The Goal is Zero: Zero Waste

Lauren Singer Lives Her Values

She is a young, energetic New Yorker with a great sense of humor. She is a healthy, active entrepreneur. She is committed to preserving the environment she loves. Lauren Singer also talks trash. That’s a good thing. The founder of the organic cleaning product company, The Simply Co., author of the zero waste blog, Trash is for Tossers, she is an advocate for leaving a waste-free footprint on the world.

And yes, she lives those values to the ultimate, taking great pride in revealing that the amount of trash she has generated in the last several years can fit inside a 16 oz. Mason jar.

Singer recently shared the how and why of a zero waste life in a recent interview with INSPIRE HEALTH. You will be motivated, intrigued and environmentally inspired.

INSPIRE HEALTH: Let’s start with the basic definition, what is a zero-waste lifestyle?
LAUREN SINGER: For me, it means not sending any trash to a landfill. So I do compost and although I used to recycle, I, don’t really anymore because I don’t buy anything in packaging. Recycling is a last resort.

IH: How do you manage to live a waste-free life in today’s world of packaged goods and disposable everything?
LS: It’s a series of small choices. Really small, easy little choices that collectively add up to not making any trash. Things like buying my food in bulk, shopping at the farmer’s market, making my own cosmetics and cleaning products and buying my clothing second hand. Then, knowing what to do with things when they reach their end of life such as textile recycling and knowing how to compost.

IH: How does that apply to things that are not reusuable, like band-aids?
LS: You can totally make your own bandages out of organic cotton rounds that are washable and reusable.

masonIH: Are you flexible enough that if you can’t find a zero waste solution, you just find what you need?
LS: No, definitely not. I want to say, when you’re buying something, have you looked at all the options for package-free? And most importantly, do you actually need it? Is it necessary for your life? Ninety-nine percent of the time it’s not. Most of the time, things you can’t find package free are things that you actually don’t need.

IH: We live in such a disposable world, filled with things that are not built to last. How do you deal with those types of issues?
LS: You can fix things. I like to focus on keeping what you have and keeping it working at its best. There are lots of ways to divert things from landfills.
I think the thing is to just take care of things you have. Realize you don’t need a new phone every year and think of the expense. It’s not just money, but its human capital. There are people suffering to make these products, there’s environmental pollution occurring to make these products. When you think of people killing themselves in the factories to make these iPhones, you have to ask yourself, is this really worth it?

IH: What inspired you to get into a zero waste lifestyle?
LS: For me it was wanting to live in alignment with my values. I studied environmental science in college and I always talked about sustainable lifestyles, but I was not living that way. I was talking about the environment and I was purchasing plastic four times a day. There was a misalignment of what I believed in and what I was actually doing. My zero-waste lifestyle was my way of aligning those values.

IH: Your blog, trash for tossers says there are two easy steps to zero waste: evaluate and transition. Can you expand on that?
LS: Simply just looking at what you’re already have and what waste you’re producing. Identifying ways that you could minimize your waste and taking the steps to do that. You can’t reduce your waste until you know what you’re producing. See what things you can donate or sell or minimize and then start from there.

IH: Do you have suggestions for easy first steps in beginning a zero-waste lifestyle?
LS: On my blog I have a whole list of alternatives and changes that can have a large scale, long term positive impact. It can be as simple as ordering a soda and saying “no straw.” You can refuse plastic bags and use reusable bags. If you use one reusable bag for the next three years, you will have eliminated literally hundreds of single use plastic bags going to a landfill.

IH: You quit your job as a sustainability manager at the new york city department of environmental protection, launched a kickstarter campaign to start the simply co. How scary was that?
LS: The scariest part was actually facing my boss and telling him “I’m done!” It was just a matter of the courage to tell him. When I did it, it was empowering because I was able to pursue what made me happy. So it’s been about a year and a half and the company has grown a lot. We went from just me to an actual team. We offer a four-ounce product and tote bags with a new packaging design coming soon. I remember thinking of starting a company. I pictured myself putting some laundry powder in a jar and selling it on Etsy. For some reason I didn’t think that was good enough or sustainable enough so there was self-doubt. Going through that battle with myself, “I don’t know if I can do this, I don’t know if I can do this” to actually being able to hold my physical tangible product in my hand, that’s amazing!

IH: What are the benefits of living a zero-waste lifestyle? What have you seen in yourself?
LS: A lot of things I would never expect to see. One, I lost a lot of weight living this lifestyle because I started eating a lot healthier and wasn’t eating packaged process food anymore.
A secondary benefit was that I saved money. There’s a preconception that living a zero-waste lifestyle means having to spend excess money. That’s completely false. Over the past four years I’ve saved over $20,000 because my weekly food costs went from about $160 to about $60, just buying fresh natural food. I think a lot of people think fresh food and natural food is more expensive, but I think it’s because people have forgotten how to cook and how to plan. The most expensive food you can buy is the food that you end up throwing away.

IH: How do you think the zero waste philosophy is changing the world around you?
LS: The zero-waste lifestyle is the first option that we’ve seen where people can actually take it upon themselves to drastically reduce their environmental impact. Next to vegetarianism or veganism, it’s the only solution that’s internal. Before you try to change the world around you, change your life and how you do things inherently, and in truth that will result in changing the world.

For more information about Lauren Singer, a zero waste life and ways to align your environmental values with daily life, visit trashisfortossers.com.

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