DO THIS NOW: Low Waste Emergency Preparedness Kit
Climate change is creating new and different weather challenges for New Hampshire and for the world (read about the challenges faced by a climate migrant from California here). In order to be prepared for whatever the weather may bring, the government suggests having an emergency preparedness kit on hand. Don't save this task for "someday", though, because someday could be tomorrow!
But making this kit doesn't mean you have to go buy a lot of superfluous packaged stuff from the store. I'll walk you through how to create a low waste emergency prep kit so you can be prepared to keep yourself and your family safe in an emergency.
LIST ITEM 1: Water (three day supply per person)
Low Waste Option: Purchase three or four five gallon jugs of water and keep them in a cool, dry place. When they expire, use the water for your garden or houseplants. To refill your containers, you can either do it yourself with a good water filter (we use this one), or refill them at the grocery store or coop. We also have a few LifeStraws in our kit to use in case we have to leave our home and can't carry enough water.
LIST ITEM 2: Non-perishable Food (three day supply per person) and Manual Can Opener
Low Waste Option: It can be tempting to buy whatever canned or jarred goods are cheapest and hope you will never have to eat them, but a better option is to set aside cans of food you and your family actually eat and like so that a) you won't have to eat food you don't like when you're already stressed and b) you can eat the food before it expires and it won't be a struggle. And don't forget a can opener! Cans aren't much use if you can't open them.
LIST ITEM 3: Personal Hygiene Supplies (TP, soap, hand sanitizer, trash bags, cleaning supplies)
Low Waste Option: Hopefully you are already using low waste options in your bathroom, like bars of soap, refillable hand sanitizer, compostable trash bags, reusable fabric masks, and refillable cleaning supplies (check out our Clean and Green Page and my morning routine post for ideas). To make sure you have these things on hand in an emergency, simply pack one of each away in your kit. It's also a good idea to pack away a supply of heavy duty disposable masks, but please only for your emergency kit!
LIST ITEM 4: NOAA radio
Low Waste Option: If you don't already have one of these, I'd highly suggest a solar radio that can also charge your phone. That way you can use it when you go camping, boating, or hiking also. Just remember to store your radio with your emergency kit when you're not using it. Make sure to check the batteries periodically and use rechargeable batteries so you're not disposing of them in the trash.
LIST ITEM 5: Flashlight and batteries
Low Waste Option: Solar charging flashlights (and ones that crank) are also a great idea in case you use up the batteries. Make sure to check the batteries periodically and use rechargeable batteries so you're not disposing of them in the trash. You should also keep some candles and matches on hand.
LIST ITEM 6: First Aid Kit and Whistle
Low Waste Option: Unless you are trained in first aid, many of the items in a packaged first aid kit are going to be a mystery to you. While I do recommend having one on hand, I would also suggest making an everyday first aid kit using items you actually use when someone gets hurt, like compostable bandaids and first aid cream.
LIST ITEM 7: Blanket/Towel
Low Waste Option: Chances are you have some random towels and/or blankets hanging around your house you can throw into your kit, but, if you are a minimalist and have long since donated all those things, head over to your local thrift store and buy another set. Or ask around. Chances are your neighbors or family members have some extra.
LIST ITEM 8: Change of Clothes
Low Waste Option: Here's a great chance to go through your closet (maybe even create a capsule wardrobe!). Find clothes that still fit you and your family, but are not often worn, and throw them into your emergency prep kit. Make sure to account for the seasons by adding layers.
LIST ITEM 9: Cash
Low Waste Option: I got nothing on this one. Maybe grab a secondhand wallet to keep it in?
LIST ITEM 10: Copies of Important Documents
Low Waste Option: Make sure you have a copy of all your important documents, including these emergency contact forms! Again, not much to suggest low waste wise, except use a recycled folder and print onto recycled paper...
LIST ITEM 11: Prescription Medications (three day supply per med)
Low Waste Option: If you use up a bottle of your medication, save it to store an emergency supply in your kit. Just remember to label the bottles clearly and keep put of the reach of pets and kids.
LIST ITEM 12: Food for your Pet (three day supply per pet)
Low Waste Option: This is a great time to reuse all those plastic bags you have from bread, bagels, etc. Fill them with several days worth of pet food and mark them with the kind of food and the date. Put these in your kit in case you have to travel, but also keep a few extra bags of pet food on hand. It lasts a long time and is easy to store.
LIST ITEM 13: Durable Waterproof Container, plus a Backpack
Low Waste Option: This is to store your kit. Chances are you have at least a couple big plastic containers sitting around somewhere, but, if you don't, you can definitely find these secondhand. For use at home or in a car, plastic bins are obviously easier, but if you have to walk somewhere with your kit for whatever reason, it's a good idea to have a backpack or a set of backpacks to carry everything. We store our kit in my backpacking pack. Yes, it's annoying to take everything out when I want to go backpacking, but that is an infrequent occurrence and reminds me to check over the items in the kit.
There you have it. I hope you never have to use your kit, but you will sleep better knowing you have it!
Stay safe, New Hampshire.