Zero waste pockets {for men}

Keys, wallet, phone…zero waste?

If you’ve been around the zero waste block or poked around the ‘gram, you’ve noticed a female dominated community. The online community is full of wonderful and dedicated people adding their own personality and goals to the face of sustainability. There could be a myriad of reasons as to why, but it seems many men view sustainable behaviors as feminine (x.) We could talk about why many some men feel they must avoid anything feminine in order for men to remain manly, but the task of unraveling centuries of gender and sexuality, not to mention their implications regarding behavior and labor isn’t the goal of this post. Plus it’s extremely relative to culture; I’ve seen more European men wear scarves than I’ve seen American men wear novelty tee-shirts (a lot).

Why is it that the everyday work of reducing our plastic use and keeping our oceans and rivers plastic-free seems to fall into women’s domain?

Why is zero waste so feminized?
— The complicated gender politics of going zero waste, Vox

Not everyone is in interested in having a more typical zero waste kit, which is usually discussed with the assumption that you’re someone who carries a bag everywhere with you. Pockets are the perfect solution, because if you’re not carrying a bag, you probably have some. You don’t need deep pockets of either variety to keep some helpful zero waste tools with you, so here are some helpful zero waste basics to keep on your person, no bag required:


According to the Plastic Pollution Coalition, it can take up to 1,000 years for plastic cutlery to break down and more than 100,000,000 (one hundred million) plastic utensils are thrown away by Americans each day (x). While disposable cutlery made of compostable material is still somewhat better, it requires the use of new resources to produce them, and those resources are still poorly used when disposed of after only one use, not to mention that compostable materials are only compostable under the correct circumstances, be it in industrial composting facilities or something small-scale like home composting. It’s all for nothing if they’re sent to landfill, covered over and decompose anaerobically, a form of decomposition that releases more harmful greenhouse gases than compost.

Beside the point, the zero waste community loves reusable and portable cutlery. I’ve been outspoken in the past about bamboo sporks and nearly other unnecessarily innovated cutlery because the creation of these tools implores the use of new resources to create them, and even when made from reused materials, requires the use of energy to produce them. This, coupled with my desire to promote a zero waste lifestyle that means consuming as little as possible, is why I’ve so often disparaged bamboo sporks.

I’m here to eat my words (tasty) because if you’re operating on a pockets only zero waste kit, it’s less realistic for you to carry around a regular spoon, which is what I usually promote. I’m still going to suggest you use something you already own instead of buying something new, but here are some options (unaffiliated with me) that you could consider(xx). Most bamboo sporks are very low profile and would easily slip into a bifold wallet. If you use it, the resources that go into producing it are offset by the resources you’re not wasting with disposables.


Hear me out- my grandfather carried a hankie in his pocket until the day he died; he was a war veteran with a glass eye and only half a pinkie finger. In his own words, “getting old isn’t for sissies”, and a wimp he wasn’t.

Not only does carrying a hankie make you seem class, it is useful. Used to wipe your nose, as a napkin or to wrap something up, you can find various purposes for hankies. You won’t need a hankie everyday, so to keep things simple and avoid owning and washing a million hankies, have a few and treat them like belts; when you take your belt from one pair of pants to another, transfer your clean hankie too.


Tiny bag

I hope you didn’t think I’d write an entire post about zero waste on-the-go without mentioning any bags. While in cities I’ve noticed it’s pretty common for men to carry backpacks during the day, in the evening and when out for short periods, I don’t know any men that carry more than the bare minimum, and none that carry a bag.

Many brands sell small, lightweight polyester bags that can squish down to be tiny and attach to a key ring. Keep this or something on your keychain and you won’t have to carry anything extra or accept disposable bags when you have to stop for groceries unexpectedly. ChicoBag is a certified B Corporation with a commitment to zero waste that sells one such bag (x).

As much as we need change, we must first meet people where they’re at. We all live on the earth. There are things we can all do to reduce our negative impact on the earth. None of those things belong exclusively to women. There is space and a need for more men in the zero waste lifestyle. I love seeing all of the female leaders and innovators in this movement, but for the success of zero waste and for the greater good (love the pressure of actualized climate change), we need more people, and including more men is one way to add to the choir rather than preach to it.

Working with limited space like pockets doesn’t mean you can’t keep things basic and reduce your waste. Zero waste is for everyone, and looks different for each of us. No purse or extensive kit required. Happy zero wasting!