• What's in my zero-waste essentials kit?
  • Post author
    Namrata Baliga

What's in my zero-waste essentials kit?

What's in my zero-waste essentials kit?

Trying to be zero-waste, low-impact or plastic-free does not mean you throw out all the plastic you have in your house and go and buy new stuff. In fact, it is quite the opposite. It means making the best use of the resources you have and trying minimize the overall impact of your choices.

But doesn't it seem that life and the universe sometimes conspire and catch you off-guard? You may have to stay late at work and order take-out or not have reusable bags on hand for that unplanned grocery store trip. The one tip that has helped me tremendously is to always be prepared - set yourself up for success by taking a few extra seconds and plan your day. Of course, there is always the occasional curveball, but having a kit of few reusable, zero-waste essentials might help you face most of the unexpected challenges. This is something that we've had to invest in, over time. It makes it easier for us to be low-impact and zero-waste. It is always best to see if you can find these second-hand or try and use what you already have at home. 

So, what's in my plastic-free, zero-waste handbag ?

To be honest, this kit stays more in my car than my handbag since I start getting a shoulder-ache if I carry anything heavy for more than 30 minutes. 

Reusable Coffee Cup


I started with using a 30 oz thermal flask but as I started to reduce my caffeine intake, I started finding it to be heavy and cumbersome to carry around. Luckily my husband was looking for a backup reusable coffee cup at the same time, since he invariably forgot to clean his cup each morning. So he got my flask and I got one of these lightweight 12 oz glass Sol cups which are the perfect size and weight for me. With a silicone sleeve and lid, it is so handy and cute, I have had many people in coffee shops ask me about it. I also saw one person purchase a reusable cup for his coffee from the store after our talk, instead of using a disposable one. A great reinforcer for leading by example. 

Reusable Water bottle

I carry this reusable bottle from Klean Kanteen - it is super convenient to refill from any water-fountain or tap and keep one at my desk.  

Reusable Bamboo cutlery


Again the lightweight nature of these bamboo spoon, fork and knife set is the key feature that made me get it, since this always goes in my handbag. After I'm done using it, I just wrap it my cloth napkin and get it back home to be washed. Of course, you can always carry the metal flatware you may have at home as well. 

Metal straw

I tried going straw-less for a while when going to restaurants, but the extreme cold beverages and water caused issues to my sensitive teeth (it is SO hard to find room temperature water at most places here in the US). So I succumbed and bought a steel straw with a carrying sleeve. This is a wider-opening straw which I love since I can use the same straw for smoothies as well. I keep it on the table at the restaurant - in addition to asking for no-straw, this acts as an additional reminder to servers and has also sparked a couple of conversations with nearby tables, thus helping to spread the less-plastic, less waste message. 

Steel lunch container

This is perfect for carrying lunch or bringing home left overs from a restaurant. i bought this for my husband for him to take lunch to work. I also have from my pre-zero-waste days, older plastic tupperware containers that are still in great condition. I use those as a backups since I sometimes just keep the steel one in the fridge with leftovers and forget to put it back in the car. Once the plastic ones are fully worn out, I plan to invest in more of these steel containers. The small condiment container is also wonderful for carrying sandwich dip and dressings - it stores nicely inside the lunch container. 

Cloth napkins/hanky

On my last trip to India, I had to buy an entire pack of 24 cotton napkins since it was unbearably hot and I had forgotten to carry any napkins with me. Those are still working great for me after more than a year

Produce bags

I always like to have 2-3 cotton produce bags handy with me for that last-minute grocery store trip. In a pinch, I've also used them as a napkin for wiping coffee spills in the car (not surprising since I sometimes have my dog in the car with me as well). 

Tote bag

I love my string bag because it folds up easily to fit in my handbag and is also really sturdy and stretchy. I am also still using grocery tote bags that I brought at Trader Joe's couple of years ago - they are still going strong. I store all of the above reusables in my string bag and keep that bag in the car. 

I’d like to hear from you - what do you carry with you as your zero-waste essentials ? Is there something that you absolutely can't do without ? Anything else that you’d like to add to this list? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below!

  • Post author
    Namrata Baliga

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