Have you ever thought about going zero waste, but became overwhelmed by all the things that need to be changed? I know I have. To be honest, it isn’t realistic to go completely zero waste overnight. That’s why I believe in making small, consistent changes over time.
One of the most impactful and simple changes one can make when trying to reduce their waste is to have what I call an “on-the-go” zero waste kit.
What I mean by a zero waste kit is simply buying a few reusable items that you can carry on you at all times (or most of the time).
Being zero waste on the go is simple, effective, and of course portable.
I started out slow and first bought bamboo utensils….
Then I added a straw…
I thought that these two items were all I needed to have when I was out. But that didn’t turn out to be the case.
In fact, I’ve found that there are a few more items to have that will truly complete the zero waste lifestyle when you’re running errands, eating out, or going for a Starbucks run.
Below is a list of items that I personally find to be the most useful when leading a zero waste life. You can always put your own twist on this list to determine what best fits your own lifestyle, but these items below are what I generally find to work the best.
1. Bamboo Utensils
I carry bamboo utensils with me at all times. I keep them on my office desk or carry it in my bag. The main reason being is to avoid plastic utensils, of course.
Many people think plastic utensils are recyclable, but generally they’re not.
Plastic in general should be avoided when possible. In fact, only 6% of all plastic waste in the U.S. is recycled.
Most plastic cutlery is made out of polystyrene (expanded polystyrene = Styrofoam). Many recycling centers across the U.S. do not accept this type of plastic under any circumstances. Thus, they end up polluting our landfills and oceans.
Solution: Bamboo utensils.
You can either keep a pair in your car, purse, backpack, or at your office desk. Then, when you go out and grab a bite to eat, you don’t need to reach for those plastic utensils anymore!
However, you could simply carry a pair of your own metal utensils on you.
One of my supervisors told me that she was panicking before leaving for work because she couldn’t find her bamboo fork. It took her a little while before she realized that she could just use a fork from home! Either way works.
I like the bamboo utensils however because they usually come in a protective sleeve and they’re lightweight.
2. Reusable Straw and Straw Cleaner
I’m sure most of you have seen or heard of the video of the turtle with the straw stuck in its nose. This emotional image struck a chord with many people, and since then, the no-straw revolution has slowly been sweeping across the nation.
Although some college campuses and cities are banning plastic straws, they are still widely used to this day. In fact, Americans use nearly 400 million straws every day.
Although plastic straws are made with #5 plastic, which can be recycled, it isn’t accepted by most curbside recycling programs. Thus, they end up in our landfills and oceans way too often. As of 2017, plastic straws are the 11th most found piece of ocean trash.
Solution: Reusable straw.
The first step to combating the plastic crisis, is to reduce it in the first place. Next time you’re dining out, ask the waiter for a drink without a straw.
At other places when you’re getting food or drinks to go, you can simply say no straw and use your own reusable straw instead. Many metal straws are fairly cheap to buy and come with a straw cleaner so that it can be used and reused over and over again.
3. Reusable Cup, Mug, and/or Water Bottle
As previously stated, only 6% of plastic is actually recycled. So it’s best to cut this problem at the source and reduce your use of plastic.
Did you know that Starbucks hot cups have to go to landfill? Although they’re paper on the outside, the inside of the cups is lined with plastic, making them destined for the landfill.
Carrying a reusable coffee cup with you is another really great way to reduce your waste. I really like the YETI cups because they can be used for hot and cold drinks, whereas some other bottles can only be used for cold.
I get compliments on my white YETI travel mug allllll the time.
So next time you’re at Starbucks or any other coffee shop and you want to get a hot drink, give them your reusable coffee cup first! They’ll even give you a discount on your drink!
Keeping a reusable water bottle on hand is another great way to cut down on plastic waste. Take a pledge to not buy/use plastic water bottles and you will make a huge impact.
4. Reusable To-Go Container
The next item that I recommend keeping with you is a reusable to-go container.
I thought that I had my zero waste to-go items all set, but I soon realized that wasn’t the case. After eating some delicious Indian food one day, I decided to take my leftovers home. It was then that I realized that I had to put my food in trash. By trash I mean a Styrofoam to-go box.
It was at that moment that I told myself I would always carry a to-go container with me whenever possible.
Now I know that it may not always be possible to always have a to-go box on you, but try to find a place for it where you know you’ll be able to use it the most.
Whether that be in your office desk drawer, in your car, or simply in your kitchen cupboard. Keep it in a spot that you know is the most accessible when going out to eat.
5. Reusable Bag
Lastly, it is always a good idea to keep a reusable bag on you at all times. I simply just keep my reusable grocery bags in my car so that if I am ever out, I can just grab one from my trunk. You never know when you might need one.
If wanting to have a bag that is compact and can fit in another bag or purse, I recommend getting these foldable bags.
Another tip for reducing plastic bag use?
Tell the waiter that you don’t need a bag when they’re putting your food together and forgo the little bag on your next shopping trip.
Anyone Can Do It!
I hope that these tips have helped you out in some way.
If everyone carried a little “zero waste kit” on them, the world would be a much better place.
Once you have these items on hand, it becomes so easy to reduce your waste.
As you can see, these items are meant to replace single-use plastics, which have the most detrimental impact on our environment. But I know that this type of change can be made by anyone!
Let me know in the comments below if you have any questions or have any other zero waste tips/tricks when you’re on the go! I’d love to hear.