Wait, what is Zero Waste? Read my Zero Waste page here
Since starting my journey to reduce my waste a little over two months ago, I’ve come across several items that have really helped me prevent the need for single use, disposable plastic items. Everyone’s needs are different, however, and before making any changes, it’s important to consider a few points:
- Assess your needs. This is the number one magic tip that I wish someone had told me sooner. Success on a zero waste lifestyle is about assessing what you actually use and throw away, and then working personalised solutions into your everyday life, rather than following what others are doing. For instance, what might seem like an absolutely necessary item for a busy, city-dwelling office worker (e.g., a reusable coffee cup!) might be totally unnecessary for you if you never buy hot drinks on the go, don’t go to cafes often or simply don’t like coffee! Before you buy a ton of new fancy items, ultimately creating MORE waste, think carefully about what you actually use.
2. Use what you already have, or consider buying secondhand, before you buy new. One of the 5 Rs of the zero waste movement is: Reuse! For instance, you probably already have items such as a water bottle and a tupperware knocking about somewhere – there’s no need to buy these things again, at least not until they’ve reached the end of their useable lives.
3. Replace any non-reusable items with responsibly sourced new items. Do your research! The motto buy less, buy better is SO powerful and practicing conscious consumerism, although sometimes difficult in a throw-away culture, will really change your attitude to the items you use every day. As a student on a low income, I don’t have a lot of money, but by buying less, better quality items, I’ve already found that I’ve saved money in the long run. Disengaging with the endless cycle of use, bin, repeat encourages you to take good care of the items that you have, as well as fostering relationships with the manufacturers and producers of the items that you buy.
Now that we’ve got that over with – let’s move on to my favourite Zero Waste items to use On the Go!
- A Reusable Water Bottle instead of Plastic Water Bottles
This one is obvious! As soon as you start using a reusable water bottle, you won’t go back – you will save so much money and prevent so much plastic waste!
I use a 21 oz Hydroflask both for carrying water and insulating drinks such as smoothies. It keeps them ice cold all day.
I also have a 40 oz Kleen Kanteen that I use as a day to day water bottle (I drink a lot of water!). This one isn’t insulated, meaning it’s a bit lighter on its own, but the same company also have insulated versions similar to the Hydroflask.
I did buy both items new, but both companies offer a lifetime guarantee (see here and here) for their products. This means they can be repaired, or else refunded, should either of them ever break or prove faulty.
2. A reusable coffee cup instead of single use disposables
Each year, over 100 billion disposable single use cups go to landfill. 100 billion! That’s crazy! In addition, many of the waxed disposable coffee cups offered by large chains such as Starbucks are non-recyclable. I personally use an Ecoffee cup, made out of bamboo, but KeepCup is another alternative. I love the Ecoffee cup because it’s super light to carry around, I don’t even notice it’s in my bag! Plus, if you’re in the UK, several chains (such as Costa and Starbucks) will give you a 25 p discount if you use your own cup!
3. A cotton bag
Another obvious one – but so useful and light to carry around! If you don’t have any cotton bags handy, before you go out and buy one new, consider making a simple t-shirt bag from an old t-shirt. No sewing required! Check out this great tutorial here.
4. A small, light tupperware or jar
The necessity of this one depends on how often you purchase hot or cold food to go, or generally how much you shop while you’re out and about. I rarely eat out (I nearly always find I can make cheaper, healthier and tastier meals for myself!), but I make sure to carry a tupperware or jar with me whenever I go out shopping, to a festival, fair or market – basically wherever I might be tempted to buy an item loose, and don’t want to use the plastic packaging provided. For instance, the other week I used my tupperware to buy some unpackaged dark chocolate from a chocolate shop, and to buy some cake from a market stall. It would also come in useful if you eat out in a restaurant and want to take home leftovers. The tupperwares I use are just old takeaway containers from my pre-zero waste days, now being put to good use!
5. A spork, fork or spoon
This also depends on how likely you are to eat out on the go! But again, is a handy one to have for festivals and food fairs. These are super fun events, but the abundance of plastic disposables is often depressing. I use a teeny tiny, biodegradable bamboo spork made by Bambu, which was super cheap and is very sturdy and handy (buy it here). But you could also try raiding your camping kit, to see if you already have anything suitable.
6. For women – a washable sanitary pad
Achieving a zero waste period was so exciting for me. I have always been so depressed by the amount of plastic in sanitary products, even natural ones. Switching to washable pads was the best decision ever! My favourite brand are Eco Femme, a women-led social enterprise in India who make beautiful pads and have a brilliant socially positive message. But there are so many different brands of menstrual pads to choose from, so shop around for ones you like, or if you feel confident in your sewing skills, make your own from some leftover cotton fabric!
7. Bring your trash home with you
My final tip is such a simple point, but it will really make a massive difference to your mindset around waste reduction. Bring your trash home with you! What I mean is: if you find yourself in a situation where you have a piece of waste that could be recycled, or composted, but there are no appropriate waste facilities where you are, then bring it with you until you can dispose of it properly. I do this all the time with things like apple cores, tea bags, banana skins and other small items of food waste that could be composted instead of sent to landfill. Again, having a small tupperware or even a reusable coffee cup handy to store these items in until you can readily compost them is really useful. I also do the same with recyclable waste such as paper and card that I sometimes accumulate when I’m out and about, such as leaflets or food packaging. Sometimes it’s not possible to always refuse these items easily, but it is totally manageable to pop them in your bag so that you can recycle them at a late date. Although it might seem like such a little thing at the time, all of these small steps really do add up!
Here it is, my zero waste on the go kit!
The spork and cotton bag fit really neatly into the tupperware, making it super compact to carry around.