Zero waste bag
Zero waste bag

5 Zero-Waste Everyday Bag Essentials

Items Every Environmentalist Should be Carrying to Avoid Plastic Waste

“What’s in my bag?” Zero- Waste Edition

Before you walk out the door you know to check for the following:

  • Phone
  • Wallet
  • Keys

But are you forgetting anything?

If you’re trying to avoid plastic waste in your everyday life… YES.

When you’re at home, you can control pretty much everything.

You’ve found a plastic-free store to source your home essentials from, you’re bringing reusable bags any time you go to the grocery store, basically, you’re crushing it in the domestic environmentalist department.

And then you hop in the car for a day trip and it all goes out the window (hopefully not literally out the window – don’t litter, kids).

One of the hardest times to reduce waste is when we’re on the go.

Suddenly you have plastic cutlery, coffee cups, and paper napkins decorating your backseat and the eco-anxiety starts to set in.

You feel like a bad environmentalist.

You want to slap on a fake mustache to obscure your identity and disappear.

We’ve all been Jim.

Fear not, my eco-friend! 

I’ve rounded up a list of 5 items to always carry in your bag so you can stay zero-waste on the go

Soon, much like those bobby pins that got stuck in the crease six months ago or the gum wrapper you keep forgetting to throw away, these 5 items will become permanent fixtures in your bag.

1. Cloth Napkins

cloth napkins

Remember how our grandparent’s generation used to carry a handkerchief everywhere they went? It was this super classy, chivalrous habit where they’d offer it to crying friends or use it to clean their spectacles.

Yea.. let’s bring that back. 

I’m not saying you need a monogrammed pocket square. I’m just saying, it makes a whole lot of sense to carry around some sort of cloth with you at all times especially if you’re eating meals outside the house.

Coffee spill? You’ve got it covered without being that person at the cafe using up all the paper napkins.

Want a zero-waste baked good? Decline the box in-store and neatly package it in cloth.

Find a cool pinecone on a hike to add to your collection? Wrap it up to avoid dirt getting inside your bag and clean it off back home.

Ok, maybe the pinecone thing is just me… but if you collect other weird things on hikes, which I know you do, you really need to start carrying cloth with you!

Most of us already have plenty of cloth napkins at home to easily throw into our bag, but if not, here are some options to look into:

Absorbant & durable bamboo cotton and organic cotton multi-use towels from Net Zero Co.

EarthHero has an entire section of sustainable linens to look into!

EarthHero is a certified B Corp, part of 1% for the Planet, uses carbon offsets for shipping, and uses recyclable shipping materials (can you tell I’m a fan of them?). On top of all that, you can use code “altanthro” at checkout to get 10% off the incredible eco-brands the supply, heck yea!

2. Silverware

silverware

That’s right, y’all, SILVER-ware not bamboo-ware.

Unpopular opinion: bamboo cutlery is not the epitome of sustainability.

I’ve tried to love it, I really have. It’s lightweight which makes it so great to throw into your everyday bag… but it just doesn’t work long term. It splinters and breaks, it doesn’t hold food well, and in the end, you have to replace it so many times that it makes far more sense to just use the silverware you already own and love.

I’ve gladly taken on the slight extra weight in my bag to know that I have a solid fork, knife, and spoon option any time I need it. Which is surprisingly often. 

It’s also unexpected. So when a friend is trying to spread cream cheese and they go, “ugh, I forgot to grab a knife”, you can pull out a gorgeous silver knife, not one of those flimsy plastic ones they were expecting to use. It’s delightful in an eco-friendly-Mary-Poppins kind of way. Your friends will thank you and so will the earth.

However, for those who really need to keep a light bag, I see you. I’ve got you covered. Backpacking utensil sets are actually meant to hold up and they’re always on the lighter side because they’re meant to be carried on a person’s back for literal miles. If someone can scale a mountain with it, you can have it in your bag going from the office to the car.

Check out this all-in-one spork or head over to EarthHero for a full travel cutlery section!

3. Reusable Mug or Water Bottle

Reusable mug

Ok, this one is basically environmentalism 101, right?

The age of the plastic water bottle is D. E. A. D. But that doesn’t mean you should go dehydrated!

Most of ya’ll already have plastic sports bottles shoved into the backs of your cabinets. They were probably freebies from some conference you went to or a race your friend ran in. Always use what you already have FIRST.

