What Is In My Bag To Go Zero Waste in UAE?

Since I started Zero Waste Lifestyle last year 2016, I have been not just reducing waste and going plastic free but I am also receiving so many questions about my way of life from my readers or anywhere I go. People think it’s very difficult to reduce waste here in UAE, but I say ‘where there is will there is a way’!

So to answer all those questions about how I do it, here is a peep inside my handbag!

Read here all about #ZeroWasteUAE Initiative.

1. Reusable Water Bottle

To go plastic free in UAE, the first thing you need to do is install a tap water filter at home and get rid off all kind of bottled water. Read here about my tap water filter experience.

Refilling water bottle in client’s office

I carry my own water bottle everywhere with me. If I am going to a meeting, I even refill my water bottle at client’s office. PET water bottles are not safe to use over the longer period of time and can be recycled only a few times, therefore I use only stainless steel or glass water bottles.

2. Reusable Coffee Mug

Do you realize how many disposable coffee cups we use in a month? Sometimes you get a paper cup but it has plastic lining and the lid of the cup is plastic. So even if we decide to recycle it every time, the lining and lid are difficult to recycle.

Best thing is to carry your own reusable coffee mug or thermos flask. It’s been more than a year I am requesting a takeaway coffee in my mug, it was a bit hard at the start but now mostly all the coffee shops I visit I get coffee in my reusable mug. Sometimes when I am out for long hours and need to order coffee more than once during the day, I even request staff in cafes to rinse my mug and they do that. Sometimes reluctantly and sometimes happily, they even wash with hot water to sanitize it.

I use my stainless steel thermos mug not just in the coffee shops but even at roadside tea cafes, where I take away my favorite Karak Tea! Especially on Jumeira Road I have few favorite cafes, who happily give Karak Chai in my thermos.

If you are traveling in a car, it’s very easy to keep a spare reusable coffee mug in the car, just in case if you forget to take a clean one from home. It’s much better to invest in an extra reusable coffee mug than using disposable ones.

3. Cotton Handkerchief

I don’t use tissues to reduce paper waste. So when I go out I make sure to keep my cotton handkerchief in my bag. At home, since the start of this year, we use only napkins, tea towels, and no tissue papers. We also have a set of all these for our guests.

When you are out, the handkerchief is useful even to wrap a sandwich. Basically, it helps to reduce plastic and paper waste when you are out and about. Just make sure to use a cotton handkerchief instead of silk. Silk handkerchief though look great are not as useful as cotton, you can hardly use it for wiping and cleaning.

4. Stainless Steel Straw

This one is my favorite possession. I have even found a simple long brush from Daiso, which helps to clean my stainless steel straw thoroughly. Before started using my reusable straw I never gave attention towards how many straws we use during a week, especially in UAE’s summer when we can’t resist buying a fresh juice or smoothie or everytime we go for dinner and order a drink.

We are so blessed to have such a long coastline for a smaller country like UAE and soaking in sun on the beach and having a drink is such common activity in UAE. But sadly everyone here uses a disposable plastic straw and most of these straws end up directly in the sea and hurt local and endangered turtles like green turtles. After seeing first hand how these turtles get injured and how much efforts it needs to rehabilitate them before releasing back to sea (read here), I stopped using plastic straws. I now take my stainless steel straw everywhere, even on my rare night outs.

Talking to my son about plastic straws during beach clean up after his eco-friendly birthday party on the beach (read here)

5. Wooden Fork

I like to keep this tiny bamboo fork with me just in case I need to eat when I am out. I used to carry a stainless steel fork before, but last year when I went to Iceland on a solo trip it got removed at airport security. (Read about my sustainable and zero waste travel to Iceland  here). Hopefully, they will allow wooden fork but even otherwise it’s safer & lighter to carry a wooden fork, so I switched.

