I am that person who needs to be prepared for any event; trousers split? Don’t worry, I have a safety pin and a sewing set. Suddenly come down with a stinking cold? No problem, I have the whole of Holland & Barrett’s flu care section stuffed into a side pocket. Consequently, my handbags look like the contents of Mary Poppins’ carpet bag but unlike Mary’s my bag weighs an actual ton. I have a lot of handbags but to be honest I always fall back on my rucksacks, purely because they allow me to carry around the (some would say obscene) amount of crap I “need” to function in my every day life. However even I ever want to downsize my handbag contents, I will never remove my zero waste items, as they are an essential part of my every day life. Sorry Mr sewing kit. My most used handbag is my Fjallraven Rekanken- spun from 1 yarn of polyester made from recycled plastic bottles. I’m a sucker for anything made from recycled materials and although everyone and their mum owns a Fjallraven, I really wanted to support this Eco range by the brand so I took the plunge. Upon owning it I have realised why everyone has one; practically they are a very hard wearing, comfortable (which was surprising considering how skinny the straps are) and extremely roomy rucksack. I went for the bright blue because I am never one to automatically gravitate to black/ grey, but the khaki and baby pink were also on my shortlist. I bought this on ASOS when they had a 20% discount day so that saved me a bit of money!
- KEEPCUP; It may be extravagant to lug around my glass with cork band keep cup, but I honestly adore this one. It’s so easy to clean, smells never clings to the glass (unlike traditional plastic keep cups which I have always hated because of how hard it is to remove odour), I get compliments from baristas every time I hand it to them and I know this will last me a life time! You can buy individual parts on their site if you ever lose or wear out any of the components. They have a 15% off discount code for your first order if you sign up to their newsletter wuhuu!
- ECOFFEE CUP; I carry 2 x reusable cups; I know, not very minimalist of me (not that i admit to be). HOWEVER there is logic behind the excessiveness. Whenever I used to get a coffee with a friend, I would always be using my keep cup but to be honest barely anyone I know religiously carries one like me. So, we would end up using at least one throw-away cup during our visit which caused me much distress. To solve this and put me at ease (i.e stop being the neurotic friend anxiously staring people down when they were using a paper cup), I bought a second reusable cup for friends and family if we were together whilst ordering. This one is a William Morris print one by Ecoffee cup- lighter than my glass Keepcup (so more justifiable to carry both… I like to tell myself), the main body is made of compostable bamboo fibre so you can pop it in the compost bin at the end of its life, and the lid and sleeve are made of silicone. I also go for this cup if I am getting a smoothie or iced drink, as it is slightly larger than the keep cup.
- STAINLESS STEEL STRAWS X 3 Again, I like to carry 3 for the times I am with people who want a straw and my heart lurches every time a straw is used! These are also so easy to carry more than one of, unlike a keep cup, so it’s really easy to reduce waste of people around you as well as yourself. Just remember to ask for no straw when ordering drinks (which I am only just getting the hang of doing consistently)!
- CHOPSTICKS Having grown up with these being my main eating utensil, i absolutely need to use chopsticks for consumption of any type of asian food; it just feels wrong otherwise. Single use wooden chopsticks are the largest contributor to deforestation in Asia, therefore I avoid using these and bring my own. I already had these lying around at home so I didn’t need to purchase anything new!
- HANDKERCHIEF Another unnecessary cause of deforestation is single use paper; tissues being under this bracket. I have had this handkerchief since I was about 7 so I also did not need to purchase anything new, and am actually using something which was lying around being unused hooray! Ironically my dad has used handkerchiefs my whole life, and I used to dismiss it as disgusting/ unhygienic but I have come full circle and finally admitted he was right (such a cliche!).
- STAINLESS STEEL SPORK I absolutely love my Spork. I have had it for about 3 years now, and it honestly comes everywhere with me; if I somehow forget it at home one day I am absolutely bereft and whoever i am with does not hear the end of it. This was a stainless steel one I got from amazon, but I know there are smaller wooden ones which may be lighter/ even more compact. To me this is one of the lightest and most portable things in my bag so an essential if you are starting out with trying to reduce your waste. France has declared they will phase out single use eating utensils by the year 2020 which makes me overjoyed! Unfortunately the UK is one of the worst consumers of single use plastic in the EU and that doesn’t look set to change any time soon.
- STAINLESS STEEL LUNCH BOX This doesn’t come out with me for every single occasion, however if I know I am going to a food market or somewhere with possible takeaway food, I will try to remember to bring this along so as to not use the single use food packaging (in particular STYROFOAM, my absolute nemesis). This also functions as a normal lunchbox for work etc (not suitable for liquids unless it is being transported completely flat- there are better sealed options if you are planning to carry liquids).
- WATER BOTTLE This one is a recycled Karma Kombucha bottle, which fits perfectly in the outer pockets of my Fjallraven- I am sure you can now see why my bag is so heavy! Of course this doesn’t need to be glass- I just prefer it and find it so much easier to clean. By carrying water around with you, this ensures you don’t need to purchase single use water bottles and contribute to plastic waste. There is usually somewhere I can refill if I need to (including cafes and restaurants you can just ask for water and fill it from there) but I tend not to drink that much if I am out and about (bad I know) so this lasts me a day. Another great glass bottle to upcycle in this way is the Chari tea bottles; they are so small and compact! Or the Voss glass bottles for a large size option.
- BAG FOR LIFE I will always have one of these in some shape or form in any handbag i take out, because plastic bags are in the nemesis club along with styrofoam.
- PEPPERSMITH MINTS As most mints and gum contain aspartame, the controversial sweetener with links to cancer, I opt for these dental mints by Peppersmith, and they come in a handy recyclable paper container too.
- DR BRONNER LAVENDER ORGANIC HAND SANITISER Living in London, and witnessing the lack of hygiene of the general population on our public transport, a hand sanitiser makes me feel more at ease if I ever use my hands to eat whilst I’m out and about. This one from Dr Bronner is Organic, smells lovely and lasts ages. It’s more expensive than traditional sanitisers of course but I’m happy to pay a few pounds extra to protect my hands from the nasty chemicals in drug store options.
The other extras in my bag are my purse, oyster card holder, keys, headphones, umbrella (this is England after all) and lipstick or lip balm if applicable to that day. By no means do you need to carry everything I carry, but even having one of two of these things with you whilst on the go will ensure you are reducing your consumption of single use plastics, and reducing your landfill contribution.
What are your zero waste essentials?