In the case of an emergency, the only thing you’ll be concerned about is survival, but if you plan ahead, your emergency preparedness kit can be packed with eco-friendly supplies and ideas. With natural and human-made catastrophes so prevalent today (ahem, climate change), it’s not a matter of if you’ll need a preparedness kit — it’s when.
1. Get a solar generator
Solar generators bring power to your home when the main grid crashes and your lights go out. Unlike diesel generators that are annoyingly loud, solar generators are completely silent. They also require no fuel for operation, so you won’t have to worry about storing dangerous gasoline or diesel on your property.
With a solar generator, you can get your lights back on and operate a few small appliances and digital devices. This will dramatically help you and your family begin to psychological recovery from the disastrous event and return to a normal-ish routine.
2. Hand crank chargers
Batteries need to be stockpiled and replaced every few years, but they themselves become environmental hazards when you need to dispose of them. Instead of relying on batteries for your radio, torch and phone charger, invest in hand-crank chargers. These tools use motion to charge the battery of the device, so you won’t have to worry about buying and storing expensive batteries, nor will you have to figure out how to dispose of the batteries when they die.
3. Keep digital copies of important documents
In case of evacuation, you’ll need copies of important documents about you, your family and home. Keep scanned copies of insurance, wills, passports, bank accounts, credit cards, mortgage records and vital computer documents. Use either a USB drive or a CD to store them. Place the digital storage device in a sealed container to protect it from water damage.
This step will save on both paper and printer ink that you might use to make hard copies of documents. If you have the original documents in your home, bring them with you in a waterproof bag along with any valuables.
Make sure to upload to Google Docs in case something happens and all your valuables are demolished. That way, even if these important documents are destroyed, you still have backup soft copies that you can access no matter where you are (that is, if there’s a working internet service available).
You’ll also need to reference some documents in case of an emergency. Medication instructions and survival guides should be downloaded to your phone for quick reference. Put these kinds of files onto your phone before an emergency — you may not be able to access the internet if cell towers and routers are without power.
4. First aid kit
You should already have this on hand but if you don’t, make sure to get one. Having a first aid kit on hand could save your life. When you consider that almost 300,000 people died as a result of natural disasters in 2010, you can see why it pays to be prepared. A first aid kit can prevent small cuts from becoming seriously infected and lead to illness or death. Single-use bandages and gloves prevent the spread of disease and infection and should never be reused.
You can create a greener kit in other ways. Instead of individual packets of antibiotic cream, purchase a whole tube that you can use many times, which produces less waste. In lieu of alcohol wipes for cleaning and disinfecting, have gauze and a bottle of alcohol to create your own. The gauze also doubles as an absorbent dressing.
The first aid kit should include extra supplies of prescription medications for anyone in your household. If an emergency is forecasted, as may happen with a hurricane or cyclone, get a prescription refill early to ensure that you have enough until pharmacies reopen.
Any special needs goods should also be in your kit. In an emergency, it could be difficult to find washing water for cloth diapers. You may have to use disposable diapers for your baby. A sustainable option for women instead of tampons or napkins is a menstrual cup. This reusable device creates no waste and needs only fresh water for cleaning before reuse.
5. Canned food and ‘bulk’ water
In the event of a natural disaster, you won’t have recycling or waste services available for a long time but you may still want to minimise how much you throw away. Doing so will help reduce used landfill space, which will be taken up by disaster debris. Choose food in tin cans (don’t forget a can opener!) instead of plastic, and set aside the cans for recycling when facilities reopen.
Water is also a critical component of an emergency preparedness kit. Plan to store 10 liters of water per person for three days. Instead of buying cases of individual water bottles, purchase larger water containers that are BPA-free. Home water dispensers use five-gallon (18 liter) water bottles, which is a perfect option to make using larger containers easier. You’ll also waste less plastic this way since most water companies recycle or reuse the bottles.
6. Have an evacuation kit (and a plan!)
In some situations, your family may be required to evacuate the area. Bushfires closing in on your home or a hurricane or cyclone off the coast may require you to leave. In some cases, you may not get more than a few minutes’ notice. Keep portable, durable packs near your door that you and your family members can grab in case you must leave.
Inside the evacuation kit, have medications for everyone in your family as well as sturdy shoes, portable food and water. For evacuation, plan on at least a three-day food and water supply. Medications should also be available in your evacuation kit to last for at least a week.
Saving yourself and the planet
A greener emergency preparedness kit gets you ready for any disaster without compromising your environmentally conscious lifestyle (especially when the environment will likely be the last thing on your mind!) Though your kit contents will change for storm or bushfire seasons, the basics should remain the same.
Don’t forget to update your kit regularly, check expiration dates of any items to replace if need be, and inform yourself of evacuation routes and other information you and your family will need to survive a disaster.
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