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Zero Waste School Backpack Must Haves

Why I Am Low Waste/Zero Waste

I identify as an environmentalist who believes that everyone should work to make lifestyles changes that help to reduce the amount of waste they produce to overall decrease the effect us humans have on the environment. Currently I am not 100% zero waste, but I would consider my lifestyle to be low waste.

Why You Should Be Zero Waste or Low Waste

We are living in a society dominated by consumerism. More specifically we live in a throw-away society. This can be explained by thinking of an item as only having a short life span and then throwing it away once we are done with it, don't want it anymore because something better has come along or because it is poorly made and breaks easily.You should consider making zero waste or low waste lifestyle changes as a way to personally help to combat this societal problem and to reduce the amount of waste that is overflowing our landfills by seeing items as having a longer and more useful lifespan. Zero waste is more than just making sure you don't produce waste. It also involves changing your thinking to a circular or never-ending way of thinking where waste is not part of that cycle.

For more information on what exactly zero waste is I suggest reading this blog post About Zero Waste.

Since becoming more aware of the trash and waste I produce I have found a number of different items to be important to always have with me either in my school backpack or in my everyday backpack/purse.

Item #1

The first item that I have always carried with me in my school backpack is a reusable water bottle. Not only does having a water bottle with you help to eliminate your need to buy a drink in a plastic bottle, but it also always you to sometimes get discounts at coffee shops or restaurants when you order a drink and use your bottle instead of the cup they would otherwise use. Since this blog post is dedicated to what to carry in your school backpack I recommend thinking out your day and then deciding what type or reusable bottle to bring. This could mean packing a water bottle, thermos or tumbler.

Item #2

Carrying a hand towel or wash cloth was the first zero waste lifestyle change I made. This is something I have carried with me in my backpack for almost three years now. I found that this was one of the easiest zero waste, low waste or paperless changes that I could make when first starting out. Having a towel with you makes it so that you do not have to use paper towels after washing your hands. I recommend using a towel that you don't care about because some soaps will strain or discolor the towel. If you want to prevent this from happening you could also carry a small chunk of soap around with you in a container. This is something that I do not personally do, but have read of other zero wasters who do.

Item #3

The next item relates to the second in that it is another paperless option. In addition to a hand towel I also carry a cloth napkin with me. I use the napkin specifically for eating and use the towel to dry my hands. Lucky for me my mother is a seamstress and has tons of cotton fabric that she made into cloth napkins and gifted them to me for Christmas. If making your own is not an option there are plenty of options on Etsy and on zero waste Instagram pages. This item is great for when you are eating in the dinning hall at college, cafeteria at school, at a restaurant or eating a packed lunch. 

Item #4

Another paperless item that I always keep in my backpack is a handkerchief. Like with the cloth napkins my mother also made me handkerchiefs. For sanitary reasons I recommend having 7 or more handkerchiefs. Because I only do one load of laundry a week I just put my hand towels, cloth napkins and handkerchiefs in with my clothes. If you are worried about straining or want to use different soaps when washing then you could just wash these products with other towels or similar fabrics.

Item #5

This next item is something I didn't start carrying with me until I started my new job this summer. I started carrying a silicon reusable bag with me to collect my compost or fruit scraps from snacks at work. If you don't compost then you could use the reusable bag for leftovers if you go to a restaurant. I bring the reusable bag with me because it is lays flat, but if don't want to purchase any then you could always keep a small container with you; it could serve the same purpose. I purchased my reusable bags from Amazon- Reusable Silicone Food Storage Bags.

Item #6

While being a college student I discovered how important it is to keep a snack with me at all times. Making a snack zero waste takes more thought than just grabbing a packaged bar or bag of nuts. You could make your own energy balls from bulk items, bring a piece of fruit and compost the peel, core or pit. Other options are boiled eggs or really any snack that you can find in the bulk section of your grocery store. Another nutritious options is a trail mix either already combined in the bulk section or you could make your own with the seeds, nuts and dried fruit that you like.

Item #7

In relation to food and snacks I also carry a set of bamboo silverware with me. If you don't own bamboo silverware you can just bring metal or silver that you already own. There is no need to go out and purchase something new when you already have something that serves the same purpose. Having silverware with you allows you to avoid using plastic silverware at a restaurant or dinning hall. If you are someone who prefers to drink out of a straw then you could also carry a metal or bamboo straw with you as well.

Item #8

The last and final item that I always keep with me is an electronic device. Most of the time it is my laptop, but depending on the class I sometime bring my iPad. Having a device to take notes on electronically is the best paperless option. When it comes to taking notes electronically make sure your professor or teacher is okay with it. 
Here are a couple of my pervious blog posts on digital note taking and studying using an iPad


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