6. Stainless Steel Lunch Box

I generally carry my reusable stainless steel lunchbox when I am going to spend longer hours outside. I perfer to pack my lunch if I am going to have meals outside. But even if I order takeaway food I can avoid disposable containers and reduce waste if I have my lunch box with me. Plus having lunch boxes in the bag is always useful when you have kids with you.

7. Reusable Snack Bag

My reusable cloth snack bag is basically also a holder for reusable straw, fork to keep them clean. But it does double duty when I need to carry dry snacks with me like baked goodies, fruits or nuts. I love to keep trail mix with me, it is handy when you can’t find a quick bite or too busy to look for a food joint.

When I am not carrying my stainless less steel lunch box, I still have my reusable snack pouch with me to store a sandwich. The snack bag is particularly useful when we travel, go outdoors or in the car where you have access to some snacks without creating any waste.

8. Tote Bag

This one is must for everyone in the world. It’s so easy to avoid the use of plastic bags when you have a small foldable tote with you. Plus these are light weight, compact so there is no excuse for not carrying them with you.

It’s been years I have been using tote bags, I have kept one in each handbag so there is generally never a time that I don’t have access to my reusable bag. These are not just handy for shopping on the go but also for storage. It is not yet compulsory to avoid plastic bags in UAE, but some countries like UK, India have made is a rule and so carrying your tote with you is common there.

I have been carrying my tote even on travels and found it very helpful. Especially in places around the world where there is a rule, you don’t want to spend money on buying plastic carry bags right? Read here my eco-friendly travel tips here, which highlights carrying tote bags along with other useful tips.

9. Draw String Bag

This I added recently to my bag which can be useful to carry anything from food, grocery or even dirty things like shoes. I just need to make sure I am cleaning the drawstring bag regularly. The drawstring bag is an extra for a tote but can be closed to make sure things are not coming out. You can buy things like grains in a drawstring bag which otherwise is not possible in tote.

The above list in no particular order and you can also skip few items. Sometimes if I don’t have a reusable coffee mug with me, I use my empty water bottle for hot drinks. You can always carry water in a thermos. Basically, we just need to find ways to reduce waste and stop using disposable items. But it’s important to invest in good quality reusable items to avoid repeated buying. Have a look at Green Consumer section, where you can find what to buy where.


Do you need a bulky bag to go zero waste?

After reading this list, above question must have come to your mind. But the answer is No! You don’t really need a bulky bag every time you leave home. Basically, it depends on how long and where are you going? If you are going to the office every day, then better you keep few things in office instead of carrying it every day and clean the reusable items in the office. If you need to spend much of your time in the car and your work involves traveling, going to meetings around the town then better you keep things in the car. Our reusables are plastic free so you can safely keep them in the car without worrying about excess heat during summer. But starting zero waste lifestyle requires a constant thought of reducing waste. If you are going out for work or entertainment or for any reason, you need to be mindful of what you might need and take those things with you.

Here is my zero waste clutch for a night out with my girls! It is much more compact than my regular bag. I don’t need a coffee mug and lunch box for the night out isn’t it? I generally pack in my clutch essentials like stainless steel straw, a cotton handkerchief, bamboo fork all packed in a snack bag and tiny tote bag.

It needs practice, you can not be mindful in a day and you can not go zero waste in a day. I used to forget to take things with me at the start and I still forget once in a while, then I look for more eco-friendly options than using disposable plastic. Like just relax in a cafe and have your coffee in their mugs instead of a takeaway cup. You need to keep practicing this zero waste lifestyle till it becomes the habit.

Read here a beginner’s guide to going zero waste in UAE.

And remember carrying these reusable items is not carrying luggage with you all the time, on the contrary, it’s reducing your impact on natural resources and creating a more harmonious world! Who else is joining us in our #ZeroWasteUAE Initiative? Don’t forget to be part of our sustainability tribe here.

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So many of these little steps I’m already trying to implement and it feels better already


Meet Amruta

Hi, I am Amruta, Thank you for visiting my blog!

I am a Sustainability Professional. I have worked on many green building projects in the


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