Build Your Own Zero Waste Kit
Single use plastic dining ware is a huge culprit to our planet’s plastic waste problem. Think of all the plastic plates, cups, water bottles, lids, caps, packaging, forks, knives, spoons, straws, stir sticks, styrofoam containers, and take-out bags that are used on a daily basis when people around the world dine out. Even a simple trip to a coffee shop with a small order will produce loads of plastic trash in just a brief moment.
Now is the time to opt out of the convenient consumerism epidemic by building, and using, a zero waste dining kit. Commit to taking it with you wherever you go so you always have a sustainable option!
Paper coffee cups are lined with plastic that can’t be recycled. Coffee stir sticks, straws, lid stoppers and even the pouches that keep breakfast sandwiches warm are made of plastic and cannot be recycled. These items are thrown out after just one use without thought or consideration about the impact that the item has already had, and will continue to have, on the environment.
This type of convenient consumerism is extremely harmful to the planet because these single use plastic items get dumped into the landfill only to take up space from anywhere to 450-1000 years (or more), or eventually get circulated into our lakes, rivers, and oceans where they’ll never fully biodegrade.
The good news is that the zero waste movement is becoming increasingly popular in countries all over the world. Within the last decade, countries like Bangladesh, Italy, China, and most recently, New Zealand, have established bans on single use plastic bags. States in the US, Australia, and India are also catching on to this idea and establishing rules of their own to combat the widespread use of single use plastic bags, straws, and other products that are harmful to the planet. With hope, a healthy dose education, and acceptance from the general public, we may soon see more bans regarding the use of single use plastic in general.
Your zero waste kit will be an incredible tool in living sustainably during times of travel and despite those spontaneous meals out-and-about. Plus, if countries continue on this route of doing away with unnecessary single use plastic, the use of zero waste kits will become more necessary and commonplace. Now is the perfect time to pick up this green living habit!
To make it easy, I’ve created two kit options to help you get started building your own. The first option, The Essential Kit, is small but still very effective and perfect for everyday use. The essential kit packs well into a purse, or an over-the-shoulder bag, or a backpack. The Travel Kit is more robust and will cover all of your needs, plus some! I designed The Travel Kit during a three week road trip around the Pacific Northwest (USA), so this kit is ideal for sustainable traveling needs. It has an extra re-bag and produce bag for those moments when you’re in a pinch, and it’s equipped with cleaning essentials! So important!
Many times, I fill my kit with food before I leave the house in the morning so I have a quick snack or lunch ready while I’m on-the-go. Other times, when I’m too busy to make a lunch, I pack my empty kit in my Zecti camera backpack. This way, I can order food to-go, in my food container, instead of using the plastic dining ware and plastic packaging most restaurants use. My kit also doubles as a handy left-over carrier after dining out at a restaurant or a friend’s house.
I would like to add that some restaurants may not allow you to use your own container when ordering to-go. It would be wise to ask permission prior to ordering. I have been denied in the past, and been forced to use their plastic packaging because I already ordered and asked too late! Don’t make my same mistake! However, I have found success at the salad bar in my local natural grocery store as well as smoothie shops, street food carts, and local coffee shops. I am also finding that as the zero waste movement becomes more well-known, local small business are more accepting of these lifestyle choices and are willing to accommodate requests.
Tailor your kit to your specific needs. For example, if you eat smoothies a lot, then add a tall mason jar or large reusable cup and a fat straw. If you prefer soups over more solid food, then look for a spill proof container that is also vacuum-sealed like this canister.
Keep it clean. When you travel, add a travel size sponge, biodegradable/antibacterial soap, and small towel to your kit so you can clean your kit in hotel sinks (or other available sinks) while you’re away from home.
Don’t buy all new! Your kit doesn’t need to look “Instagram worthy”. (Am I the only one that hates that term?) Using simple food storage containers and silverware from home is perfect.
Thrift for the items in your kit before buying new. It’s so easy to find silverware and old stainless steel food containers at thrift stores. Go there first if you need to make purchases.
Plastic in your kit is okay! If you only have a plastic food storage container and a random plastic straw laying around the house, great! Use it. Give those items as much life as you can before tossing them out.
If you need to buy new items for your kit, refrain from purchasing new plastic, if you can.
Remember your options. When dining out, your first option should be ordering “to-stay” so that you can use the restaurant’s reusable plates, cutlery, and cups. Your second option is ordering “to-go”, using your zero waste kit.
When ordering to-go, remember to ask if your food can be served in your own mug, cup, or container (instead of their plastic or styrofoam options) before you order.
Keep your kit accessible. Stash it in your purse, backpack, or car so you always have it ready.
Remember: Progress Over Perfection. It’s okay to make mistakes or forget sometimes - don’t let it discourage you! It’s not about being perfect, it’s about making an effort. Any little effort makes a difference!
Do you supply your own dining ware at restaurants and on-the-go?