This Woman Hasn’t Thrown Out Any Trash In Seven Years
True story — my family currently lives in a quiet little neighborhood with set trash days. On Monday mornings, trash goes out. On Wednesdays, it’s recycling. In prior rentals, we usually dealt with bringing bags directly to a centrally located dumpster, so this was an interesting change of pace.
Interesting how, you may ask? Well, I was able to compare our normal weekly trash output to everyone else’s. And I was shocked. Sure, we have a small kid in the mix, and kids often create a lot of trash (especially if you go the disposable diaper route.) But even other households on our street with kids, such as our next-door neighbor, had just one can with a lid tightly secured. It’s noticeably smaller than my large, overflowing can that also has additional garbage bags lined up next to it. It was embarrassing, I’m not going to lie. It’s not like we had one bad spring cleaning week — this is our situation every week.
Environmental issues are becoming more and more important as the years go on, but some people still don’t take our communities seriously. Refusing to recycle altogether leads to more greenhouse gasses being released from landfills. In saving energy, we’re also helping make a difference in regards to the lingering (and very important) issue of climate change. That’s why this woman’s personal story should be inspiring.
Lauren Singer hasn’t thrown anything away in over seven years.
The New York City resident relies on other methods to reduce the amount of waste she creates.
It all started in 2013, when she realized she should be working hard to reduce the amount of garbage and trash she created.
That step lead to so many other severe life changes that have really improved her quality of living, and have saved her a bit of money as well.
Curious about how she got her start?
It all started at NYU.
Singer had an Environmental Studies course that helped open her eyes about how garbage can affect the environment. She’s the first person in her family to take an initiative like this. According to TODAY, Singer’s family was — like a majority of us — blissfully unaware of the negative impact they were creating with their trash.
The class made her oddly judgmental of others.
That is, until she realized that her own trash situation was just as bad.
“I had a class with this girl who was using a lot of plastic in every class,” Singer admitted to TODAY. “I was really judgmental of her. We were environmental students and she was making so much trash. Then I went home and saw that every single thing I had was made of packaged plastic.”
First, she thought about how she purchased food.
Since food often comes in plastic containers, she chose to buy fresh produce right from the farmer’s market.
Sure, that means that food like Lunchables and string cheese may be no more, but her change of lifestyle also had a good impact on her overall diet.
“One day I went home after class and opened my fridge to make dinner, and I realized that every single thing that I had in there was packaged in plastic,” she told CNN of her light bulb moment.
By not eating prepackaged foods, Singer also became healthier. Of course, since even produce can leave waste, Singer composted everything.
She also recycles, but more as a last resort.
Sometimes it’s just unavoidable to have to buy food on the go.
Singer told CNN that both composting and recycling happen, but as a last resort. She’s formed a negative opinion on food packaging waste in general and tries hard not to have it enter her life. So if you’ve been patting yourself on the back for recycling, just know there’s way more you can do that’s relatively easy.
Singer admitted that she’s a lazy person.
She said she may not have tried the zero-waste lifestyle if it required a ton of extra work.
To make things easier, she’s even gone so far as to make her own toothpaste at home. As she told CNN, it’s easier than buying it in the store for a few reasons. “I make my own toothpaste, it’s three ingredients, I can do it naked in my kitchen and it takes me 30 seconds and doesn’t cost more than 50 cents,” she said.
Beyond that she used the tooth paste example again to show just how much less effort it is to make it yourself.
“I would have to get dressed, walk to the store, buy toothpaste, walk back – and I’ve spent $8 and wasted 30 minutes of my day. Whereas if I make my own toothpaste, it’s three ingredients, I can do it naked in my kitchen and it takes me 30 seconds and doesn’t cost more than 50 cents.”
Singer believes anyone can do the zero waste lifestyle.
The mason jar of trash she’s accumulated contains all of the unavoidable things she can’t recycle.
Even when you try to avoid trash, sometimes it’s unpreventable.
“It’s plastic that no one will recycle … I like to collect my trash just because it helps me see what problems are difficult to avoid,” she explains.
Examining your trash is really important.
For example, if you’re throwing lots of food waste, you might want to opt for more frequent trips to the store to avoid food going moldy
Singer said that some of the items in her jar include banana stickers and clothing tags. Even though she has vowed only to buy clothes secondhand from the thrift store (which also saves her a bunch of money) some of those clothes still have tags and stickers that create unnecessary waste.
According to Singer, there’s someone she looked up to while trying to live a trash-free life.
Every motivator has a motivator.
Singer took a page from California resident Bea Johnson, who also lives trash-free. She adopted the zero-waste lifestyle in 2008 and wrote a book in support of it called Zero Waste Home. Her method includes the mantra of “Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Rot” — and according to Johnson, yes, the order makes a difference.
Singer started up a blog to help others interested in learning more.
