What if you could live without producing any trash? Would you do it? At first you might think this is impossible (or at least extremely difficult), and it may very well be depending on your life situation. But one inspiring girl is not only making this impossibility a reality, she is sharing how we can all start doing the same thing as well.
Not long ago we covered a story about a restaurant that hadn’t produced garbage in over two years. It was amazing to not only see how possible it was, but that they were able to do it and still run their business with success.
But I wondered how we could do that on an individual level. Can it be done easily, without having to give up the things we love and the convenience of modern amenities? I came across Lauren Singer’s story and was very inspired by what she had to share. She has gone four years without producing any garbage, and her story isn’t what you’d expect.
The inspiration came from taking Environmental Studies at NYU. She was passionate about protesting against big oil and wanted to do what she could to help impact our environment in a positive way. While at first you might think she’s probably a “hippie” or “treehugger” who doesn’t live a normal life, when you pay attention to her story you not only find that this isn’t the case, but also that, given her experience, we could all be doing this, too. All it would take is a little discipline and habit changing.
Her passion for the environment was challenged greatly one day when she realized upon opening her fridge that almost every item was wrapped or stored in some sort of disposable package. Here she was, the “green” girl, being, as she called herself, a hypocrite because she was choosing to live her life in a way that wasn’t green or sustainable. So she decided to eliminate plastic from her life.
Below she shares how she went from being an average consumer to eliminating trash from her life. Use this as inspiration and see if you can begin doing the same. She outlines many details of what she did, and I myself am going to start putting a plan together to reduce my impact as well.
Her Journey to Zero Waste
Her transition didn’t happen overnight, but she certainly began taking steps quickly.
Lauren started by removing packaged products from her life. This was done by bringing her own bags when she went shopping and to markets — a transition many of us can begin making immediately. Next she focused on clothing. Instead of buying new clothes all the time, she used what she had and also shopped at second hand stores. You’d be surprised by what you can find there that is basically brand new.
Next she moved onto personal care products. Instead of buying them, she began making them. I myself have made several of my own personal care products, and they are easy to make, require very simple ingredients, and work just as well (if not better) than their packaged counterparts.
Downsizing was also a big part of her journey. Instead of keeping multiple repeats of items she had, she sold them off and got rid of any clothing that she hadn’t worn in years. You’d be amazed to find out how much stuff we collect and hold on to for no apparent reason.
She found that an effective way to stop producing waste was to begin saying “NO” when she went out or to stores that offered things like straws, plastic bags, plates, and cutlery — even receipts! This alone would cut down on garbage in a big way.
She had these final thoughts that she shared in her original article.
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“1. I save money.
I now make a grocery list when I go shopping, which means being prepared and not grabbing expensive items impulsively. Additionally, buying food in bulk means not paying a premium for packaging. When it comes to my wardrobe, I don’t purchase new clothing; I shop secondhand and get my clothes at a heavily discounted price.
2. I eat better.
Since I purchase unpackaged foods, my unhealthy choices are really limited. Instead, I eat a lot of organic fruits and vegetables, bulk whole grains and legumes, as well as a lot of seasonal, local food, since farmer’s markets offer amazing unpackaged produce.
3. I’m happier.
Before I adopted my zero-waste lifestyle, I would find myself scrambling to the supermarket before it closed, because I didn’t shop properly, ordering in takeout because I didn’t have food, always going to the pharmacy to get this scrub and that cream, and cleaning constantly because I had so much stuff.
Now, my typical week involves one trip to the store to buy all of the ingredients I need. This trip isn’t just for food, but also for cleaning and beauty products, since all of the things I use now can be made with simple, everyday ingredients. Not only is it easier and stress free, it’s healthier (no toxic chemicals!).
I never anticipated that actively choosing not to produce waste would turn into my having a higher quality of life. I thought it would just mean not taking out the trash. But what was at first a lifestyle decision became a blog, Trash is for Tossers, which became a catalyst for chatting with interesting, like-minded people, and making friends.
Now it’s blossomed into my quitting my great post-grad job as Sustainability Manager for the NYC Department of Environmental Protection to start my own zero-waste company, The Simply Co., where I hand-make and sell the products that I learned to produce over the past two years.”
Lauren says that she did not begin this journey to make a statement but rather to live a lifestyle that aligns with everything she believes in. She is being exactly what we at CE always encourage others to be, which is change. If you live and be what you want to see, it will help others to do the same.
Pass this inspiration on to others who you think could benefit from her tips and story.
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