How to assemble a zero waste kit (or: how to seriously reduce your single-use plastic consumption)

The first and easiest step to take in the war against plastic is eliminating those silly single-use plastics with a zero waste kit.

I sometimes feel like this point has been made but the fact of the matter is that currently 50% of all plastics produced is for single-use purposes. Madness.

Single-use plastic, just to be clear, are also known as disposables. They’re used once and then last forever. New research shows that Aussies chuck more than 9.7 billion pieces of single-use plastic in the bin each year.

The straws, bottles, cutlery, cups, plastic bags, cigarettes, produce bags, takeaway containers and the food packaging.

The dental floss, the nappies, the wet wipes, the cling-wrap (or as I like to call it – cling crap).

Reddit user HSmidt snapped this picture in Cuba where he spotted a hermit crab living in a toothpaste lid.

How to assemble your plastic-free kit

If you follow any zero-wasters you would also have heard this referred to as a Zero Waste Kit. My kit has come to my ocean-loving rescue. So. Many. Times.

Essentially a zero waste kit is a collection of tools that you can take with you that stop you from creating trash while you’re on-the-go. Most recognisable would be the reusable coffee cup and canvas tote bags. However there are lots of other tools that help you avoid convenience-related consumption, such as steel lunch boxes, reusable straws and even the humble hanky (perfect not just for blowing your schnozz but also wrapping a sandwich – though PLEASE not both in the same outing).

Some notes on how to make it work for you:

  • Your zero waste kit doesn’t have to be big. Or heavy. Or look like anyone else’s. It should be tailored to you and your life. For example, if you don’t drink coffee, you probably don’t need a reusable coffee cup. It sounds obvious but I hear a lot that people want the “perfect” kit. The perfect kit is the one that fits your lifestyle.

  • I also have different kits for different situations. If I’m going out for the day with my kids, for example, I have a backpack and I take a bigger water bottle and make sure to pack some straws (it makes it fun for them). If I’m flying solo at uni my kit is much smaller. It sounds obvious but getting clear on your typical needs makes it much easier to plan ahead.

  • Remember: the most ethical choice with the lowest environmental impact is the resource that already exists.  Don’t rush out and get a fancy water bottle to look the part; I still use some old bottles I got years ago at a restaurant. My husband uses old jars. Try to use things that you already have.

  • Repurposing is great. For example, using a pillowcase for a bread bag. I got some secondhand material from an op shop and made them into beeswax wraps. I have a hanky that doubles up as a sandwich wrap if I’m ever out and about. Think outside the (plastic_ box.

  • Keep spares in your car or your bike trailer (or whatever mode of travel you use). I have a couple of large containers in my boot that are suitable for picking up a loaf of bread or a BBQ chicken from our butchers in case I’m disorganised and haven’t got dinner sorted that day, which of course never happens. If you have a partner or room mate – shove some in their car too!

  • Create a stand by your door which is stocked with all the goodies you need. Makes it so easier when you’re rushing out the door. Below you can see my own Never Forget Your Reusables Again Stand.

My Never Forget Your Reusables Again Stand.

What to put in your zero waste kit!

  • Reusable Coffee Cup

  • Cutlery

  • Container for food

  • Hanky

  • Teatowel

  • Beeswax wrap

  • Shopping Bag

  • Produce bags

  • Stainless steel straw

  • Water Bottle

My zero waste kit favourites + where to get ’em

I want to repeat that the best option is the one that already exists. That said, despite my zero waste ideals, I have bought new stuff. Especially when it came to my reusable coffee cup because I didn’t want hot liquid in plastic then in mah belly (as we know it leaches toxic chemicals).

*None of the below suggestions are sponsored.

Best Coffee Cups

My family have Keep Cups which you can customise in terms of materials, design and your colour combo. It was a nice experience to sit down and personalise our cups together, Lucy was so excited with ALL THE PINKS. My husband and I have glass containers (lime soda glass = very durable) with cork strips (made from old wine corks). These DO get hot however I’ve quickly adapted to a different “hold” which is easy enough.

I would prefer that Lucy had glass however it isn’t overly practical for an exuberant 5 year old – they get hot and glass does break.

We also use them regularly for kids cups when we have mini humans at our house, and have lent them to friends for kids parties in lieu of disposable cups. I even used mine at a wine tour the other day and diverted a cheap disposable champagne flute from landfill (AND got to fit more champagne into it!).

Best Tea Strainer

A recent addition to my life is from an Aussie company called Discover The Well. I’m not really a tea drinker but I do use it for my own ginger, lemon tea (where I simply grate ginger into the infuser). You can also get them from T2.

Water bottle

Though I use an old Voss bottle I am jealous of people with Klean Kanteen. No plastic at all and they look fancy pants indeed.

Cutlery

This one I really don’t see the need to spend a lot of dough on. I got my entire family’s stash from an op shop for $1.50. Op shops are ALWAYS overflowing with cutlery. If I’m travelling light I just whack an oyster fork and a teaspoon in my purse. I’ve not run into trouble yet.

There are lighter versions and I like the below set – made of bamboo. You can also get steel cutlery that comes attached to a carabiner from camping stores.

Container

 

I take my Ever.Eco Bento snack box everywhere I go. It’s not huge but always fits my food or any leftovers when we eat out. I even get a discount at uni for my salad! Very affordable and fairly light.

If you are going out to get takeaway or just need more storage then tiffins are a fantastic option and put the “hip” into “hipster”.

Straw

I never use the straw but it’s great for the kids. I again have mine from Ever.Eco and have also sourced them from The Source (see what I did there). They make great gifts!

Produce Bags

I love love LOVE these from Onya. They also come in handy. They’re also made from recycled plastic and come in a super handy pouch. Again – great gifts.

Awesome extras you might already have…

  • Tea-towels are great for sandwiches, loaves of bread, pastries and even using like a little sack for bulk food items (like nuts).
  • Pillowcases for bread loaves. If they are super light-weight you could use as a produce bag.
  • Hankies are good little sandwich wraps.
  • Use cutlery you already have rather than rushing out and buying new stuff.

So there are some tips to get you started. Did I miss anything?



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