I’m the cook in the Miller house….and even more so outside the house!
I love cookouts and will invent reasons to get outside and char some meat and veggies.
I used to get through a lot of aluminum foil until I discovered it’s not as eco-friendly as I’d assumed.
So, I set out to find the best eco-friendly alternative to aluminum foil. And there turned out to be quite a few!
Some experts are now saying that aluminum foil is not only bad for the environment but also your health.
I’ll explain why in this article and give my take on it all.
I’ll also discuss some of the best eco-friendly alternatives to aluminum foil. Along with tips on how to use them in your kitchen...and beyond!
So, let’s fire up the grill and get into it!
Beeswax wraps are a great alternative to aluminum foil. They’re made of beeswax, cotton, and tree resin and work like a charm to keep food fresh.
Simply wrap your food container in the beeswax wrap and scrunch it secure. They’re also great for lining containers to be used and sandwich or picnic boxes.
You can use the wraps repeatedly (just give them a quick hand wash with cold water and eco-friendly dish soap), and they’ll quickly biodegrade on your compost heap when they reach the end of their usable life.
Made from sustainable cedar wood, cedar wraps are excellent alternatives to aluminum foil when cooking outside on the grill.
Simply wet the wraps and wrap them around the meat/fish/veggies you’re cooking.
Not only do they protect wherever you’re cooking from getting too charred, but they also give the food a subtle smoky flavor. Win-Win!
Cedar wraps are not reusable but can be cut up and tossed onto your backyard compost heap.
My favorite cedar wraps are the TrueFire Gourmet Cedar Wraps, costing $14.45 for a pack of eight.
Another excellent cookout alternative to aluminum foil is a grill basket. They’re great for charry stir fry veggies.
My favorite grill basket is this heavy-duty beauty from Grillaholics, costing $24.95.
If you use aluminum foil to cover food storage bowls and containers full of leftovers destined for the fridge or freezer, then maybe give reusable silicone lids a try. They’re fantastic alternatives to aluminum foil.
Silicone is non-toxic (when approved by the FDA and marked as ’food safe’ or ’food grade’), durable, and dishwasher safe. You can reuse them for many years.
Silicone lids come in different sizes and can cover various items, such as cans, cups, bowls, dishes, and plates.
My favorite silicone food covers are the Zefiro Reusable Silicone Lids, costing $10.99 for a pack of six.
Another great option for leftover food storage is glass containers. Alternatives to aluminum foil don’t come much better than this tried and trusted choice.
They’re odorless, don’t stain like plastic containers, and can stack, so they won’t take up much space in your fridge or freezer.
They come in various sizes and are dishwasher safe.
Another advantage of storing food in glass is that you can quickly see what food is within. This helps to avoid the accumulation of uneaten food and reduce food waste.
Most glass containers come with BPA-free plastic snap lids. Or you can use the silicone stretch lids mentioned above.
Frego makes my favorite glass containers.
A silicone baking sheet is an excellent option if you’re looking for a greener way to line and protect your baking.
They’re made of non-toxic silicone and can be reused over and over. Plus, they’re dishwasher safe, so they’re easy to keep clean.
Make sure you buy silicone baking mats approved by the FDA and made with high-quality food-safe silicone. Cheap, unregulated silicone baking sheets might leach chemicals into your food. Not good!
Also, on the subject of leaching, be sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions and don’t use them in an oven hotter than the recommended temperature (usually around 250 degrees Celsius).
My favorite is the Zefiro Silicone Baking Sheet (16 x 12 in.), costing $9.99.
Parchment paper is a good alternative for lining baking pans and protecting countertops when rolling out dough. But it’s far from perfect!
Unbleached and untreated parchment paper is good because it’s a natural product that can usually be composted once all food deposits have been removed.
However, many parchment papers have been treated with chemicals to aid their non-stick and heat-resistant properties. These often cannot be composted.
Also, parchment paper is usually only good for a single use.
So, some parchment papers are better than aluminum foil, but there are better options.
My favorite parchment paper is Reynolds Kitchens Unbleached Parchment Paper Roll which costs $5.79 for 45 square feet.
Fabric food covers are a great way to keep food fresh and free from pests without resorting to aluminum foil.
