One of the struggles of going zero waste is that buying zero waste items can be expensive upfront, even if they save money in the long run. Another issue can be that some parts of zero waste projects can be pretty time consuming. However, there are ways to get around some of these challenges.
In college, students usually have many opportunities to get free T-shirts, towels, and other similar items. Or we have old clothes or towels that we don’t need anymore. We tend to have consistent access to school and office supplies, like staplers. We also usually have our own cutlery, but if we don’t, knives, forks, and spoons tend to be pretty cheap to buy. Using only these items (and some measuring/marking tools), you can make a simple zero waste to-go cutlery kit!
1. If you are using a shirt, cut the neckline out first, and then cut it in half along the seams so that the front side of the shirt is one half and the back half is another. If you are using a towel, cut off any thick borders.
2. Use something to mark off a 6.75 inch by 25.5 inch rectangle on your material and cut this rectangle out. It is okay to cross over seams if that is the only way the shape will fit. As long as you end up with one continuous piece of fabric.
3. Choose which side of the fabric you want on the outside and on the inside of the kit. Then place the fabric on a solid surface so the side chosen for the inside is facing up.
4. On one end of the rectangle, measure and make a mark at 4.25 inches up on the left and right edges. Fold the end of the fabric at these marks so it creates a pocket for the inside of the kit.
5. Use the stapler to staple each of the corners on the top or bottom of this pocket. Un-bunch the fabric connected by the staple by pulling the fabric out away from either end of the staple. Make sure both wings of the staple can be seen on the opposite side of the fabric layers (if they are not both visible, the fabric is not connected properly). This will keep the fabric in place.
6. Staple the rest of the left and right edges of this pocket so it seems like the staples create a seam that links the folded fabric layers. Un-bunch fabric for all the staples, and remove any staples that won’t go all the way through the fabric layers.
7. Keep the fabric with this same side facing up, but rotate the fabric so the unfolded side of the rectangle is nearest to you. Measure and mark 5 inches up from the end of each edge, and then fold the fabric at that mark. This should form the start of a second pocket on the inside of the kit.
8. Staple the edges of this pocket together , starting with one staple in a corner on each edge to keep the fabric in place. Un-bunch fabric and replace staples when necessary.
9. For this taller second pouch (this end of the rectangle is still nearest to you), measure from the left side to the right side using these increments: 1 inch, 1 inch, 1.5 inches, 1.5 inches. These approximate measurements should be marked along the bottom and top of the pouch. Then mark light lines between them so you know where to staple to create pouches for each individual piece of silverware.
10. Staple along the lines drawn in step 9, one line at a time. Always un-bunch the fabric and replace staples when necessary.
11. Use the collar of the shirt or any thicker piece of fabric to create a piece similar to a ribbon. Measure the halfway mark on this ‘ribbon’ and staple it on the left edge of the cutlery pocket section about 0.5 inches below the top of the pockets. The ribbon should be stapled on the side of the fabric chosen for the outside of the kit (the side that has been facing the floor or a solid surface this whole time).
12. Use any leftover fabric to cut into small pieces to use as reusable napkins.
13. Fill your kit with your cutlery (chopsticks, straw, straw cleaner, knife, spoon, and fork) in the divided pocket and your reusable napkin(s) in the undivided pocket.
14. Fold napkin half down over cutlery half, roll from the non-ribbon side towards the ribbon side, and tie the ribbon to keep it together.
This kit should be able to be made in 1.5 hours or less as it is (depends on how many staples work on the first try). I would suggest washing the napkins according to the original fabric’s washing instructions. However, if you ever need to wash the kit itself, use care and hand wash it. Staples in a washing machine would likely rip apart seams of other clothing in the wash, and might even fall out of the fabric, destroying your kit and breaking the machine.
If you want, you can always hand-stitch the fabric together using a needle and thread to make the kit prettier, and probably a bit more sturdy. This would take more time (and possibly money), especially if you do not already have those materials or skills.
~Written by Jennifer Beyer~