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Pack Your Reusables before You Go-Go

Pack Your Reusables before You Go-Go

Wednesday, 7th February 2018

In Part IV of our guide to sustainability, easy hacks to stay waste-free during even the busiest of days.
You can see why Wham never sang that - it’s not the catchiest of titles but it’s a key way to live sustainably when you’re out of the house; which most of us are, for most of the time!
Having said that, we all know the New Year is a terrible time to make Resolutions (New Year’s Zero-lutions?) as studies show “that these “temporal landmarks” cause us to take a big-picture view of our lives; what they don’t show is that it does us much good…mainly the fresh-start effect makes for unrealistic expectations and therefore disappointment”
BUT given all the media attention at the moment on ocean plastics, plastic free aisles, , a possible 'latte levy' and whether 'deposit return schemes' will be making a comeback – I thought you could all do with a reminder about how easy it is to tackle Zero Waste ‘On-The-Go’.
The issue comes down to the fact that the UK’s recycling infrastructure was designed before the rise of all our On-The-Go’ consumption and now is groaning under the weight of it. The materials used for takeaway packaging are ever more complicated and un-recyclable. And the materials don’t stay in the same place – if you take a coffee cup away then all the work that your café has done to source biodegradable packaging and provide the correct disposal, doesn’t matter a jot if it ends up in a standard bin at your work. Furthermore, it’s contaminated by food which complicates matters even more… Don’t be under any illusion about this – almost all of your takeaway packaging is being incinerated, no matter how hard you try.
'Our embrace of 'convenience' and our acceptance of our inability to plan ahead is an entirely new way of thinking, and over the past seventy years we have built a new and different economic system to accommodate it'
So, we must tackle the problem at source and reduce first. I hate to say that it’s as easy as 1-2-3 but it kinda is:
  1. Just make the decision.
  2. Buy some kit.
  3. And try and stick to it.
Let me elaborate:
Your starting point is to make the decision that you’re going to try, as much as possible, to not use disposables – whether its water bottles, coffee cups, takeaway food packaging or straws. They’re all avoidable if you decide in your head that’s what you want to do. You don’t have to be perfect; you will forget your reusable cup/ bottle/ container more than once, it’s fine – just resolve to bring it the next time.
Once you’ve made the decision that this is what you want to do, then get yourself some kit. You’ll need (and lots of these are available in Planet Organic as they make a real focus on helping you use reusables in their shops & cafés):
  1. A reusable water bottle – I like Kleen Kanteen which are stainless steel and fairly indestructible so will last for ages (the key when investing in any reusable product).
  2. A reusable coffee cup (e.g. a sturdy plastic/ glass one from Keep Cup), or even a collapsible Stojo if you haven’t got space to carry one.
  3. A lunchbox container is next and - once againstainless steel is brilliant as it’s easy to clean and you can bash it around in your bag as much as you like.
  4. Finally – a small cloth bag for snacks – either ones you bring from home, or want to buy loose whilst on the go (snacks from Unpackaged at Planet Organic in Muswell Hill, Torrington Place and, from the 20th of Feb, from Westbourne Grove, for example)
Lots of Zero Waste blogs will tell you that you need to carry a reusable straw which I’ve never found necessary – but the key thing is to ask for no straw when you order drinks out. Far too many places will add them in before you can say knife so you have to pre-empt!
House your kit in a reusable shopping bag and you’re good to go. Now you can start exploring all the brilliant businesses that are more than happy for you to bring your own – everyone wants your business so just explain to them what you’re trying to do, and ask for their help to do so.
A good thing to do is to think about how and where you usually buy these goods, and put your reusables in the place they need to be, to make your life easier. If you pop away from your desk mid-morning for a coffee then you need a coffee cup that lives at work. If you drink water on the commute, your water bottle lives at home. Just a little bit of thinking will make it much easier to achieve.
And finally – some tips for when it goes wrong! Don’t overload yourself. Start with the list above, even one would do (just choose the one you use most of to get the biggest impact) and then add in another idea when you’re ready. Don’t berate yourself if you forget; you will and it’s not the end of the world – we all do. Ignore perfect #zerowaste social media posts which can be demoralizing as very few people are that perfect in real life.
And make sure you ignore the naysayers – whether in your own family or work colleagues who tell you that one person’s actions don’t matter, they do. And if you get a bad reaction from someone in a shop or café – some people just don’t get it, so explain it to them – they soon will. And if you can’t convince them, take your business elsewhere.
I like to be gentle in my blogs as I know that being angry won’t help get people on the journey - I want you to feel empowered not overwhelmed. But when I look at the world, and see how hard millions of people’s lives are, it reminds me how fortunate and privileged we are to be the 1% (you may not always feel it but globally, you really are). And when I think of the luxury of all the purchases listed above – I think, really, this is the least we can do. Perhaps that thought might help push you over the line.
Happy #reusing and I’ll be back next month with ideas for reducing waste in your home.

Written By


13 Feb 2018
reviewed by
Wonderful advice, really helpful and encouraging without trying to infuse guilt. Thank you!

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