It’s called “Trash is for Tossers,” which has a fun ring to it.
The website is chock full of ideas to live a trash-free lifestyle, including fun tips like bringing an airtight, stainless steel lunch box to work with you. It’s easy to clean and resistant to spills, which means that your sandwich doesn’t need unnecessary plastic wrap on it.
She also has an article about how to cook and clean with standard kitchen waste.
You may have heard that you can use a banana peel to polish your shoe, but Singer’s website has uncovered a bunch of other environmentally friendly ways to clean.
One of her techniques is quite interesting. She believes that there are plenty of foods that can be given new life as a full meal simply by adding an egg. Another bonus? Eggs are excellent in terms of protein, especially if you’re trying to eliminate red meat from your diet.
Curious about feminine hygiene products? It’s a worthwhile question.
Even month, women need to toss out plastic applicators and pads, which add to the problem.
Singer prefers to use a reusable cup when it’s her time of the month. You might cringe at the thought, but they’re actually becoming even more user-friendly and popular with women who are tired of spending money on tampons every month. If you’re considering a change, this is another pro to add to the list.
Her toilet paper is also biodegradable.
Don’t worry — she doesn’t go without it.
Biodegradable toilet paper is better for the environment, and anyone with a septic system already knows its value. According to Backpackerverse, regular toilet paper is made from trees, which is harder for the environment to break down — and, a pretty upsetting use for the tree, if you think about it. The regular stuff also includes more additives that biodegradable doesn’t have.
One of Singer’s best recommendations is to get better with planning.
She told TODAY that planning was essential when it came to limiting trash.
“Most people don’t plan,” she stated. “You find yourself needing to grab things on the go all the time and because of that, that’s where a lot of trash comes from. When I learned how to plan out my day and my week and buy food accordingly, I didn’t have to buy stuff on the go anymore.”
She also thinks it’s important for people to learn how to make their own cleaners.
Having ways to clean and sanitize your house is important, but half of the problem comes with the packaging.
It’s amazing how creative you can get with the products you already have in the kitchen. With a little bit of research, you can clean your home while saving money and helping to save our environment. Next time you walk into the grocery store, just think about how much plastic surrounds you.
But, the most important piece of advice is to start small.
Going from a plastic-heavy life to one that requires just a mason jar of trash for years is a big leap.
It also requires a lot of habit-breaking. Maybe you grab a coffee every morning, and don’t have a portable hot beverage holder— that, there, is waste. If you take baby steps towards your main goal to live a life like Singer’s, you’re more likely to be successful. Just know that you’ll learn a ton about both yourself and the environment along the way.
And, just because you didn’t grow up in a typical “green” home, doesn’t mean you can’t learn. Singer didn’t. She says she didn’t. “My family isn’t like this at all” and they were actually “the least environmentally friendly ever.”
Despite Singer’s success, she knows asking or encouraging people to quit their habits cold turkey is a recipe for disaster and setting someone up to fail.
Try something super simple at first, like buying bamboo toothbrushes instead of plastic ones.
So why should you do this?
“I’ve changed my lifestyle and prevented thousands of pounds of trash going to landfill,” says Singer. “I believe that one person can make a difference, it’s just having a desire to do so,” Singer concludes.
If that’s not enough to prompt you to action, there’s some more somber news about the state of out planet.
Humans have made 8.3 billion tons of plastic, and at this rate, “the plastic debris housed in landfills and natural environments —currently 4.9 billion metric tons — will more than double by 2050,” according to Science Advances.
Reducing your plastic pollution can be done in many ways.
You might be familiar with bringing a reusable water bottle, but many activists are now reminding people to bring reusable, metal straws.
All you’ve got to do is say “No straw, please” when ordering a beverages at restaurants or cafes, and if you’re really feeling up to it, request no lid (it’s very unlikely you’ll spill.)
Plastic pollution, alone, is one of the greatest threats to ocean health, since 4 and 12 million metric tons of plastic enter the ocean each year. According to Oceanic Society, that’s “enough to cover every foot of coastline on the planet! And that amount is expected to more than double in the next 10 years.”
So, next time you think somebody like Singer is being over-the-top by being conscious of her waste, think about how easily you could find all the beautiful creates in the sea and on shore.
As we’ve learned, there are some major misconception about the zero waste lifestyle.
Another zero waste blogger Bea Johnson, who wrote the bestselling book, says her life has been enriched.
She is known as the mother of the movement, after chronicling her family’s zero waste journey in 2008. “When she launched her quest, most people had never heard the term ‘zero waste’ as it was mainly used in government documents and by manufacturing companies,” according to Money Crashers.
“What it ultimately does is translate into a simple, richer life based on experience instead of things,” she explained.
The best part? It’ll save you money. Since it’ll reduce the number of things you buy and consume.