5 Things to carry when you step out of your home that prevent you from making more trash.
Despite many years of living low waste, I failed countless times when it comes to consuming outside the home. I was either in a rush or lazy. I didn’t prepare for what could happen in a day I spent outside.
So, these things happened; I passed by 85 degree bakery shop before work, hungry. Before I knew it, I was already in there, heart melting with yummy looking bakeries. I didn’t have anything with me - a container or a reusable wrap, because it wasn’t a plan. So when I bought a piece of pie, I had to carry it with a napkin or sometimes a plastic bag if I kept it to eat later. Or it could be this; I stopped by Uwajimaya after work, grabbing some fresh vegetables. Having no shopping bag in hand, I needed to use a plastic produce bag for the veggies as they are super wet and moist. Or there were times I went to buy hot coffee at Starbucks during my break, but forgot my thermo mug at home. So, I used their paper cups. Yes, 2 cups stacking as a heat protection. I came home after those days, reviewed my day and felt sad about the trash I made. I wasn’t sad because things are out of control, but because I could actually prevent them, and it’s darn easy. Only if I care enough.
So, I take a bit of time to plan better. After experiments, here are my solution of what to bring as a to-go kit that works best for me. These 5 items prevent me from using disposable stuff or even bringing in more reusable stuff that I don’t need. It takes only a minute to gather them all, but save our world from tons of potential garbage.
Reusable Utensils: You can’t always predict how long you’ll spend time outside. Doesn’t matter if you plan to come back to have that leftover pasta in the fridge for dinner. Having your own reusable utensils prevents you from using disposable ones if you end up at a Taco place on the way home. Most sustainable practice is using the ones you have, keep them in a compact pouch. Pick what you actually need - spoon, fork, knife, chopsticks. You can carry another reusable ziplock bag for keeping the used ones that you don’t have a chance to clean. Make sure the ziplock bag is easy to clean, too, otherwise you’re making your life difficult. Another great option is getting yourself a set of bamboo utensils ready for you in a sturdy pouch. I got mine from Scoop Marketplace. They are super light, don’t make any sound, and easy to clean. I lost the chopsticks, so I replaced them with a disposable ones that I was about to throw away after having a noodle. They have worked well to these days.
Mason jar/ silicone bag or both: This is a valuable item when you eat out and have leftover food, or want to buy a blueberry muffin at a cafe. Some might argue that a mason jar is heavy, takes up space and can be loud when bumping with other stuff in your bag. So, pick the silicone bag or whichever leak proof light container you have. I find that an 18-oz leak-proof wide mouth jar works best for me because it can contain a lot of food or a big piece of bakery. Plus it is so easy to use compared to a narrow-mouth jar or a plastic container. I can keep leftover food/soup in it and throw into my backpack worry free. Besides, I can reheat it in the microwave and eat straight from the jar. No additional bowl needed - means less washing. Scoop Marketplace also has a variety of mason jars with leak proof cap to choose from. You can check out here. However, silicone bags are my first preference when I go bulk shopping because they are light, leak-proof, sturdy, easy to clean. Although I prefer mason jars over silicone bags on a daily basis, it never hurts to just slip a silicone bag in my backpack just in case.
Shopping bag(s): No matter if you plan to go shopping or not, it’s wise to have this thing with you all the time. You’ll realize its value once you suddenly have a lot of stuff to carry - for whatever reason. Instead of asking for a new big bag, regardless of paper or plastic bag, you can just pull out your warrior shopping bag with pride. No more bringing in home unnecessary, new, wasteful shopping bags ever again. I have 2 shopping bags in total and am proud of them. The first bag is a floral printed bag I got from my aunt as a souvenir from Germany several years ago. It’s incredibly durable, light-weight and takes no space. I can fit it in even my backpack is extremely full. The second one is a colorful, cat printed, bigger bag that mom bought me from Dollar Store when she went shopping in Seattle. This bag saves me when I commute (I ride the bus everyday.). It has long handles that fit my shoulder perfectly. It works great when I shop stuff in bulk, too. No matter how heavy things are, I never have to worry that it would break. If you’re in need of some good quality shopping bags that take no space, head to Scoop Marketplace. We have Chico and Vita shopping bags, and our sturdy Scoop bulk shopping bags. Shopping bags are helpful than you can imagine. They don’t exist just for the sake of shopping, but they can carry anything you need on the go. Grab a bag or two and tuck in your bag. You will never regret.
Thermo mug/ bottle: For me, I prefer a thermo mug over a typical plastic reusable mug because the thermo one can keep the temperature, but the plastic one can’t. I think it’s a smart move to invest in a high quality thermo mug or bottle that is multipurpose. I chose a 14-oz mug of Takeya. I like that it has a simple design body with a brilliant design cap which is leakproof and easy to clean. When buying a thermo container, apart from considering its material, don’t forget to think about whether it serves all your needs. Is it good for just a small portion of hot drinks like coffee or large enough to contain water that will keep you hydrated for hours? Most importantly, is it leakproof? I believe it’s a major concern for many of us. We all want that peace of mind of not having to worry if anything will spill in our bag on the go. It takes time and experiment to find a thermo that fits all your purposes but it’s worth it. I never regret my choice of thermo and never want to look for a better one.
Handkerchief/ cotton towel: When I was in Thailand, a handkerchief was always in my pocket because it’s hot most of the time, and I sweated a lot. I rarely forgot it, but when I did, it wasn’t quite a good day. I needed to use a disposable napkin instead. Now living in the cold North West area of the US, I nearly don’t sweat at all. So, no sweat, no handkerchief needed. Then I would, mindlessly, end up using the disposable towel to wipe my mouth or my hand, regardless of how small the stain is. I started to feel sad when realizing that those mindless moments of me using them, quickly add up by others around me as well. It keeps repeating - countless times a day. Even though those towels are compostable, don’t we have too much to compost already? And look at how the compost thing gets mixed up with other things like plastic utensils or straws. They’re likely to be sent straight to the landfill, don’t you think? Isn’t it tragic? Isn’t it preventable? That’s why I remind myself to carry my own cotton towel - to get rid of the need for disposable towels. Telling you, now I have saved the world hundreds of disposable ones and counting!
Reusable straw (Optional): Even though I’m not a fan of any drinks other than hot coffee and hot tea, this one small, slim, reusable thing makes a huge difference when it comes to reducing trash on the go. If you are a boba tea lover, a slurpy fan, or a fan of whatsoever drink that needs a straw, please always carry your own reusable straw. Disposable straws hurt our ecosystem, much more than you realize. They slip through the cracks of waste management and can get into the wild. They are solely built for sipping drinks or liquidy stuff, they are not designed for easy recycling or sustainable uses. In need of a good quality reusable straw? Or want to give it to someone? Check out our straws available at Scoop Marketplace. We have both stainless steel and beautiful glass straws for all purposes.
So, these are the 5 must-have items I recommend you to carry on the go. Like I said, It takes only a minute or less to gather them into your bag. It’s a very small effort that you can start doing right now and make it a habit. There are activities and situations happening outside of home that can generate so much waste which you can’t control. So, if you ever feel lazy, remind yourself that this is the only part that you can control. Show off your intent of not supporting the ‘throwaway culture’ or unsustainable practices by bringing your own to-go kit with you. Then bring it back to clean and reuse again and again. And you will not make trash on the go anymore.