Recently, I have been accumulating various zero waste products, which are usually products you can use more than once or longer than the standard alternatives. They also tend to be compostable and ethical. I love food markets, travel quite a bit, and work on photoshoots and film sets, which means that there is a lot of throwaway items involved. I have created a list of the products I use or tend to carry around when I know I am likely to use single-use products otherwise.
To replace plastic or single-use bottles.
Even if you're not that into sustainability or you wonder what's the easiest step to make to kick off your sustainability, getting a water bottle is a great start. I think a lot of European countries have access to safe tap water, so I feel that there is no excuse not to drink tap water. I also keep seeing fill-up stations on the tube. If anything, you could always pop into a local pub/ cafe/ restaurant and ask for a refill, so totally no excuses in the UK, especially in London.
I definitely used to use single-use water bottles, I used to try to reuse them as well. After a while, they would start smelling, even after a wash, and they would be disposed of. I used a coffee mug and rinsed it after drinking coffee to fill it up with water. But the smell of coffee prevailed and I didn't always have conditions to rinse the mug.
I didn't find my perfect bottle at first. One had a plastic straw built into it, which I didn't really need. It also wouldn't keep the temperature of what's inside and kept either burning me or condensating. I tried a collapsable silicone bottle, but it didn't have enough structural integrity for me and could only be used for a room temperature drink. Dark coloured silicone utensils also end up attracting all the fluff and look dirty very fast. My friend got me a Chilly bottle for Christmas, and so far I cannot complain. It keeps the temperature for 24 hours, comes in a variety of colours and sizes. It is not too heavy and is a good shape for a bag, or I got used to it by now. For me, it's been the sturdiest water bottle, so I'm really happy with it.
Alternative: you could just keep a glass bottle if you've ever bought one. It's great, but may be heavy.
Replace takeaway cups.
My coffee mug is really old. It's from Starbucks because at the time I was drinking a lot of takeaway coffee. One day I learnt that you cannot recycle the cup at all, so I thought it wouldn't hurt getting a mug. I'll attach the mugs, which I keep seeing people use.
https://uk.keepcup.com/shop/cork-cups £19-21 comes in three sizes. These cups are quite popular amongst ethical bloggers.
I have seen a few people use these too. They're collapsible, which is great for saving space. Because it is silicone, I suggest you don't take a dark colour. Otherwise, it looks dirty really fast. The largest size comes with a silicone straw.
Also, new information (for me): you CAN travel and go through security with your water bottle/ coffee mug as long as they're empty. London airports tend to have water fountains, some airports don't, but it still reduces water bottle / takeaway cup consumption.
Large Metal Straw
To replace single-use plastic or paper straws.
I find straws useless. I never need one, I can drink a cocktail ok without it. But recently I have been craving bubble tea, and as you may know, they package it in a plastic cup, cellophane type lid and a plastic straw. Also, you may want a straw for denser drinks like a milkshake. I know these are treats, and someone may say "Well don't have them at all then". But I've had a craving, and I got a straw, which I decided I could use everywhere.
So far, I do not regret getting it. I've gone on a day trip to Brighton with my boyfriend, and we both used the straw for milkshakes, cocktails, which worked just fine. There are glass options, too, but knowing myself, I will break them way too soon. Recently seen a keyring straw as well, which is awesome if you keep forgetting yours like I do.
I struggle to find single stainless steel online, I got mine at a sustainable market in Oval near Bethnal Green. You can definitely find some on Ebay and Amazon, but make sure the makers are actually sustainable sources. But here are the glass ones.
https://greenerhabits.com/products/glass-straws £8.99 straight
https://www.selfridges.com/GB/en/cat/last-straw-stainless-steel-collapsible-drinking-straw_302-3006766-LS105/ £13 the collapsible straw. There is plenty more online, but just make sure it's not from Ali Express
Alternative: just avoid straws.
A Cutlery Set
To replace single-use cutlery.
I have been contemplating getting a cutlery set for a while. Firstly, why do I need it? Just carry your own from home, or if you have plastic ones, just reuse them. All my plastic ones broke, and home cutlery ended up messy and dirty lost in my bag. Also, in some airports, you would not be allowed to bring steel cutlery through the security. I had an awkward moment at an airport in Moscow, where they only allow you to use plastic cutlery packaged in plastic...
After considering it for a while, I have decided that having a cutlery set neat and light (steel can add too much weight to my already heavy bag) would be nice. Mine comes in a cotton pouch and includes knife, fork, spoon, chopsticks and a straw. I have not used mine properly yet. I have had questions whether its lifespan would be as long as steel cutlery. These are all excellent questions, which I will definitely report on as soon as I have used the set enough.
There is a variety of sets which include a tiny spork, but I find them really annoying, so it's not for me. Plastic Freedom has different sets, so do have a look maybe you would prefer a different one.
Alternatively: you can totally carry your own stainless steel cutlery set from home or just grab some plastic ones and keep them longer.
To replace plastic bags.
This was not a necessary purchase, because I already have tote bags from different events and plastic bags. It's a useful piece though, so I carry it with me everywhere, including travels. It doesn't occupy much space but expands quite a lot, and I manage to fit in my weekly shopping in it.
The bag comes in two styles: with a short and a long handle. I have the latter one. For me, it is a bit hard to carry when it's full since the handle is too long for my height. But the short-handled one looks a little too short. It would also be great if I could remember not to put small items into it, as they fall out and get lost. Otherwise, it's awesome, and I use it weekly.
Alternatively: just use all those tote bags you got for free and all these plastic bags that you've saved and that are overfilling your drawer.