But if you’re finding yourself not bringing it along because it’s not good for hot beverages, has a weird taste, or let’s be honest, you want something a little more stylish (I’m not above buying a bottle to match my phone case) then check out the options below. Just remember to invest in a design that will not only fulfill your day-to-day needs but that you’ll also want to bring along everywhere.

Here are some of the brands I’ve had for years and LOVE:

  1. Hydro Flask – This one is my go-to if I might be drinking coffee in the morning and iced tea in the afternoon. It’s great for both and it’s leak-proof! I also grabbed the optional flip lid because I find it’s the most versatile and easy to drink out of.
  2. Yeti – These are fantastic at keeping your beverages hot and feel more like a classic mug to hold which I like. The lid isn’t totally leak-proof so I usually just bring this one with me on car trips or to walk around with during the day.
  3. S’well – This is my top pick for a workout water bottle. It’s the most leak-proof of the entire bunch so you can just chuck it in your workout bag without worrying. The small-mouth design also makes it a thousand times easier to drink out of however it does limit you to mainly cold beverages. Sidenote… these bottle designs can’t get any more gorgeous.
  4. Nalgene – I didn’t understand the hype about Nalgenes until I needed to get one for a 5-day white water rafting trip. Now I understand why outdoor enthusiasts love them. They’re light, they can take a beating, and you can attach them to your bag with a carabiner. This one is obviously best for cold drinks but now I never go hiking with anything else.
  5. Klean Kanteen – These babies are totally leak-proof, crazy lightweight, and extremely durable. For anyone looking to grab their first long-term reusable bottle, you can’t go wrong with a Klean Kanteen.

For a massive stock of different sustainable bottles, head over to EarthHero‘s reusable drinkware section. They even carry cool bottles I’d never heard of like a glass tea infuser by Fressko and a graphic bottle by TenTree!

4. Snacks

Zero Waste

This one takes some forethought but has saved me SO much money and has greatly reduced my impact while traveling.

Easy level:

I’d recommend keeping some healthy, non-perishable granola bars as a permanent fixture in your bag. My personal favorite brands are Kind, Atlas, and Oatmega bars – linked here are my most-loved flavors so feel free to give them a try if you love chocolate and peanut butter as much as me!

Yes, these are wrapped in a small bit of plastic but it should be easily recyclable and will keep you from stopping for less than healthy take-out accompanied by plastic cutlery, paper napkins, ketchup packets, non-recyclable clamshell containers, and plastic bags.

Advanced Level: 

If you have a bit more time to plan ahead, whip up a healthy snack or lunch before you head out the door! If I won’t be gone for too long I usually chop up some carrots and cucumbers, an apple, or take a scoop of trail mix with me. These are perfect, ready to go snacks just waiting to be thrown in a reusable stasher bag. I’ve even placed grapes, nuts, etc. into glass mason jars before – use what you’ve got but note that glass can end up pretty heavy!

Alternatively, if I’m prepping for a road-trip or even bringing lunch on the go or to work, I’ll opt for a heartier meal more suited for storage in a stainless steel lunch box or stainless steel round container. If you already have plastic containers from takeout, always use what you already own! But if you want to upgrade to an eco-friendly option, stainless steel is the way to go because it’s so light-weight.

Want literally hundreds of zero-waste food storage solutions all in one place? You guessed it, head over to EarthHero‘s food storage section. Seriously, what don’t they have? 

5. Small Reusable Bags

cloth bag

That’s right, bag-ception.

Everyone should carry smaller bags within their bags. That’s the new rule. Country-wide legally mandated Russian nesting bags. 

Think of all the times you just happened to walk by a drug store and decided to pop in for one item only to walk out with so much you needed three plastic bags to carry it all. You had no intention of acquiring plastic that day, but we can’t always predict a shopping bag moment.

That’s why having a few small, lightweight bags within your everyday bag is such a good idea. You have no idea how many times this habit has saved me at an unexpected farmers market.

Ok, I’ve only stumbled upon farmers’ markets out of the blue like twice… but that’s not never!

I’d recommend grabbing some sustainable lightweight mesh or cotton muslin multi-use bags or opt for a durable and compactable Nylon version. Where can you find that one you might ask? EarthHero! Shocker, I know! Check out their reusable grocery bag section for tons of options.

Note: nylon itself isn’t a sustainable material but it’s a helluva lot better than single-use plastic and will last a lifetime!

Which of the 5 zero-waste essentials will you be grabbing?

And let me know in the comments what weird sh*t you’ll be picking up with your cloth napkins. I can’t be the only pinecone collector!

Your sustainable lifestyle coach,

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5 items for zero waste bag