How To Create A Zero-Waste To-Go Kit
Over the past year I have watched as awareness about plastic pollution has become more mainstream. The mainstream media has picked up the issue using statistics like “by 2050 we will have more plastic in our ocean than fish” to grab peoples attention. The media is finally showing the impact that plastic is having on our health and environment, and is making it seem like we have a very real plastic problem…but I would like to challenge that.
You see we don’t really have a plastic problem, we have a convenience problem. Often times when it comes to environmental or health issues, the exposure is often what is quick to be blamed (and many times for good reason), but in the case of plastic, plastic really isn’t the main problem…how we are using it is.
Plastic on it’s own is a pretty incredible invention, it doesn’t break down, lasts a lifetime, and is used from building materials to hospital supplies. These uses of plastic aren’t the problem though, it’s the daily disposable uses of plastic that are the big issue, which is also how the average consumer is mostly using it.
The average consumer uses most plastic items for an average of 10 minutes and then discards it. This is what we like to call “disposable single use plastic” and it’s everywhere! We use this kind of plastic to wrap convenience processed foods, for travel coffee cups, for bags that carry our clothes, straws for our iced coffee, and ziplock bags for our snacks. We use plastic on-the-go, we use it out of convenience.
So no, we don’t have a plastic problem, we have a convenience problem, and if we are ever going to really impact the way large companies are using plastic, we as consumers need to demand for change by changing our lifestyle. We need to opt-out of convenience driven plastic use, and start opting into a more intentional way of interacting with our food, our purchases, and our planet. We need to change the way we “consume” plastic, and plastic will suddenly no longer be such a problem.
So where do you get started? My favorite place that I always tell folks to begin when starting to reduce plastic is to start by creating a zero-waste to-go kit that you can take with you and will reduce the top five disposable pieces of plastic: water bottles, bags, straws, cups, and utensils.
How to create a zero-waste to-go kit
Creating a zero-waste to-go kit is honestly easier than you may think. Once you have a few key items pulled together and assembled in a small drawstring bag you will be well on your way to reducing your plastic waste and contributing to a healthier planet.
o1: Reusable Water Bottle
There are so many reusable water bottles to choose from so choose whatever water bottle you feel you will want to carry around with you. Get used to your reusable water bottle being your right hand man, it should go wherever you go! While there are lots of brands to choose from out there my family uses Klean Kanteen.
02: cloth napkins
While cloth napkins aren’t technically replacing plastic waste, they are cutting down on paper waste. I personally love the cloth napkins from Ten Thousand Villages which supports producer owned artisan organizations in India through their fair trade model. I will throw a napkin in my to-go kit to use when eating out so I don’t need to waste paper napkins. This is just one example of a product that can be a simple swap and is good for both people and planet.
03: ball mason jar
I guarantee that most of you have a mason jar at home and it is a great item to throw in your zero-waste to-go kit. I use mason jars for iced coffee/coffee, left overs, or getting a smoothie from my favorite smoothie shop. For about a dollar a jar it is a super affordable option to add to your kit.
04: reusable utensil set
A reusable utensil set overtime will drastically reduce your single-use plastic waste. While there are many options available on sites like Earth Hero, and Amazon mine honestly is just a few pieces of silverware I had at home, wrapped in a napkin with a ribbon tied around it. While I will probably purchase a cute reusable utensil set in the near future, my point is that you have everything you need right now to get started.
05: Reusable straw
Once you start using reusable straws you will never go back. Drinking out of a stainless steel, bamboo, or glass straw is so much more enjoyable and is a great way for you to reduce your plastic waste. I also recommend getting in the habit of asking for no-straw at restaurants and bars.
06: reusable bag
Having a reusable bag that you can take with you to the farmers market, grocery shopping, and on errands is key to reducing disposable plastic bags. While the reusable grocery store bags are great, I personally would recommend investing in a cloth or straw bag that you like and will want to carry with you most of the time.
I personally love my straw Essential Companion Tote Bag from Ten Thousand Villages. This bag helps support sustainable employment opportunities for mothers in Bangladesh. Surplus profits from these bags are also reinvested into community schools and healthcare programs, making it both an ethical and functional option. It was perfect for me to take around all summer to the beach and farmers markets, and has been easy to transition into fall. I find that I remember to take it with me more because I actually want to be carrying it, which made me realize just how important it is that these items are also ones you truly enjoy using.
07: cloth produce bags
You know all of those little plastic bags you use at the grocery store when grabbing your produce? These cloth bags are going to eliminate those. They are also great for on-the-go snacks, which is why I always have at least one in my zero-waste to-go kit.
08: silicone/cloth “zip-lock” bag
I couldn’t love my reusable silicone “zip-lock” bags more. While they are a little pricey, once you have a few you will be shocked by how few ziplock bags you actually need. I always have one with me to store snacks or even keep my toiletries organized while traveling.
Once you have all the items you feel like you would need/use on a regular basis just throw them all into a small drawstring bag. While there are lots of cute options out there on etsy, I personally use an old linen bag to store my “kit” items in…you could also use a produce bag.
As always don’t make pulling your zero-waste kit together more complicated (or expensive) then it needs to be. Most likely you already have a lot of these items available to you at home, and it’s just a matter of collecting them and keeping them together for easy access on-the-go.