Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Ban Plastic from the Kitchen

The modern kitchen is full of plastic. What would we do without plastic containers, plastic cling wrap, plastic utensils for our parties, plastic dishes, plastic cups, plastic spatulas, and more?

The problem with all this plastic is that it is made with chemicals. Chemicals that can leach into our beverages and our food. Chemicals that end up in our bodies, where it accumulates and causes health problems. Chemicals that end up in our unborn children.

Some of the reported health hazards include reproductive defects, premature delivery (up 23% since 1980), lowered sperm counts (down 40% since 1945), and early onset puberty.

Two of the most common "bad boys" of the plastic industry are PVC (polyvinyl chloride - a hard plastic) and phthalates, a group of substances added to PVC to make it softer and more pliable. In fact, phthalates are among the most common contaminants found in the human body. Another common chemical found in the kitchen is bisphenol-A, which is the main ingredient in hard plastic used in baby bottles, drinking water bottles, and plastic storage containers. Bisphenol-A is in the list of the top 50 chemicals, measured by production volume.

Here are some steps that you can take to decrease your family's exposure to these chemicals.

- never heat foods or beverages in plastic containers; it is so easy to put a "microwaveable" plastic container into the microwave; don't do it

- avoid plastic cling wrap products; most have phthalates in them

- avoid containers with PVC in them; if there is a "3" in the recycling triangle, get rid of it

- use glass or stainless steel drinking containers

- use ceramic or enamel plates

- use metal feeding utensils and metal kitchen tools

- do not store food or beverages in plastic containers, especially if the food item is acidic

- if you must use plastic, do not wash it in a dishwasher or use harsh detergents on it

It is interesting to note that in 2005 the European Union banned some commonly used chemicals of the phthalate family from use in toys. One commissioner was quoted as saying, "Toxic chemicals have no place in children's toys". Yet we continue to allow them in our food and beverage containers.

In North America, San Francisco instituted a ban in December 2006, although implementation has been delayed by a law suit. The ban covers biphenol-A and certain phthalates. This is commendable, but society needs more than city wide bans.

While we wait for our governments to realize the dangers, consider a personal ban. Can you make your kitchen plastic free?

Keeping Your Kitchen Sparkling Clean

A squeaky clean kitchen is not always easy to achieve, but the results can help give you a refreshed perspective on your home and family. Plus maintaining a clean kitchen doesn't have to keep you trapped inside a pit of despair every moment of the day. Here are a few steps that can help you keep a brighter, more sparkling kitchen in the shortest amount of time possible.

1. The first step in a clean, organized kitchen is to have a place for everything, and then to have everything in its place. If you have items that just lie out on your counters, make it a point to find a specific home for them (besides right out on the counter - that is). You should be able to look at your counter and KNOW that every item has a specific home.

2. The next step in keeping up with your clean kitchen is to reduce the amount of excess mess and clutter. Make a note of any clutter "problem" spots, and then take a quick minute (every day) to clear away those specific areas.

Another tip for keeping a cleaner kitchen is to create an organized "to do" center in one corner of the kitchen. In this area you want to place your mail, your keys, and any immediate to do lists you need to accomplish within the next 48-72 hours. You want to design this area so that it is attractive and doesn't look like it's full of clutter. You might even design it so that you can move it, or cover it quickly, in case company drops in unannounced.

3. The kitchen sink is undoubtedly one of the hardest spots to keep maintained. A great goal is to keep the sink clean and free of dishes everyday. Try and throw as many dishes in the dishwasher at the end of the night, as you can. Then run the washer. After you empty the sink, take thirty seconds to scrub the sink. If you clean the sink until it sparkles, it tends to inspire you to keep the rest of the kitchen cleaner.

4. The refrigerator is another pesky trouble spot that many of us hate to clean. A great plan is to try and go through the fridge one time every week and get rid of anything that is out-of-date. Another quick option for keeping the fridge clean is to use liners for your refrigerator shelves. You can remove them quickly and this will cut your wiping time down.

5. Finally, a great idea is to take two minutes every day to sweep the kitchen floor. Getting those nasty, crunchy crumbs and other messes out from under your feet will go a long way in keeping your motivated to do a thorough mop every once in a while.

So these are just a couple of quick steps you can use to keep your kitchen clean and enjoyable on a daily basis. Of course you need a detailed battle plan to really maintain your kitchen the way you want. But don't give up on your goal of a clean kitchen, if you can make the decision to spend just a couple of minutes every day doing these, you will have more satisfaction and enjoyment in one of the most used rooms in your home.