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This week we are celebrating the 14th annual Zero Waste Week! Founded by Rachel Strauss in 2008, Zero Waste Week is a global awareness campaign to encourage people to reduce waste, reuse materials and recycle anything else.
Before we get started, I want to address the meaning behind the term Zero Waste. The term is often seen as an unobtainable goal that is set out to pressurise people and make the consumer feel at fault over manufacturers and governments. I somewhat agree with this. But, personally, I use the term Zero Waste to inspire me to create a lifestyle filled with positive actions. I believe that we each have a responsibility for our choices. But at the same time, we can call out manufacturers and governments to make their own responsible choices too.
Like most other human beings, I will always create some level of waste. But, there are many things I can do to minimise the waste I produce and to dispose of things in the most responsible ways possible. In short – we can all do our bit!
In the grand scheme of things, reducing my reliance on single-use packaging is an area that I can have control over, so that is my current focus. I always recommend that people start their journey in this way, it’s simple to do and has valuable impacts.
Over the last few years, I have built myself a ‘Zero- Waste’ kit that I take with me on days out. I don’t always take the full kit with me every day. I try to think through the day I have ahead of me to work out which items might come in useful and which ones I can leave at home. Sometimes I am caught out and that’s frustrating, but it’s also a learning experience.
So without further ado… meet my ‘Zero Waste’ kit!
A reusable bottle
Plastic drinks bottles have had lots of media attention over the last few years. Yes, it can be really convenient to grab a drink on the go, but that plastic bottle that you use for a few minutes is likely to be on the planet for hundreds of years to come (even if you recycle it!). Plastic bottles are regularly found littered in natural environments and are easily transported out into our oceans.
Arguably, plastic bottles can be reused. But this is not recommended because over time the chemicals contained in the plastic can leach out into the liquid you drink- yuck!
The answer here is to invest in a good reusable bottle. My trusty Klean Kanteen bottle comes almost everywhere with me. I’ve had this particular bottle for about five years and apart from a few scratches and dents (adventure scars!) it still works perfectly, and I think it will for many years to come.
I chose this particular bottle as it’s made from stainless steel, bamboo and a single silicone seal. Simple materials, no gimmicks and completely plastic-free. It’s really easy to clean and is lightweight when empty so it’s always worth having it in my bag.
I will say that at 880ml this is quite a large bottle. I recommend having a good think about how much water you drink on an average outing etc before choosing a reusable bottle so that you find a size that suits you.
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In a world of ever tempting ‘to go’ or take away food options, it can be difficult to choose homemade lunches or snacks instead. However, there are environmental, financial and nutritional benefits to making your own food to take out with you.
The most recent addition to my kit has been a set of Elephant Boxes which were a very kind birthday present from my partner. Previous to this we would use the plastic boxes that come with takeaway meals, but similarly to plastic bottles, I became concerned about the health impacts of reusing this plastic.
Made from 100% food-grade steel, Elephant Boxes are completely airtight and leakproof due to an innovative clip and seal system. They are infinitely recyclable, easy to clean and lightweight to carry with you.
We have the 1.2l boxes that come with a removable divider which means that you can easily separate different food items within each box. We also have the ‘Three in one’ snack box which allows multiple options to store different snacks without them coming into contact with each other.
These are so versatile, take your lunch out with you and after a quick rinse, you have the perfect container to take to a zero-waste shop or produce market on the way home. Stumble across a blackberry bush and know that you have a container for your haul! The boxes are dishwasher safe, ovenproof and can even go in the freezer. they really are the best food storage tins I have ever come across! Goodbye, single-use containers!
A reusable travel cup
This is a more seasonal item in my kit as I don’t have a daily tea or coffee ritual, but in the colder months, I like to have my cup with me in case I fancy a warming drink. If you are a daily coffee or tea addict though, investing in a reusable cup is a sure-fire way to reduce your waste.
For my kit, I chose the Circular and Co cup. The world first reusable cup made from recycled single-use paper cups! This cup has an innovative 100% leakproof design thanks to a pop-up lid mechanism. The lid also allows you to drink from anywhere around the circumference so no need to find the tiny drink hole when in a hurry for that caffeine fix!
Drinks stay hot or cold for around 60-90 minutes so this is perfect for the daily commute and the fact it’s leak-proof means you can just pop it in your bag as you wish – so practical.
Similarly to my drinks bottle, I’ve had this cup for around 4 years and it still looks as good as new with years of life left in it! Think of all those single-use cups that you could save with a reusable instead. Plus many cafes and coffee shops now offer a discount if you bring your own cup so there’s a cost-saving too- winner!
Single-use cutlery is another common find on beach cleans and litter picks. Whether it’s made from plastic, wood, bamboo or any other seemingly biodegradable material, single-use cutlery is really easy to avoid all together.
In all honesty, for the last few years I have simply taken cutlery from my house and used it when and out and about, this is a super simple zero waste action to take.
However, some very lovely friends visited the Scilly Isles recently and they bought me this awesome reusable cutlery kit made by Traceless, an independent maker based on the islands.
The kit contains bamboo cutlery, a metal straw and a cleaning brush, and is all encased in an organic cotton fabric wrap. It’s the perfect size to fit in your bag and the wrap keeps everything clean and tidy both before and after eating. It’s a great little addition to my kit!
As much as I wish it was, a picnic is not a daily occurrence in my life, so this part of the kit is very much seasonal and occasional. Through the summer months, my partner and I try to eat outdoors as much as possible, but we don’t have a garden. This means many ‘picnic’ adventures happen instead.
Every summer the shops fill up with single-use picnic gear from paper plates to plastic cutlery. My tip here is to shop second hand or shop your family cupboards to find reusable items! Not only will this save you money, but you will likely be investing in better quality items that don’t need to be thrown away anytime soon.
We have a small and cherished collection of 1960s/70s picnic ware that we inherited from my partners granny. Everything from the teacups to the cloth napkins.
By reusing these items decades after they were made, we are prolonging their useful life, and the quality of them suggests that they may well continue to be used by our children too! I love that none of it matches and the colours clash! Each time we use these items I think of all the adventures that this picnic gear has been on too and those to come next!
A backpack and tote bags
Last but not least, you will need a bag of some sort to house your Zero Waste Kit in. My bag of choice is my trusty yellow backpack by the eco-friendly company, Lefrik.
Lefrik makes a range of bags, luggage and travel accessories in fabrics made from recycled plastic bottles. I have the ‘Scout’ bag in mustard yellow.
This is such a versatile yet stylish backpack, it has a laptop pocket inside so it’s perfect for students or those working on the go, but also the main section of the bag is roomy and free of too many pockets and gimmicks which makes it great for loading up with my Zero Waste kit. The zipped pocket on the flap is perfect for your essentials like a phone etc.
I also always make sure to have a couple of cotton tote bags with me wherever I go, just in case, I need to pop into a shop or come across a good foraging spot. Reusable bags come in all shapes and sizes now, and are even easy to come by in second-hand shops so if you haven’t already, arm yourself with a couple and say goodbye to single-use carrier bags forevermore!
So there you have it, my Zero Waste Kit! I hope that this inspires you to make or develop your kit of reusables. It’s a simple action that has long-lasting impacts in terms of the amount of waste each of us produces, as well as saving you money in the long run – single-use items are literally like putting money in the bin!
Say yes to reuse and NO to single-use. Let’s all try and get as close to zero-waste as we can!