6 Little Things that Make a BIG Difference

Ditch the plastic and create your own Low Impact Survival Kit!

These days our lives are full of products and services that cater to convenience and instant gratification. And who am I kidding…it’s pretty great most of the time, but it also creates a lot of waste. In fact, in the U.S., we throw out 4.5 pounds of of trash per day per person. Say what! Now I’m not trying to be a Debbie Downer, but these are just things we should think about. When I heard this statistic, I went right to work finding ways to reduce my 4.5 pounds of trash per day and encourage others to do the same. I finally got it down to one simple list.

This Green Monday Zero Waste kit isn’t going to solve all our waste problems, because a lot of it has to do with packaging, but it will show those companies and manufacturers that we are ready for and demanding change. And now, I present to you the Low Impact Kit – 6 little things that make a big difference.

1. Reusable Water Bottle
I know, I know, how many times have you heard this? But it’s true! A reusable water bottle makes a huge difference. Plastic is one of the biggest polluters of our planet and supporters of big oil. Plastic comes from petroleum and we use just as much oil to make plastic products as we do to drive our vehicles. Glass is the best option because it doesn’t taste like metal & unlike plastic, there are no chemicals that leak from it into your water.

If you want to buy a glass water bottle, check out the Lifefactory Beverage Bottles (upper image above) which feature a colorful range of silicone protected glass bottles (with a wide mouth, ideal for adding ice, fruit, protein powders, etc to your bottle.

If you’re on a budget, like me, just buy one glass bottle of water like Pellegrino or Mountain Valley and reuse it, or use a glass jar that held your pasta sauce from last night! And keep an eye out for Mason Jars – they are a cheap and chic water glass as well.

2. Reusable Shopping Bag
Again with the plastic. Paper is a better option, but why waste trees if we don’t have to? Additionally, many places even give you a discount if you have your own bag(s), or enter you into a raffle for cool prizes. Sounds pretty good to me.

My favorite shopping bags are by Baggu (image, bottom left), they come in tiny pouches that fit in your purse, tons of colors and patterns, and hold a ton of stuff! You only need one or two of these sturdy, flexible bad boys to get the job done. If you don’t want to buy bags, just bring a backpack, duffel bag or tote with you when you go to the store, same thing right?

3. Reusable Coffee (or tea) Mug
This is my favorite, because I HEART coffee, big time. I’m always drinking coffee or tea and I never know when I’ll want more on a whim, so I’m always armed with my reusable mug. Besides saving all of those paper cups, most coffee shops give a small discount when you bring your own mug! Discount on lattes…holla! You can go with a heavy duty mug like this Stainless Steel Travel Mug or a paper cup poser like this Porcelain Travel Cup and Lid. Sometimes, when all my travel mugs are “lost” or dirty, I just bring a big coffee cup from home.

4. Utensils
All this plastic! If you go out to eat or get something for takeout, depending on where you go, they might only have disposable utensils. Some places are using compostable utensils now, but it’s not as good as just skipping them all together. I have a set of these bamboo utensils (image, bottom right) from To-Go Ware that go everywhere with me! They even have chopsticks so I don’t have to use the virgin wood ones and then throw them away. A cheaper alternative is to just grab a fork, knife and spoon before you leave the house in the morning (or keep a set with you at all times in one of the Baggu pouches!)

5. Cloth Napkin
I have a rule in my apartment, the only thing I use paper for is wiping my you know what. Paper napkins and paper towels create a lot of waste. Estimates show that the average American family uses 78 to 104 rolls of paper towels a year, yikes! Can you imagine how many trees and how much energy would be saved if we just cut this out? We have the power! So, I like to carry around a cloth napkin from home so I don’t have to use the paper ones. However, if you get them and don’t use them, save the disposables for later so they don’t go to waste! And if you really want to get hard core, check out these PeopleTowels to dry your hands, so you don’t have to use any bathroom paper towels either.

6. Glass food containers
Have I told you about my secret love affair with Pyrex glassware? I love them! I bought a 10 piece set and use them constantly. They come in a variety of sizes and are microwave safe.

Glass containers are better in in the kitchen for the same reasons glass makes a better water bottle. It lasts longer, isn’t made from petroleum, and no residuals will leak into your food or water. I put snacks in them so I don’t pick up a bag of chips throughout the day, and I bring them to my favorite restaurants in case I have left overs. (You’re boxing it up anyway, so why not use your own container?) Another favorite of mine are these stackable lunch containers from To-Go Ware.

That’s it! Now I’m ready for any high waste situations that come my way. This stuff isn’t glamorous, but it makes a big difference and is a frequent conversation starter.

It might seem like a lot of effort in the morning, but it only takes me about 5 minutes. You can do it the night before and sleep for 5 more minutes if you want. I have 3 reusable coffee mugs and 3 PeopleTowels that I rotate throughout the week and about 8 reusable bags, just in case I have to wash some. The utensils and pyrex dishes I just wash throughout the day after I use them. Make sure you wash out your coffee mug after using it, heat and coffee do not make the loveliest odor…yes, I know from experience.

Generally, I put all of this in the reusable bag or in a backpack. Depending on how my day looks, I either keep this Low Impact Kit in my car or take it with me into work. If you already have items that resemble my list above, use them instead of buying new stuff! Being low impact means less consumption and more reusing and reducing.

Contrary to Kermit the Frog’s ballad of woe, it is easy being green! Share your favorite green tips on the go in the comments.

