There’s a few essentials that I bring with me on a daily basis that help me to avoid creating any waste throughout the day. It took me a long time to pare down to just a few key, multifunctional tools that would help me reduce waste, but once I did, it was much easier to build a routine around them. Zero waste is all about creating habits when your motivation is high so that you’re more prepared to stick with it when your motivation is low.
Here’s what’s in my daily carry:
A bamboo utensil set with a straw
Having a reusable utensil set by my side allows me to refuse all manner of disposable utensils. Ours comes with a bamboo spoon, fork and knife (non-serrated, making it TSA approved), and even a pair of chopsticks. I like to keep my stainless steel straw next to the cutlery, making it easier to refuse straws when I go out. Having a physical straw is mostly so that my waiter actually remembers to give me a drink with no straw. For some reason, when they see your straw, they tend to remember more often than when you just ask “no straw please.”
While it's great that Seattle has mandated that all single-use utensils and straws be commercially compostable utensils at restaurants, those items still require a lot of energy to produce them and energy to break them down, yet they're only used once. A reusable utensil has a much smaller footprint per-use, whether it's a set you bring from home or a bamboo set like the one I use.
I like that our utensil set has a small carabiner to clip onto my backpack or purse. It makes it easy to access when I'm traveling or eating lunch on the go. This set allows me to enjoy lunch, snacks, picnics, all without single-use utensils.
Bamboo utensil set, $12.95 at Eco Collective
I use my handkerchief for everything. I use one as a tissue when I'm under the weather and another as a napkin, a towel for spills, and a way to dry my hands when there’s only paper towels in public restrooms.
When I have a clean one in my purse or backpack, I might use it to take home leftover bread at a restaurant or pick up muffins or cookies from a local cafe.
Vintage handkerchiefs available for $3 each at the Eco Collective flagship store.
Rectangular metal food container
I’ve tried many different sizes of food containers for workday lunches, and this slim rectangular container seems to be the best catch-all. Leftovers, homemade lunches, salad, sandwhich, soup, you name it. It doesn't take up much space, and it’s airtight meaning my commute is worry free when I toss it in my bike bag. You can reheat it on a stovetop or in a toaster oven when you remove the lid (which has a silicone seal).
An insulated thermos
This is the number one thing in my daily carry! My insulated thermos goes everywhere I go. I use it for coffee in the mornings, water throughout the day, at juice bars, for bubble tea, even milkshakes. It stays hot for 12 hours and cold for 24, and the handle makes it easy to carry when you're out and about.
Having to unscrew the lid to take a sip isn’t ideal, but as my co-owner Summer pointed out, the design of the lid makes it super easy to clean. I like that it has a wide mouth because it can be used for anything - even leftovers in a pinch!
Wide mouth insulated bottle, $27.95 at MiiR
Drawstring bag for produce or bulk goods
Sometimes I add a drawstring bag to hold snacks, produce or bulk goods from spontaneous grocery store trips. A spare reusable bag and a mason jar or two are great things to keep in your bag or at your office for just such occasions.
Reusable produce/bulk bag, set of 3 cotton hemp for $14.99 at Eco CollectiveWhen I’m out and about traveling, at a concert, the farmer’s market or anywhere else I want to pack ultra-light, I pare down to a reusable spork I keep in my wallet, my thermos which can hold leftovers in a pinch, and maybe a bandana if I have room.