In California, earthquakes are a constant threat and could easily disrupt our day to day lives. Planning and prepping is the best way to stay safe, and having an earthquake kit is a great idea. Some people go overboard, hoarding supplies as if the apocalypse is coming. But I am somewhat of a disaster prepper, so I have developed some tips that can help you plan for the worst without creating unnecessary waste.
Not only do I not have the space to hoard a closet full of packaged food, in the past, when I did try to store surplus foods for emergencies, they often just expired, unused, and now gross. Some canned food expires faster than you might think. And though its technically still edible, I suppose, I have a pretty sensitive stomach. The last thing I want is to be in a post-earthquake situation with the poops.
(All joking aside, being sick on top of a disaster is incredibly difficult. Pack a few antiacid tablets and/or other necessary meds in your emergency kit. Just don’t forget about them so they expire.)
Disasters and Pollution:
With every natural or man-made disaster, a huge amount of waste is produced. If a structure collapses next to the sea, the debris gets washed into the ocean. Even when disasters occur on dry land, trash, oils, and other chemicals spill and make their way into the sea. After a disaster, single-use items are a must-have for those unprepared, or those who simply lost everything. Food, water, and warmth are essential, and plastic water bottles, plastic wrapped food, and foil blankets are distributed, and then discarded.
Mexico City after an 8.1 magnitude earthquake. Photo Credit: fastcompany.com
However, those who prepared, and whose supplies were not lost in the disaster, can help avoid an even greater disaster that results from the global reliance on single-use items.
So, while we understand that in an emergency, single-use/disposable supplies are imperative, when possible, there are sustainable ways to prepare for such emergencies.
Canned goods: Having a few canned goods is not a bad idea in case of emergencies. Make sure they are foods you actually enjoy eating, and wouldn’t mind eating right from the can, in a pinch. No need to go overboard, you will risk having them expire. You can find a lot of food stored in glass containers, as well! This is an even more sustainable option, if and whenever possible.
Preserved foods: Foods preserves, or even sauces, jellies, and other food items stored in glass jars, are a great way to have a food supply you can store at room temperature. Learning how to preserve your own foods can ensure your produce never gets wasted and is available in a pinch!
Dried foods: If you already keep bulk items on hand at all times, you’re in good shape. As long as you have access to water, you can make a variety of meals from dried foods.Beans and rice can easily be soaked/cooked in water. Again, only use food you actually eat regularly. If I never eat lentils, there’s no point in me storing them for an emergency, just because they were on sale.
Water: this is a difficult one, especially if you want to avoid single-use plastic. Did you know water bottles expire, too? It’s not the water that expires, it’s the integrity of the plastic, meaning it leaches into the water over time. Freezing water bottles is not a good idea either, as that also exacerbates leaching. I recommend keeping a few large mason jars of fresh water in your fridge and using them regularly. You can slice some lemons, cucumbers, or other fruit in it, and make it your daily water. It will be nice and cold and in an emergency, you can have stored jars of water available. So fitting a few (or more!) mason jars on the door of the fridge, or tucked in the back, will hopefully keep you hydrated enough until the water returns. Of course you don’t have to keep water in the fridge if it’s taking up too much room. Storing it at room temperature is fine, as long as you are going through it and refreshing the supply daily.
Drinks: Keeping a healthy supply of juice is a great idea. Again, no need to go overboard, but there are a lot of companies selling juice in glass bottles that can be stored at room temperature until opened. Take advantage of this! Long shelf life AKA tetrapak containers, like Horizon’s milk products, are not recyclable!
Tetrapaks are environmental hazards!
Glass and Earthquakes Do NOT mix!
As our readers will tell you. Although it looks beautiful to display your glass containers on the counter, this could be dangerous. Especially if you have kids and pets. This goes for your bathroom as well.
First and foremost, anything that was potentially toxic to my dogs, i.e. chocolate chips, raisins I do not take a chance on. If these items flew off the shelf, broke, and my dog ingested them while I was away, they would die. It’s not worth the risk, so these items go INSIDE a drawer. If I did not have a drawer, they would go in a lower cabinet that was child safety locked.
However, I also hide things that I know would make them sick, even though they might not necessarily be deadly. Like a jar full of almonds, sunflower seeds, peanut butter. In large doses, these items are not good for dogs. So in the drawer (or fridge) they go.
Here are 2 easy steps to secure your jars to shelves:(P.S. I used this for my plants outside, too!)1. Drill a screw the left and right hand side of the shelf, about half way high on the jars you are securing.2. Twist wire, rope, or webbing around each screw to secure jars to the wall.
- flash light
- first aid
- dog leashes
- an old pair of shoes/socks
- $20 in singles
- Spare car key***
Zero Waste Disaster Kit Hacks:
2.) Keep a close watch on your expiration dates. There is actually an app that you can program with expiration dates, that will alert you when food is going to expire. Sometimes I worry about organic peanut butter right before it expires, so instead of eating out of the glass jar, I usually make it into cookies or something else baked and delicious. There’s probably no danger in eating about-to-expire organic peanut butter. I’m just a weirdo.
3.) Happen to have any water or other plastic drink bottles that are still sealed? This is a good opportunity to save them for an actual emergency. Placing one inside your backpack is a good idea, too. It’s totally fine re-filling a water bottle, too. Just make sure to drink it regularly so it does not go stagnant.
4.) Reuse zip-top bags of various sizes. At my work, we receive a lot of items shipped in these small bags, unsuitable for food, and not recyclable at our local Recology facility. So why not reuse them to waterproof my emergency kit? Additionally, small bags can be used to keep matches waterproof.
5.) An old Altoids tin can act as a mini fire starting kit. Recycle an old striker off a used matchbook. Keep a small wad of dryer lint as a fire-starter. Any camping tools that could be helpful can be stored in this kit.
6.) Store extra household tools necessary for emergencies in your emergency kits. Extra flash lights, tea lights, I only own one flashlight that came with a pink tool kit my dad gave to me the first time I moved out on my own. It works. But I mostly rely on my phone for a flash light. I store the extra flash light in my back pack by the front door. It’s just as convenient for me to get the flashlight from the backpack versus a kitchen drawer or linen cabinet, so why not store it out of the way.
7.) Other items kept on hand for storage, shipping, or camping that might be sitting in my linen closest are now stored in my backpack, such as: duct tape, a first aid, a water purifier might be useful, and a two-way radio. There is a lot of crossover between camping and prepping supplies, use this to your advantage if you can. You can buy second hand camping supplies at thrift stores and implement them into your disaster kit.
8.) Consolidate your first aid kit with your emergency/disaster kit. They do not need to be two separate entities. Be realistic. You’re not going to be performing surgery. Bandage material is a good idea, even something that could be used as a tourniquet like a belt.