Whenever I speak to groups, one of the biggest hits is always my backpack. It’s quite odd because it’s something I never even intended as a teaching tool, yet somehow has become synonymous with my attempts to curb my waste. I think the reason it works is because it’s so specific, pragmatic, and doesn’t take a lot of thought, just a little forethought.
I’ve carried a backpack for pretty much as long as I can remember and like many of you, have been hauling around things I never need for quite some time. Let’s face it, the road flares from that spelunking craze you went through last year aren’t really doing a lot of good to you these days are they? So last year, while saving all of my trash, I decided to take out some of the stuff I didn’t need, and start carrying around some things that I actually could use, and in more than a few instances, could even make me money.
I posted up a video about this last October, but figured I’d bring it around to the top of the order as people seem to like it. So without further ado, the stuff I carry in my backpack.
1. Steel water bottle. The reasons for this are myriad, and I won’t go into them here. This cost me about $15 over a year ago and compared to the money I would have spent on plastic water bottles, I’m way ahead of the game. I went with steel because aluminum and plastic are a little bit scary leaching-wise. And in case I decide to hit the spelunking craze again, I can always use it as a tool to pull myself up into tight spaces.
2. A reusable coffee mug. Bought this for about $10 over three years ago. With coffee shops giving me 10 cents back per fill up, this paid for itself a long time ago so essentially it was free. Make sure to use a good sturdy one that will last.
3. A reusable bag. I have a small bag that folds into a little pouch, but any will do. I get 5 cents back every time I use it, and will keep heading to the store, so again, its paid for itself and I never have to take another plastic bag.
4. Cutlery. Nothing special here, just an old set of metal utensils in a travel toothbrush holder I wasn’t using. I’ve never understood the idea of using a plastic spoon for five minutes and then putting it in some landfill where it will sit for 500 years. If you don’t have an old toothbrush container that fits, you can always just wrap it in an old towel, which I also carry so I don’t’ have to use paper towels when out and about.
5. A reusable bowl. This one is probably the biggest crowd-pleaser. Its called an Orikaso bowl and sadly the company doesn’t make them anymore. That said, head to any camping supply store and they are chock full of bowls and plates that fold, smoosh, and contort into small spaces.
So there you have it. The list of things you can carry is endless and only limited by your ingenuity. Take a week and make a mental list of what you are using and disposing of on a daily basis and my guess is you’ll come up with reusable alternatives in no time.
As always, post up about what you carry along in order to waste less and we’ll see who’s got the best ideas.
Dave Chameides is a filmmaker and environmental educator. His website and newsletter are designed to inspire thought and dialogue on environmental solutions and revolve around the idea that no one can do everything, but everyone can do something. “Give people the facts, and they’ll choose to do the right thing.”