humans and animals. So how can you minimize your family's exposure and lessen your impact on the environment? Try swapping out some of your everyday plastic products with these non-plastic alternatives.
Glass baby bottle with rubber nipple
Baby Bottles
Swapping out your plastic baby bottles for glass will help cut down your baby's exposure to harmful chemicals. When using glass bottles, be aware of the risk of injury they may pose to you or your baby if one is dropped or broken. Use a silicone sleeve to help prevent breakage, and regularly inspect them for cracks or chips.

If you choose to use plastic baby bottles, the American Academy of Pediatrics offers the following precautions:

  • Avoid clear plastic baby bottles or containers with the recycling number 7 and the letters "PC" imprinted on them.
  • Look for bottles that are labeled "BPA-free."
  • Use bottles made of opaque plastic and have recycle symbols with the number 2 or 5 in them.
  • Do not boil, microwave, or wash plastic bottles in the dishwasher as the heat may cause chemicals to leach.

Buy glass bottles on Amazon

Pura stainless steel sippy cup
Sippy Cups, Baby Spoons and Dishware
A study published in Environmental Health Perspectives found that most plastics designed to come in contact with food, even those labelled BPA-free, contain chemicals that have estrogenic activity (EA). The study looked at 450 plastic items and found that 70 percent released chemicals that mimicked estrogen, even before being exposed to dishwashing, microwaving, and sunlight.

To avoid exposing your child to these chemicals, use high-grade stainless steel sippy cups with silicone sip spouts for cold liquids, and stainless steel or bamboo children's utensils. Swap out disposable plastic ware for bamboo, and consider using your regular ceramic dishware for the kids, too.

Buy stainless steel sippy cups on Amazon

Buy stainless steel utensils on Amazon

Buy bamboo utensils on Amazon

Camelbak Glass Water Bottle
Water Bottles
Like your children's plastic sippy cups, plastic water bottles may contain chemicals with EA, even if they are labelled BPA-free. Replace disposable and reusable plastic water bottles with stainless steel or glass bottles with silicone sleeves. Try Camelbak or Pura.

Buy a glass water bottle on Amazon

Buy a stainless steel water bottle on Amazon

Stainless steel mixing bowls
Mixing Bowls and Food Storage
Replace your plastic mixing and food prep bowls with stainless steel or glass bowls. Get a set that comes with silicone lids so they can double as food storage. Glass mason jars can also be used to store food.

Buy stainless steel mixing bowls on Amazon

Buy glass mixing bowls on Amazon

Colorful Wooden Toy Train
Toys
Babies and toddlers love to "mouth" toys, and plastic toys have the potential to contain chemicals that have EA. The EWG recommends choosing toys that are labeled PVC- and phthalate-free. Wooden toys are natural, more durable, and better for the environment. Look for wooden toys that are made with natural glue and paint and are tested for safety.

For toys made in the USA, Maple Landmark Toys meet these criteria. Etsy is also a good place to look for eco-friendly toys, such as Little Wooden Wonders and Smiling Tree Toys.

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Lunchskins Reusable Sandwich Bags
Snack and Sandwich Bags
Over 500 billion plastic bags are used annually worldwide, and it takes 500 to 1,000 years for plastic to degrade. Additionally, some plastic sandwich and snack bags contain phthalates that can leach into foods.

Swap out plastic sandwich bags with reusable cloth bags that are made from BPA-, phthalate-, PVC- and lead-free nylon, and use a reusable lunch bag for school lunches. LunchSkins and ReUseit are a popular brands, or search Etsy for more reusable options.

Buy cloth sandwich bags on Amazon

Set of Reusable Grocery Bags
Shopping Bags
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, over 32 million tons of plastic waste are generated each year, but only 9 percent of that is recycled. Over 50 percent of plastic bags end up in landfills. Get in the habit of bringing canvas, reusable tote bags with you when you head to the grocery store.

Buy reusable grocery bags on Amazon

Plastic wrapped sliced cheese tray
Packaged Foods
Phthalates are found in plastics used for packaging foods, and can leach into the product. Look for foods prepackaged in cardboard and paper instead. If you do buy foods or beverages in plastic, avoid microwaving them in the containers.