Build a Zero Waste Emergency Food Kit

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By stashing a few key items in your bag, it will be easier to deal with leftovers, impromptu meals on the go, and other unexpected circumstances.

It’s one thing to embrace a zero waste lifestyle at home. It’s altogether another challenge to maintain those principles when unexpected circumstances arise. Whether you’re caught at a restaurant with leftovers, find yourself thirsty on a long walk, needing to pick up last-minute ingredients for a meal, or suddenly dealing with a mess, it’s very easy to end up with a handful of trash.

The key to ongoing zero waste success is always planning ahead. Celia, the blogger behind Litterless, recommends putting together a restaurant kit that fits into a purse or messenger bag, and can save you from having to accept unnecessary waste (or forego valuable food). The kit helps her to “stay zero waste,” and the most important item is a container in which to transport food:

“If I'm going out to eat and there's any chance at all that there will be something at the end that I'll want to take home, I'll bring along a to go container of my own. I like to bring a nice big stainless steel one with a tightly sealing lid, so that it can be as helpful for soup as it is for a sandwich, and so that I know it won't break.”

A reusable straw, water bottle, metal cutlery, and a cloth napkin are also on her must-have list. While it may seem like a lot to carry around, Celia recommends thinking ahead to where you may go and choosing specific items based on that:

“For the delicious Korean restaurant down the street, I'll bring a water bottle, napkin, and leftover container, but no fork. For a taco joint I love, let's be real: there are never going to be leftovers, so a napkin is all I need.”

Planning ahead for food transportation is my greatest weakness when cutting back on household waste. I’ve started carrying around a Mason jar at all times with a drinking lid attachment. It can be used for coffee or water on the go, as well as a food storage container. Having a cotton drawstring bag in my purse is handy, useful for baked goods and dry bulk items, as is a large reusable shopping bag for unplanned grocery purchases.

Another useful kit to have on hand is one designed for personal hygiene emergencies. When heading out with my kids, I take a damp washcloth in an old Ziploc bag for emergency hand wiping, cloth handkerchiefs for runny noses and dirty mouths, and a waterproof cloth bag for containing messy bibs or clothes that need to be changed.

What items help you to "stay zero waste" when you're out of the house?