One of the best ways reduce waste is to always carry a few supplies with you to avoid getting stuck using single-use garbage while you’re out.
Eventually it will become second nature to keep these by your side or in your car!
Keeping reusable bags in your car (and maybe even one in your purse or on your keychain) can help you avoid ending up with a single-use bag if you unexpectedly buy or are given something.
Paper napkins and paper towels use many natural resources (and, if they’re white, a ton of chemicals to bleach them) to produce and they can’t even be recycled. Keeping a cloth napkin on hand (preferably made from linen, not cotton) will allow you to comfortably say “no thank you” to single-use napkins when ordering take-out or to-go coffee without sacrificing keeping your hands clean.
Lunchbox, food containers, or a tiffin
Packing your lunch in a reusable container such as a stainless steel lunch box, silicone bags, glass tupperware, or a multi-tiered tiffin can help you drastically reduce your use of single-use plastic (in the form of zip-lock bags).
Often, if you have reusable food containers on hand, you can eliminate the need for clamshells and take-out boxes when ordering take-out or pastries at the coffee shop. Some restaurants or vendors might put your food into your container directly; others might prefer not to for health reasons. If this is the case and you’re committed to eliminating to-go dishware wherever possible, one option is to ask them to bring it to you on a plate and then to transfer it to your container.
If you know you are going for a picnic or to eat outside somewhere, consider bringing the portable food containers mentioned above or non-breakable but still highly portable stainless steel plates instead of paper or plastic plates (which use a lot of natural resources and can’t be recycled).
Eliminating single-use items from dining on the go is one of the trickiest issues to tackle! Just remember that even if you aren’t always successful, every little bit makes a difference.
Plastic straws are a huge source of waste, and their disposal is extremely problematic. It’s true that many, many drinks are more comfortably enjoyed with a straw — cold to-go drinks on the road, smoothies, milkshakes, even water in restaurants — but that doesn’t mean you have to use single-use plastic straws that will take thousands of years to degrade, if ever, and may end up harming wildlife if they don’t make it to a landfill. Stainless steel straws are endlessly reusable and, these days, highly portable. If you eat out a lot, this is one of the biggest changes you can make to your waste footprint.
Travel mug and/or reusable water bottle
Plastic water bottles are problematic for many reasons: they leach microplastics into the water before you drink it, they create unnecessary waste in production and disposal, and in many cases they simply contain tap water from another part of the country that has traveled thousands of miles to reach you. Filling a reusable water bottle or thermos before you leave home and carrying it in your bag and/or car will allow you to stay hydrated without spending your money on another town’s tap water or creating additional plastic waste.
Plastic to-go utensils are a tremendous source of waste, from production (from fossil fuels and chemicals) to disposal (it can’t be recycled, and because it’s so small it often ends up separated from larger bins of trash and can make its way to the ocean). Being able to say “no thank you” to single-use utensils by always keeping a set of utensils (stainless steel, bamboo, or spoons, forms and knives from your kitchen drawer) makes a HUGE difference in your waste impact.
*LRSWMD is providing links to examples of products and is not endorsing any particular company or product.