My Zero Waste Kit (Zero Waste Handbag Essentials)
I truly believe that the zero waste lifestyle does not mean going out to buy a whole heap of stuff. Saying that, there are definitely things that I have bought, which make waste-free living a lot easier for me. I refer to these things as my zero waste “kit”.
Recently I received a lovely email from a lady called Rachel who follows my Instagram feed, and she asked me: “I’ve seen you mention “zero waste kit” a few times and was wondering what that was!” It dawned on me that I’ve never taken the time to explain what I have and why. So here it is: my list of handbag essentials for zero waste living.
What is essential for me might not be essential for you, and this is definitely no command to go shopping! As always, I recommend using what you have. Whilst I’ve provided links so you can find out more details about the things I’ve personally chosen, please consider making do, buying second-hand and shopping local where you can.
What’s In My Zero Waste Handbag?
My handbag is by no means a hold-all! None of this stuff takes up that much room and the only heavy thing is my water bottle, when it’s full.
I’ve included links below of the actual things I have, so you can see specific product details, dimensions etc.
Water bottle: I have a Klean Kanteen stainless steel water bottle with a bamboo lid. It holds 800ml. I chose this because it is completely plastic free and I love that Klean Kanteen are committed to producing products with the environment in mind.
Sometimes I leave the water bottle at home to save weight and use my reusable cup instead.
Reusable Coffee Cup: When I started out, I had a plastic KeepCup, but once glass ones were introduced in 2014 I made the switch. I have a 8oz glass KeepCup with a cork band but bigger sizes are also available. The lid is plastic but I like that the rest of the cup is not, and that it is a standard barista size.
I often use this as an impromptu container, or to grab a glass of water from anywhere with a tap if I don’t have my water bottle with me.
Reusable Cutlery: I have a To-Go ware set that was a birthday present: it contains a bamboo fork, spoon, knife and chopsticks and the pouch is made from recycled water bottles. The cutlery is surprisingly sturdy and I have skinned and de-stoned a mango with the knife. It is also suitable to carry onto planes in hand luggage.
Reusable Straw: I have added a reusable metal straw to my reusable cutlery pouch (it needs to be 21.5cm or smaller to fit in the To-Go Ware pouch). I also have reusable glass straws that I love, but I tend to take them out with me less often. The ones I have are made by Glass Dharma and come with a lifetime breakage guarantee. There are other brands with different colours and patterns. Reusable bamboo straws are another option.
Glass straws sound fragile but the glass is toughened and it would be impossible to bite through it. Because the edges are smoothed I think they are a good option for kids.
Produce Bags: Almost all of the produce bags I have are handmade (not by me!), and I think Etsy is a great place to find local craftspeople if you can’t sew your own. My own bags (mostly gifts) are made from old fabric, cafe curtains and an old bedsheet of mine. I love sellers who repurpose old fabric rather than buying new, like these produce bags made from old tablecloths.
I also have a few Onya produce bags too which are handy as they fit in a little stuff sack. The company started down the road from here and the owner is passionate about reducing plastic-bag use.
Reusable Bag: We have a number of calico bags that we’ve picked up over the years and would recommend choosing natural fibres where possible. As well as these, we have a couple of Onya reusable shopping bags. Whilst they are plastic, they scrunch up into a tiny stuff sack when not in use, so they are handy for my husband (who does not carry a handbag!) or when we are travelling as they are pocked-sized.
Sandwich Wraps: These are coated fabric and can be used in place of containers. I have snack pockets and sandwich wraps made by 4MyEarth, a local Perth company. They used to make 2 sizes of each but now they just make 1 size of each. The fabric is coated to make it water- and grease-resistant: it is a plant-based plastic and they are PVC-free. I like that they are machine washable, and they have lasted me a really long time (I got them in 2012).
Metal lunchbox: I bought my husband this metal lunchbox to take to work every day, although we also use it if we are going out to a restaurant or cafe (you never know where there might be leftovers!). I’ve added to our collection since then: a three-tier tiffin and a four-tier tiffin, and a round stainless steel lunchbox for myself that I bought in Thailand.
