Glass technology is about 5,000 years old.(2) Despite its long history, the technology of glass manufacturing has changed very little in the past 50 centuries. Glass is the material of choice for virtually all food and drink uses. This is because glass is inert, which means it does not chemically interact with other materials. Glass is nonporous, so it does not transfer smells or flavors. This makes it ideal for food storage. The nonporous surface also makes glass extremely easy to clean and maintain. Therefore it is the healthiest material to store and protect contents from chemicals, phthalates, BPA exposure, or other contamination.
Glass is one of the most sustainable products as it is 100% recyclable, infinitely. It does not decline in quality or purity over time or biodegrade – it can always be used to make something new. Although certain glass can not be recycled directly into new glass again, the cullet (glass scraps) can still be used to make everything from tile to concrete.
What is glass and how is it made?
Glass is free of synthetic materials. It is made from simple, naturally-occurring ingredients: sand, soda ash, limestone, and cullet (glass scraps). The ingredients are heated to up to 2800°F before they are shaped into the final product and cooled into glass.(1)
Did you know?
- There are 49 glass manufacturing plants in the US.
- There are more than 80 glass recycling processors in the US. The average facility can recycle 20 tons (40,000 pounds) of glass per hour.
- Glass provides a natural barrier to temperature and bacteria, making it ideal for preserving food (think jars of jam).
Switching to glass for food prep, eating, and storage can be done in small increments, but will make a big change in the amount of toxic chemicals you are exposed to through your food and drinks. Consider all the food items that you can buy in plastic or foam containers. When possible, look for products sold in glass containers. By buying in glass, you can support companies who are taking care to package their foods or beverages in the safest material. Their dedication to their packaging shows their appreciation for their product, knowing that it will maintain freshness and not pick up smells or chemicals in transit or on the store shelf. Plus, you can save money by keeping the glass containers and using them for future plastic free food storage.
Our favorite glass food prep and storage
Mason jars are versatile classics that have been around since the mid-1800s for good reason – they can be washed and used again and again in so many ways! Whether you are preserving fresh produce, storing dry goods, or transporting a smoothie, Ball jars are a kitchen staple. There are many glass Mason jars available and they are inexpensive and easy to find. Make sure you get BPA-free Mason jar lids. Another favorite glass jar company is Weck – their glass jars (and glass lids) have unique shapes and come in a variety of sizes for different uses.
As we’ve mentioned, glass is the best food storage material because its non-porous surface does not let smells or leaks in or out. When you are looking for glass food storage, there are options available with plastic lids that will seal well for transporting in a lunchbox as well. Ideally, the food should not fill the container so much that it touches the plastic lid. Glasslock is a great brand for snap-tight lids. Pyrex is another brand with classic glass food storage, though the lids are more likely to slip off in a lunchbox. Mason jars also can be great for storing anything from soups to salad. We love the Mason jar salad trend – the possibilities are endless!
For drinks, we always recommend real glass “glasses”. Plastic cups are often used for kids because plastic is harder to break and it’s lightweight to carry around. However, glass is still the safest, healthiest option for kids and adults alike. If you’re worried about spilled glasses, try Life Factory glasses, which have a silicone sleeves that also helps prevent tipping.
Stove & Oven
Glass pots, pans, and casserole dishes are excellent alternatives to other cookware. Visions pots and pans can be used on the stove, in the oven, and, when cool, transferred to the fridge.
On the Go
Glass jars and bottles are best for transporting your coffee, tea, smoothies, or just water. There are many glass water bottles available, some of which have protective sleeves to prevent broken glass if you happen to drop them. Again, Mason jars are our go-tos for transporting smoothies to the office. We also like Bkr for water bottles; our favorite is the large liter size bottle so you can carry more at once. It’s a great reminder to drink a lot of water each day. Another great company making silicone-sleeved bottles is Life Factory. They make adult water bottles, kid-sized water bottles, and baby bottles. Dr. Brown’s has been making glass baby bottles since the 1990s that also come with silicone sleeves.
1 – Learn About Glass by Glass Packaging Institute
2 – Health Benefits of Glass by Friends of Glass
Glass is the best material to use for food prep and storage if you want to avoid chemical exposure in your foods and drinks. We went into the details of BPA in particular and how you can avoid BPA in Plastics and Coatings.
Ready to streamline your routine? Read Clare’s tricks in Safe + Simple: Tips from a Minimalist Mama.
Going on a trip? Check out our Healthy Travel Guide for our favorite travel snacks and tips for preventing sunburn, jetlag, and more!
Want another trick for improving indoor air quality? Find out why we’re loving Himalayan Pink Salt Lamps!
Keep reading about chemicals to avoid in your home: Common Chemicals to Avoid – A Branch Basics Series.