By gathering a few tools, and you can create a low waste on-the-go kit that’s cheap and effective at reducing your landfill contribution.
8 Tools for Being Low Waste On-The-Go
The never-leave-the-house-without-it list
1. Tote Bag
If you’re new to trying to reduce your waste, I’d recommend making this swap the first habit you master.
My advice on picking the right bag for you: don’t go shopping online. You could spend hours looking at all of the different styles of shopping bags.
Find a routine that works for you and that you will maintain. If you find the world’s #1 recommended reusable shopping bag of all time, but it’s too big to fit into your purse and carry around with you, then it’s not a viable solution.
The solution that works best for me is having one big main bag, and a smaller foldable bag that’s always in my purse for spontaneous trips or bigger grocery hauls.
Similar to the disposable napkin, it’s true that a disposable tissue itself is not particularly wasteful. The plastic packaging on travel-size packs of tissues is the waste culprit.
A handkerchief isn’t just for your grandpa anymore. Since I’ve started carrying one, I find myself using it daily to clean my glasses or camera lens. When I do use it as a tissue, I just toss it in the hamper that night and then put a clean one in my bag.
Debunking the “gross” myth: Some people shy away from hankies because they think they’re not sanitary, but I ask – in all of your bags, coat pockets and purses, is there not at least one old, balled-up, used tissue?
I’m pretty sure every woman I’ve ever met would answer yes to that question.
Don’t write off hankies just yet. Put one in your bag and I bet you’ll find yourself using it.
3. Cloth Napkin
You may be thinking: a disposable napkin is small and isn’t made of plastic, so it’s not a big waste to use.
Disposable napkins are pitifully ineffective at cleaning up messes. If anything is spilled, you have to take a whole handful to try to do the job.
Oftentimes, we even take a handful of napkins and just throw them away after the meal whether they’re used or not.
The real opportunity using a cloth napkin creates, besides timeless class and elegance, is saying no to thoughtless waste.
A cloth napkin is a chance to rise above throw-away culture, and to use a product that actually works. They’re also endless handy, and once you carry one, I guarantee you’ll find yourself using it all the time.
A few handy uses for a cloth napkin:
- Carrying food
- Plate for hors d’oeuvres at a party
- Towel for wiping off a wet chair or bike seat
- Sleeve for a hot coffee cup
- Taking baked goods to-go
Your life will be forever changed.
4. Water bottle
We all know that bringing our own bottle is important so we don’t use disposable bottles, but I think there’s another important point here that’s often overlooked.
Carrying your own water bottle helps us actually drink enough water during the day.
By taking a bottle you take with you, you always have hydration at your fingertips. You can also easily track how much you’ve been drinking over the course of the day.
Water intake is forever burned into my daily routine after working as an outdoor guide. A habit I adopted back then: drink 1 liter of water (that’s a full water bottle for me) before leaving the house for the in the morning. Then refill, and head out for the day hydrated and with a full bottle in hand.
The long-day list
The major waste culprit when you’re on-the-go is food. You can save loads of waste by bringing meals and snacks from home.
These tools will save the day (and also save you money and help you eat better).
Disposable utensils are simple to avoid: all you have to do is bring your own. I have a set of bamboo utensils that I like, but something as simple as this kit from Skip The Bag will do the job nicely.
Be aware that if you try to fly with metal silverware, TSA may confiscate it. That’s why I have a bamboo set. I’m not sure what the official rules are, but I’ve heard stories of people having their metal sets taken, and other times it’s allowed through.
6. Resealable bag
If you clean and reuse it, this could be as simple as a Ziplock bag. If you still have Ziplocks at home, I recommend finishing the box, making each bag last as long as you can and then purchasing a reusable product.
The resealable bag I prefer is the Stasher bag. Stasher bags are impeccably designed bags that are heat proof, leak proof and seemingly indestructible.
I never travel without my Stasher, and I use it around the house frequently as well.
7. Lunch box
Having a container on hand that can pack a full meal will make your life easier. Qualities of a good lunch box:
- sturdy – not one with a lid that pops off half the time
- accommodates the food you’ll be taking – item #8 may be better for your needs depending on what your meals normally look like
My box of choice is a stainless steel bento box. It has 2 layers and can store 6 cups of food. Both layers can be used together together, or the top layer can be used on its own.
It’s great for packing a meal to eat on the go, or taking food to an event. Below is a picture of my food prep for a Women Who Explore picnic that I hosted. Every time I bring my bento box to an event, it stirs up conversation and gets tons of compliments.
Pro tip: the bento box lid also doubles as a plate if you’re at a picnic or cookout.
A thermos is my preferred container of choice for taking hot meals and coffee.
You can find many specific to-go coffee cups on the market, but I haven’t found one a I’m a fan of. First of all, I already have a thermos. I’d rather have fewer items that are more versatile than accumulating very specific tools.
Also, it’s perfect for coffee: it’s leak proof and keeps contents steaming hot. What more can you ask for? I’ll admit, I am really curious about one silicone collapsible leak-proof coffee cup. It seems to good to be true, but has great reviews and I think I’ll try it out to see if it will make a good gift for my eco-conscious friends.
Wait, how’d this get here? Okay it’s true that this is NOT related to reducing waste, but I’m telling you, you should have a vomit bag in your bag.
I know I’m diverging from the path here, but I feel the need to share this piece of advice wherever possible.
If you spend time around kids, or you travel (do you remember the story about the Canadian guy?) you’ll be thanking me someday.
Just a brown paper bag will do, or you can snag an ~official~ vomit bag from the seatback pocket on an airplane on your next flight.
Okay, where were we?
My #1 tip for trying to be low waste on-the-go:
Find what works for you. Buying every specially-made product and then realizing they don’t fit your needs is a waste. A set of bamboo utensils that you always forget and never use doesn’t help anyone.
What tools do you use for being low waste on-the-go?