Stainless steel is expensive – it is an investment piece that will last forever. If you have an Indian supermarket nearby it is worth checking out if they stock tiffins as the price will likely be kinder to your wallet. Sometimes, they pop up in charity shops too (although I’ve never been this lucky)!
Hanky: I keep a hanky on me at all times, which doubles as a serviette if I’m out. Department stores will likely sell them, but I prefer to keep things local and I’d look on Etsy if I needed more. Or, I’d just cut up some old clothes and make do with the ragged edges ;)
The links above are mostly for Australian stores. If you’re not in Australia, this page has a list of online zero waste and plastic-free stores which you might find useful.
Now I’d like to hear from you! What are your zero waste essentials? How did you choose your items? What eco-minded companies have you chosen to support? How have you been able to make do? Have you made any great second-hand purchases? Any recommendations for where others might be able to make do or find second-hand? Do you consider any of the items I’ve chosen a waste of time?! Anything else you’d like to add? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below!
Disclaimer: These items are all items that I genuinely use and love, and have purchased with my own money or were received as gifts from friends and family. No company has paid me to be featured on this list. This post contains some affiliate links which means if you click a link and choose to purchase a product, I may be compensated a small amount at no extra cost to you. This in no way affects my recommendations as my priority is always you, my readers.
That’s a great list! I love carrying a (now beaten up) Klean Kanteen wherever I go and hate how at my office they only have plastic cups and plates in an effort to reduce dishwasher loads (I know, right?!). I do always bring my own lunch(box) for that reason but was looking into getting my own straw and cutlery (because we’re always out) also.
Thanks for sharing your favourites!
Thanks Anna! Your office would drive me crazy. Seriously wouldn’t anyone rather empty the dishwasher than empty a stinky bin? Or do you have cleaners to do that for you?!
Honestly, I don’t use straws much, but I find them such a good conversation starter that I always have one on me. You never know when it might come in handy!
I agree with you on straws. Most of the time I just have a reusable cup of some sort. But for iced coffee I do like straws. I actually found some on the links you listed for ethical shops in the UK (thanks for those!). And yeah, we have cleaners but something is obviously going very wrong if they are being paid to empty the bins rather than do an extra dishwasher load…
It’s when you order a frozen daiquiri and it is served without a straw that you realise they do occasionally come in handy! (That happened to my mother-in-law, and in the end she had to ask for a straw as she didn’t have a reusable one. Now when I’m out places like that I take extra!) Glad you’ve been able to find some Anna :)
And yes, I agree : /
Thank you for sharing such a detailed list! I found all these to be excelent items and I’m looking forward to slowly replace all plastics in my life! The only thing I haven’t found just yet near me are the straws… I cringe just thinking of all the plastic straws used daily when there are such good options (I don’t use straws that often as I mostly drink water and tea, but honestly, they’re everywhere!)
My pleasure! And that’s they key…slowly. No need to rush off and buy all the things, only to realise you won;t use half of them! I know exactly what you mean about straws. Such pointless plastic, and such a waste of resources, and such an environmental disaster…
Since I’m a biker, I have several plastic bottles but they usually break after a few years. I still have like 6-7 at home. I am thinking about investing in a kleen kanteen and only using those for road biking sessions, so they will last longer, but it is quite expensive. Do you like it? Isn’t the 800ml one a bit too big to carry it around?
Since I don’t drink coffee, I never thought buying a keepcup, but I see you have different uses for it :) Although I bring my lunch in a glass jar, so I always have a container with me at the end of the day. Are the stainless steel boxes lighter than a glass jar? Since I always carry a lot of stuff (sometimes the swimming gear, sometimes my running shoes, etc), my backpack can become quite heavy as it is, and the jar is not a lightweight category.
