Sustainable Disaster Prepping

There is a lot of cross-over from the Sustainable Earthquake Prep page, but we did not want to limit disaster prepping to one type of event. So we expanded those tips in today’s post to include as many as possible.

Before I lived in California, I lived in a major hurricane, tornado, and flood zone. Before that, I lived in an area that was hit by blizzards and noreasters. As I grew up with them, they seemed to be a normal part of life. I learned very early on that the best way to be prepared was to plan ahead. Fail to plan? Plan to fail.

As we have seen from the show Doomsday Preppers, some people go overboard, hoarding supplies as if the apocalypse is coming. And some truly believe it is coming, like, tomorrow. And although I am somewhat of a disaster prepper, I also practice sustainability and am a minimalist-wannabe.

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.)

How Disasters Create Mass 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:

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.

Photo Credit:

Planning Ahead:

First and foremost, identifying *realistic* threats in your area is most important step in being prepared. For example, the bay area of California, I don’t need to hurricane prep. We do not get hurricanes. If I was in Florida, I would not need to earthquake prep, unless they start fracking it.

So, for some, your plan might be to bunker down and wait it out, i.e. if you are snowed in during a blizzard.

Blizzard/Snowed in: Obviously, preparation in terms of food, water and warmth is essential. In a pinch, water can be melted from snow. Shovel some into your bath tub. Frozen/refrigerated items can be stored in the snow in the bathtub. Properly sealed, your fridge/freezer unit *should* stay cool for about 24 hours, depending on how many times the doors are opened. Then, use the snow to your advantage. Keep extra blankets accessible. Storing them in the shed down the hill is not going to warm you up.

If you get stuck in a blizzard while driving: Stay in your car. You will be protected from the elements. Plan ahead: Keep a jar of trail mix, nuts, etc. in your center console or glove compartment. I can access my trunk from the inside of my car, so I store some food in there with a first aid kit, blanket and sweater. I always travel with water in my purse, as well. That way if my car ever got stuck in the snow, I’d have some food and a little water. I could also melt snow to make more water, but maintaining heat in the car is essential.

Hurricane/Tornado: Evacuation when necessary is key. So this is more about being able to quickly mobilize and leave than take on a storm. Having a Go-Bag at your disposal is a good idea. I go into more detail about this below. Also, keeping a box or large container full of food and water supplies (see below) that you can quickly grab and leave with will come in handy. After a natural disaster like this, supplies are limited and single-use items are often distributed. If you still have access to your supplies after a hurricane or tornado, planning ahead with the food items listed below will help you access the essential items while avoiding single-use plastics.

Apocalypse: So, yeah, I don’t really have much for your here. I don’t own or condone semi-automatic weapons and I fear anarchy so if there is truly an apocalypse I am probably S.O.L. Plan ahead by watching Red Dawn and 12 Monkeys and have a strong drink.


Planning Ahead for Disasters:

Canned goods


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. However, having glass containers in an earthquake zone could be problem.

Tin and aluminum are finite resources, but unlike plastic, they can be recycled virtually forever. Make sure you rinse your cans out before recycling.


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!

Dry goods

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.

I store my dried goods in glass containers I’ve collected and reused over the years. I live in an earthquake zone, so I store the jars in the bottom cabinet. So if they do fall, they don’t have fall to fall. You can use any food-safe container you have on hand.



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!

Package portfolio

Tetrapaks are environmental hazards!

For those in earthquake zones, securing your glass containers is a must. Check out our Sustainable Earthquake Prep page for more tips, instructions, and videos!

The Disaster Pack:

This might get it’s own post eventually, because this pack is pretty in depth.
I keep a backpack by my door with essential supplies:
  • flash light
  • first aid
  • dog leashes
  • an old pair of shoes/socks
  • $20 in singles
  • Spare car key***
Keeping an old pair of shoes in this bag will ensure I can escape quickly and not worry about being barefoot outside, where there is sure to be broken pieces of glass.
***Note: Understandably, it is not advised to keep your car keys by your front door, in case you are robbed. But having access to a vehicle if your house collapses is ideal for me. If you’re not going to be home, hide the bag somewhere else. But I want a backpack with supplies, ready to go. When the front door opens, the bag is concealed behind the door, and is not readily reachable. In other words, someone would have to step into the house, close the door, and turn around to see it. And it’s not a purse, so it’s not quite as alluring. Also, my front door is always locked.)

More 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.


LA times: Get ready for a major quake. What to do before — and during — a big one (Photo)

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