Truth be told, the So. Cal daily grind makes living a sustainable, zero-waste life quite a challenge. Even the most conscious of greenies falls prey to the burden of non-essential packaging that is neither reused or recycled. No Impact Man himself, Colin Beavan, found the concept of living a life completely free from waste in an urban environment to be all but impossible.
How do we fight the current of wasteful living without making sustainable practice a full-time job? One vitally important piece of armor for our daily battle is an urban eco kit.
Coined by writer, coach and meditation teacher Deborah Eden Tull, an urban eco kit is a plethora of safe and durable substitutes for the common disposables we encounter in the concrete jungle. The following are a few basic kit items that, if kept on you at all times, can make a world of a difference:
- Safe Food Storage Container
So, you're out for Thai food and need to take some noodles or curry to-go? Instead of asking the friendly server to prep your food for departure -- using packaging within packaging for the “doggy bag” -- come prepared with a To-Go Ware Stainless Steel container (pictured above).
To-Go Ware containers are small enough to fit in a purse or backpack, yet can handle most leftover jobs (especially the two-tiered unit). And forget about being embarrassed; these classy-looking devices will attract interest, not judgmental stares.
- Reusable Utensils
Reduce your “forkprint” by including a set of cutlery, metal or bamboo, in a commute bag or purse. To-Go Ware makes stylish bamboo sets that include a fork, knife and chopsticks in an ergonomic clipping case. If you don’t want to buy something new, a set of small metal utensils will work just fine -- simply keep them inside a reusable food container.
- Cloth Napkin
An organic cotton or hemp napkin can take the place of paper in almost every situations (yes, even “that” one, but only at home of course). Include a few washable, chemical-free napkins in your bag or purse in preparation for the spills and sanitation needs of the day.
- Collapsable Shopping Bag
In addition to the reusable shopping bags that we should all have waiting in the car for those unforeseen pit stops, it is also important to carry a space efficient, reusable shopping bag on your person. Some products, such as the Chico Bag, collapse to a small enough size that they can easily fit in a reusable food container or take up a nominal amount of space loose in your day bag.
- Chemical-Free Liquid Container(s)
Single-use liquid containers top the charts as the most frequently wasted and land-filled personal items. From Starbucks coffee cups to PepsiCo bottles and cans to Dixie cups, we are conditioned to think that it is only natural to throw out or recycle several aluminum, plastic, foam and paper vessels each day.
True environmental responsibility requires one to be prepared. Bring a large stainless steel or glass container topped off with filtered water for your daily quenching. Klean Kanteen makes a great steel container in 27, 40 and 60 ounce varieties. These containers are free from BPA and other harmful toxins and come with a convenient loop top for easy clipping.
Other maverick-style reusables might include a coffee mug to save both money and paper products by switching to “drip” and a BPA-free plastic container for miscellaneous uses throughout the day. If you encounter a soda fountain, maybe ask the cashier if you can pay for the regular size drink and use your own container.
- Keep Traveling Inventory
Although our vehicles are not warehouses (even though some SUVs could serve the purpose), it is always a good idea to have a small inventory section in the trunk or behind the passenger seat. Extra shopping and produce bags, bulk and to-go food storage containers, hand sanitizer and less-commonly used items (i.e., Thermos containers) can be stowed in your vehicle to provide relief from waste on those high-consumption days.
We all have different routines and influences, so make sure to customize your urban eco kit to your lifestyle. Consider it a true extension of your sustainable home kitchen.
With the help of these simple tools, you will be on your way to little-to-no-on-the-go impact in a flash. In the meantime, don’t feel guilty about your waste. Slow and steady lifestyle changes lead to new lasting habits. For more information on mindful sustainable living, check out Deborah Eden Tull’s book, The Natural Kitchen: your guide to the sustainable food revolution.