Not only does this ubiquitous trash clog up our landscapes and kill wildlife, the trash must first be created, using unseen tons of oil (for plastic), paper (from felled trees), and energy (carbon emissions!!). All for something used and thrown away in half an hour.
I recently ran across the idea for a Zero Waste Travel Kit in the Charleston City Paper, which sponsored a 2-week "Zero Waste Challenge". The idea of the Kit is to help people reduce their waste when they are out in public.
Recommended items in the Kit are:
•Refillable drink bottle and coffee mug
•Plate, bowl and utensils
•Personal hand towel
•Reusable plastic container for leftovers/bulk items at store
•Mesh bag for produce
•Cloth grocery bags
I saw a couple of ladies use this idea at a recent Plan C meeting here in Oklahoma City. The meeting featured a potluck lunch made with locally made foods, but still - disposable plates and cups! I've noticed in the past that this is common even at environmental conferences - reducing waste just seems like an afterthought to the organizers, but it makes a big symbolic impression on the conference participants.
Anyway, many of the Plan C attendees (including myself), had brought refillable coffee mugs and water bottles, but one pair of ladies had gone the extra mile and brought their own plates, utensils and napkins for lunch. Now why didn't I think of that!
So today, I put together my Zero Waste Travel Kits (an ambitious name, I admit!).
The first kit will reside in my son's diaper bag - but would fit equally well in a mid-sized purse -and includes a small cloth bag and a hand towel. The hand towel is for drying off after washing your hands in public restrooms. Sweet! No more wasting energy with air blowers or killing trees with paper hand towels. Also - it won't matter if the restroom is OUT of hand towels, since you will have your own. The cloth bag is for all those times when you happen to need a few things from the store, but don't have your regular cloth bags with you.
The second kit will be in a bag in my car, (although maybe I should put it in my husband's car), and will have plates, silverware, Tupperware bowls, a reusable "To-go" box for taking home leftovers, coffee mug, cups, and napkins. It would also be good to have a rag to wipe down the plates and a Ziploc to put the rag/napkins in.
This kit is focused on reducing the restaurant trash you generate. Lots of fast food places always fix the meal with disposables. You can ask them to fix your food on the plate you've brought instead. OK, so maybe you look like the OCD guy from As Good As It Gets, but so what. Secondly, most restaurants give you To-Go boxes for your leftover food. Instead, just load up your leftovers in your own To-Go box - and no one even needs to know the difference. And finally, I bet you can guess what the coffee mug is for :).
You could also use this kit at whatever meetings, potlucks, environmental and peak oil conferences you may be attending. In fact, I call on all meeting and conference organizers to ask your attendees to bring their own ZW Kits (if you are not already using renewables, of course). Or - you could always sell a ZWK at the beginning of the conference with your logo emblazoned all over everything.
The third kit is just our set of 4 giant cloth bags, which we leave hanging by our garage door so we always remember them as we leave to get groceries. The cloth bags are stuffed with all our plastic bags that we get our produce in, which we re-use over and over - although some people buy/make special mesh bags, which is probably a better idea. If we had a Whole Foods or other place where we could get bulk items, we would include reusable containers in this kit as well.
I found all the items to make these ZWKs already laying around my house in about half an hour this morning. My husband may not appreciate my liberation of the 2 orange plates, but hopefully he just won't notice, and everything else was expendable. So, total cost for me: $0. If you don't have extra bags/plates/Tupperware/utensils/etc, they can be obtained cheap from garage sales or thrift shops.