Do you always have your produce bags and reusable shopping bags with you? I only carry a big kitchen towel/napkin kind of cloth in case I want to buy something smallish, but usually if I decide to buy some vegetables/fruit during the day I just throw everything in my backpack, and only buy as much as fits, since I don’t have a basket on my bike (not that type of biker :D )
Dori, I love my Klean Kanteen! I have a plastic Camelbak bottle that I use with my bike, but I’ve been thinking about getting rid of it. I use my Klean Kanteen sometimes, but in summer I’d need an insulated bottle or it would be like a thermos with boiling water! I find it a good size. I used to have a 500ml insulated one and it took up the same amount of space. They are expensive, but one should last forever. And you will look after it!
To be honest, if I have a coffee, I almost always sit own. I don’t tend to buy takeaway coffee. I use it at events, workshops, meetings, as a water glass, to carry leftovers…it is a lovely size. I’ve even bought things from the deli counter with it!
I would say the weight of the eco lunchbox and the glass jar are comparable. Of course you can be rougher with the stainless steel.
If you’re worried about weight, you could look into titanium. I came across this brand recently and was quite impressed: https://www.vargooutdoors.com/ But definitely an investment!
I try to always have a shopping bag or two, yes. We don’t tend to do one big shop, it is easier to pop in for a few things. I hate getting to a bulk store and realising I have no bags. I’m the same as you re veggies – I just chuck them in my handbag loose! I always have one reusable bag with me, yes, Well, 99% of the time. The time I don’t have it is always the time I need it!
Hope that helps, Dori! Any more questions let me know!
Does the glass keep cup get really hot in your hands? I have a plastic one but rarely use it because I find it so hard to hold, even with the little silicon sleeve…
Hi Siobhan, thanks for the question! I would say not really hot as it’s that toughened Pyrex-style glass. So it doesn’t get as hot as those regular drinking-style water glasses that some baristas insist on pouring lattes into! I find the cork band is good too as it is much thicker than the silicone one. Probably smaller ones would be better than bigger ones, as there is less glass for the same amount of cork… But I love mine!
I’ll definitely check the bamboo cutlery. Mine was a slightly smaller set someone gave my kids when they were little but the knife got confiscated on a plane trip… I was quite sad, as the cutlery had sentimental value as well as being useful. I made a cutlery pouch from instructions from the Rogue Ginger’s blog. http://www.therogueginger.com/2015/09/cutlery-wrap-sewing-tutorial.html
I’m surprised the knife was confiscated Bernadette! I’ve taken mine on a few plane trips and it’s always been fine. I know plenty of other people with this set who also use it on planes. Can I ask what airline/airport?
Thanks for sharing the link – a great tutorial!
I was so excited to find a stainless steel tiffin at an opshop for only a few dollars! A rare find indeed!
I found one in a charity shop too once, Sarah, and I was so excited I nearly bought it. Except, I realised I didn’t actually need it, (I already have a few!) So put it back. Hopefully someone else snapped it up! They are rare!
I’ve been carrying a kit like yours for years. Old bandanas make great produce bags…so easy to sew, the edges are already hemmed.
Every time I read this Jules, I think…’old bananas?! What?!’ And then I realise you said bandanas ;) I am a big fan of fabric with the edges already hemmed. I made my iPad cover with old denim jeans – dropped the iPad in the leg until it got stuck, then cut the bottom and sewed it up! Simple as! ;)
Thank you for posting your hand bag inventory!
Inspired by you I already ordered stainless steel straws (I never use them, but I have kids you know…), water bottles and am planning to buy keep cups and reusable cutlery as soon as they can make it into my budget :)
I have a question on lunch boxes – I read the reviews on amazon on ECOlunchbox but it looks like on the top of hefty price they are neither leakproof, no of flawless quality. Is there a brand that makes them leak proof and to last forever + 1 day. I’m thinking kids again – if the box will cause a mess in their school bags they won’t be motivated to use it..
Hi Gayla, thanks for taking the time to comment! Sounds very organised!