You can make your own fabric food covers from old tea towels or organic cotton t-shirts, for example, or buy them online. They come in all sizes and shapes, so you’re sure to find one that fits the food storage solution you’re trying to cover.
Simply cover the bowl, plate, dish, etc., with the fabric and secure it with string or a rubber band.
Fabric food covers can be machine washed and reused over and over again. They’ll last for years!
My favorite fabric food covers are the ones I made from my daughter’s old organic cotton bed sheets.
If you really can’t give up aluminum foil, then consider using a reusable version.
These are usually made from recycled aluminum and can be used multiple times.
They’re not perfect, as the recycling process still consumes considerable energy, but they do reduce the amount of waste you create.
Aluminum foil is made by combining bauxite ore with other substances and heating it to high temperatures to produce aluminum ingots.
Aluminum foil sheets are then produced using the ingots, which are rolled through large rollers.
This video shows the process.
One of the main concerns with aluminum foil is that it can harm your health.
However, saying that, the levels of aluminum that leach into your foods are considered safe, as highlighted in this report.
Be careful not to use aluminum foil with acidic foods such as tomatoes and citrus fruits, as these react with the aluminum and increase the levels of leaching chemicals.
Aluminum foil is also not very eco-friendly to produce.
The process of mining and refining aluminum is energy intensive (approximately 17,000 kWh of electricity is needed to produce one tonne) and produces a lot of greenhouse gasses due to the heat required to melt down the aluminum ingots.
Aluminum foil is technically recyclable, although not indefinitely.
So, if you’re using aluminum foil regularly, chances are it’s ending up in landfill, even after you’ve sorted it and put it in the recycling bin.
When in landfill, it will take around 400 years for aluminum foil to biodegrade completely.
Aluminum cookware, like aluminum foil, is generally considered safe for human health as the levels of chemicals leaching into our food are low.
So, if you’ve got aluminum cookware and you’re happy with it, there is no need to panic and replace it immediately. Buying replacement items you don’t really need is not a sustainable practice.
However, if you’re in the market for new cookware, I recommend considering options such as glass and cast iron.
When grilling outside, especially when using charcoal, you often need to protect delicate foods from the intense heat. Tin foil is great for this.
However, a more eco-friendly way of doing it is to ditch the foil and stack your food on a natural protector.
For example, place some thick lemon slices between the fish and grill when grilling salmon. Not only will they help ensure an even cook, but they’ll also add a nice citrus kick to your meal.
Thickly sliced onion under steak is also a fantastic combination.
Finally, on the subject of steak, a Himalayan salt block protects the meat and gives it a wonderful flavor.
My mum always wraps her veggies in tin foil before roasting them (especially with baked potatoes), but it’s not always necessary.
Roasting veggies uncovered in a glass roasting tray produces excellent results.
They might be a bit charred around the edges, but that’s a small price to pay for less tin foil waste. Plus…the charred edges are the tastiest part anyway!
Baked potatoes are delicious simply pricked, rubbed with olive oil and salt, and baked low and slow. Not a scrap of tin foil in sight!
If you want complete control over what is used to make your aluminum foil alternatives, you might want to make your own beeswax wrap.
This excellent YouTube video explains how to make beeswax wraps and is a great place to start.
No. According to Slate, it’s worse in pretty much every measurable metric.
I like to use a large metal pan lid (with an oven-proof handle) or unbleached, natural parchment paper.
When it comes to being eco-friendly, there are many things we can do in our everyday lives to make a difference.
One way to go green is to swap traditional aluminum foil for earth-friendly alternatives.
Many great products on the market can help you ditch aluminum foil, and I’ve covered my favorites in this article. I hope you found it helpful.
It’s worth restating that the levels of aluminum in tin foil and cookware are considered safe. Whether or not you’re comfortable with this is your own personal call.
However, it’s not just tin foil that’s responsible for adding levels of aluminum to your diet. Aluminum is everywhere, including:
So, is aluminum foil bad for the planet? Yes, definitely!
But is aluminum foil bad for your health? No, probably!
Do you get through miles of tin foil? Or have you already made the switch to more eco-friendly aluminum foil alternatives?
Do you have an alternative option I’ve not covered? Or a killer recipe for beeswax wraps? Drop me a line and let me know.