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Monica Schrock

Monica Schrock

Monica is a vegetarian, bicycle-riding environmentalist, tattoo enthusiast and social media junkie. You can catch her drinking an iced coffee and reading a comic book at any given moment. She hearts our planet and gives tips on how to lower our environmental impact on her own site, Low Impact Betty.
Monica Schrock

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18 thoughts on “6 Little Things that Make a BIG Difference”

  1. mandaleem

    What a great list! This reminds me that I’ve been meaning to find some cloth napkins to have at home.
    The one thing I’m still guilty of is getting plastic bags at the grocery store. While I do bag my own groceries (the baggers who work there don’t put nearly enough stuff in the bags) I get the plastic because it is reincarnated for doggie duty (um, in every sense of the word…)! When it’s a quick/small trip and I’ve forgotten my reusable bags I just don’t get any bags at all.
    I’m also still guilty of using an old Naglene bottle for my water despite knowing it’s full of BPAs and Naglene is responsible for producing the equipment that holds lab animals in place for testing. I figure I’ll use it until it breaks and then I’ll take the jump into getting a better water bottle.

    Thanks for the tips @Lowimpactbetty !

  2. irene

    Awesome..I’m digging those Lifefactory Beverage Bottles! They are too cute! I do my part as best I can.. Between having our own compost bin(s) and growing our own worms.. LOL- we are all over becoming less of a footstamp on this great planet earth. I think it is our moral duty to be that way.. Take care of what we have been giving and learn to re-use things instead of always getting new stuff. Sounds pretty simple, eh?

  3. Shaya C.

    I really love those glass water bottles, I’ve been looking for one for a while. I’ve also just switched over to glass food storage, I love them because I feel so much better about eating left-overs out of them. This is a great list with some great links, I’m going to look into the bamboo utensils soon.

  4. Mel

    I LOVE those bottles and am going to look into them! I do reuse the same old plastic Gatorade bottle for my water, but enough is enough – I’m getting glass! We recycle everything possible here, reuse water and coffee containers and bring shopping bags…but I’ve never thought about insisting on cloth napkins at home! That makes so much sense! Then some people could complain about using more water and phosphates in the suds to wash those towels – but not to me – I have a low water and low suds energy saving machine! Great tips @lowimpactbetty!

  5. jpal

    Great list Monica! I just need to grab some utensils to put in the car but other than that you’ve whipped me into shape. I can’t even look at a plastic bag without breaking into a sweat! The little things all add up when everyone helps out…thank you for the reminders!

  6. tyna

    Love this kit @lowimpactbetty – it’s do-able and once you have a kit or two together and get into the habit, easy to keep up. Bonus points for it being a conversation starter.

    And I really liked that you offered us some low cost solutions as well as adorable shopping options. I too am loving the look of the Lifefactory bottles but it’s the Baggu bags with the teeny tiny pouches that must be mine. I love the gigantic color and patterns they offer!

  7. I received a Klean Kanteen for Christmas as part of my planned NY resolution to drink more water. I like not having a zillion plastic bottles hanging around my house – means fewer trips to the recycling.

    I may have to buy a few of those grocery bags. My Publix recycles plastic bags and I make the effort to take my bags, but not using them in the first place would be better.

    How much do I love those utensils! Sturdier (I end up snapping my utensils – I am a beast lol) and reusable and less plastic to stab a dolphin or whatever.

    Good list.

  8. sherrishera

    These are all so pretty as well as low-impact! How awesome is that? I have a question for you @lowimpactbetty: I recently purchased a seltzer bottle to make our own sparkling water at home, figuring the waste would be less; however, I’m not sure what to do with the expended CO2 cartridges…they are recyclable steel…can I throw that in with alluminum cans? I may sound silly to the true low-impact set, but I really don’t know!

  9. kellie76

    What a great piece! I just adore my reusable water bottle. I use my Klean Kanteen everyday. It saves me tons of money and saves the earth! I must commit to using my reusable grocery bags more often. Baggu bags are awesome and so sturdy! I would love to get my hands on that set of bamboo utensils. Nice!! :)

  10. Thank you for the great comments everyone!

    @sherrishera those cartridges should be recyclable in any bin that accepts metal! :) Some brands will even let you send them back and get them refilled. You could contact them and see if they do! Those soda makers are great, they save a lot of plastic bottles.

  11. Pingback: We Heart This - Etsy 4 for Friday – Low Impact Kit edition

  12. lipglossandspandex

    4.5 lbs of trash per person per day?! That’s crazy. I use a BPA free Nalgene plastic or a Starbucks aluminum waterbottle because I drink so much water each day… I hate going through tons of disposable plastic bottles! (BTW, those disposable ones probably shouldn’t be reused, because they aren’t made for that and may leach chemicals). I’d love to get a glass one but they’re so heavy and I’m super accident prone…

    And I love my Starbucks (red) metal coffee cup. I’m rarely seen without it in the morning (I swear I’m not a Starbucks salesperson! But if they want to sponsor me, I’d love it… haha).

    I do need to be better about using glass packaging though for lunches and leftovers!

  13. I reuse my plastic containers that food comes in (hummus, lunch meat, butter, crumbled cheese, ect.)as Tupperware. I also reuse my plastic ziplock bags and tin foil.

  14. Thanks so much for the info! I bought one of the water bottles and a set of the bamboo flatware. I really try hard not to add to the garbage and trash problem. Whatever I can do I will. As Americans, we do not think about what happens to all of the waste we generate because once a week, it all magically disappears. It does go somewhere and although that is amazing (not to have to personally worry about it), someday that will come to an end. Much of what we throw away never decomposes and sits there forever. How many garbage dumps will we eventually need and how much toxicity are they giving off? We need to do what we can to reduce the refuse and to not only spread the word but to set a good example for our friends and family.

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