I would say my ECO lunchbox is flawless quality ;) but not leakproof, no. Unless you find a lunchbox with a silicone seal or a plastic lid it won’t be leakproof. A Slice of Green has a good range so you could look there and see if there’s any that might work for you: http://www.asliceofgreen.co.uk/reusable-containers/?aid=3009
I would also say let your kids help choose the box, as I’ve read some comments from mums whose kids have had comments about their “weird” lunchboxes. If they’ve helped choose it, they should be happier/prouder to use it!
Hope that helps. Any more questions let me know!
Thanks for sharing Lindsay! I personally always carry my trusty Bodum stainless steel mug, I love that it’s really water tight, even upside down in my handbag!! I also always a napkin (found mine in the family fabric stash..) and a reusable (pocketsize when folded) bag.
My pleasure Claire! Thanks for sharing your own preferences :) I love pocket-sized foldable bags because they don’t get left behind!
Hi Lindsay, Great talk today!
I use onya produce weigh bags (10 fit into a pouch) and they are so light they don’t add to the scales.
I also have bamboo cutlery (from a shop called meraki next to organic circle in roleystone) and chop sticks, but I will definitely be sourcing some of those metal or glass straws! Might buy in bulk to make gifts for all the girlfriend’s bags too :)
I bought a bamboo bowl/plate/cup set from meraki too for picnics, made from offcuts from the fashion industry.
Thanks for all the ideas!
Hi Amber, thank you! And thanks for coming. I have a couple of Onya bags and I remember when we got them, the girl at the market tall told me they didn’t register on the scales. I went home and weighed them, and they weighed 25 grams each! Fortunately the bulk store I go to regularly will take the bag weight off. If I go anywhere else I use them for the cheapest per kilo items! ;)
Living in Australia, I am surprised you are buying from Etsy. I love Etsy but find the postage and exchange rate is pricing me out of it.
Hi Zom and thanks for your comment. Actually, I have never personally bought anything from Etsy. I really don’t buy much, and try to avoid buying anything online because of the packaging etc. But I know sellers who sell their products on Etsy (some also sell their products in physical stores here in Perth), and I love the concept – craftspeople finding customers for handmade items.
Ultimately whether someone is happy to pay postage and packing is a personal choice. It’s also not Etsy’s fault – it is Australia Post that is expensive! I’m lucky that I live in a city with lots of options, but not everyone has access. So I recommend it as an option for those who can’t sew and aren’t crafty :)
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I read your post on FB and thought I’d share my kit too. I am rather new to the “zero waste” movement (less than two months!) but I have been slowly building up my zero waste kit over the past year without even fully realizing I was doing it. I have a metal coffee thermos (I put tea in it and take it to work every morning), a glass fruit infuser bottle (that I also use as a regular water bottle), metal utensils (fork, knife, spoon) that I have either thrifted or just taken from home, I always keep a mason jar on hand (just in case!), a black cloth napkin, a bright yellow hanky, and all of my work lunches are stored in glass containers that I saved after eating their contents. All of it is stored in a sturdy cloth bag I found at a thrift store. I try to search my home for items before buying things but, alas, so little of what I used prior was built to be reusable. But I am working on changing that!
Also, I really like your KeepCup. It looks super adorable!
Ah that is great Noa, you sound so organised! And of course, a little pre-planning is exactly what we need to stop us creating waste :) Hope the zero waste journey continues to go well!
Wonderful post and comments! Useful information abounding! We are on our way to Pittsburgh by car from Michigan, staying the night on the way. I packed the kettle, coffee pot and our trusty tin mugs…….no hotel coffee in plastic for us!
Thank you Gillie and that sounds marvellous – bet it was the best coffee ever! ;)
As a family of 5 we have a zero waste kit in the car with plates, cutlery, a sharp knife and stainless steel nesting cups. I always carry resuable shopping bags and my Earth Cup and kids always have stainless steel water bottles. I do find handbags to carry it all hard to buy.What handbag do you have?
A zero waste kit in the car, I love it, Chrissy! My handbag is from Claire at Small World Dreams, a local independent business made in Australia. She has moved away from bags a lot now and makes homewares, but still has some occasionally. It works for me!