Every year, the average American adult wastes nearly one million pounds of materials per person. But Lauren Singer, a 23-year-old from New York City, is not the average American.
Realizing the amount of trash she was generating every year, Singer voted to go plastic-free and then trash-free. In four years, she produced less than a mason jar of trash. And not only has she survived her minimalist lifestyle, she says she is thriving with her new business and more sustainable approach on life.
After realizing how much trash she wasted every day, Singer narrowed down her main sources of trash to food packaging, product packaging and organic food waste. She started with combating packaged food waste. While shopping, she brings her own containers – like jars and cloth bags – instead of relying on plastic or paper bags.
A DIY enthusiast, Singer began making her own products after realizing that most products you find on the shelves are not all-natural and zero-waste. To make her own everyday items like toothpaste, deodorant and detergent, she researches online to find recipes that work for her.
In order to reduce her organic food waste, Singer learned how to compost. Many of the household items she uses – such as her dish brush and toothbrush – are compostable.
While doing research, Singer learned about misleading product labels which deceitfully claim to have “natural” ingredients. Most of these so-called “natural” ingredients are found in cleaning products. This prompted Singer to create her own company, The Simply Co., which makes and sells all-natural and zero-waste laundry detergent.
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In a TED Talk last year, she advocates for ingredient transparency, saying, “we, as human beings, have a right to products that are safe for our homes, and our bodies, and the environment.”
Singer explains how living trash-free forced her to live a more minimalist lifestyle. This, she said, wasn’t easy because if you get attached to anything, it’s hard to learn how to let go. After the “down-sizing” process, she realized that because she has fewer things, she takes better care of them, which means they lasted longer.
Every day, Singer works to ensure she only makes or buys what she needs. As part of this continuous “down-sizing” process, she shops for clothing from secondhand stores, essentially recycling clothing. This has eliminated the need to just throw things out and buy new things, as is the norm in fast fashion.
Living this way does takes more time, because you have to make things yourself, but it’s certainly not impossible. Singer says that anyone can do it. “I wouldn’t live this lifestyle if it was difficult,” she says via her TED Talk. Discussing how the benefits of living trash-free exceed the drawbacks, Singer explains that she saves more, she eats better and she feels better.
Most importantly, she’s happier with the smaller impact she’s making on the world. She explains, “I want to be remembered for the things that I did while I was on this planet, and not for the trash that I left behind.”
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