How Lauren Singer, Founder of Package Free, Is Leading the Zero-Waste Revolution
You may have seen Lauren Singer around the Instagram or blog world, where she's known as @trashisfortossers. Or you may have seen the iconic singular mason jar where she's fit eight years' worth of her personal waste. (Compare that to the 4.5lbs of garbage the average person creates every. damn. day.)
Now, Singer's popularity is quickly traveling from the fringe environmentalist world to the mainstream. In 2017, Singer started Package Free, a Brooklyn shop that specializes in sustainable, waste-reducing goods (think: shampoo bars, biodegradable bandages, and reusable silicone sandwich bags). The company just raised $4.5 million in a seed round of funding (from the likes of Peloton's Ryan Engel and Casper's Neil Parikh), which will help Singer on her mission to bring low-waste living to the masses.
"I believe that everyone, no matter who you are, should have access to products that are safe for our homes, our bodies, and the environment," says Singer, who studied environmental science and politics at New York University. With the funding, Package Free will continue to operate under super-strict environmental practices (minimalist packaging, all recyclable shipping materials, etc.) and also explore making some of its own products. (Right now, Package Free serves as a reseller for other brands, such as Raw Elements sunscreen and Klean Kanteen water bottles.)
If you're still one to gloss over words like "environmentally friendly" and "sustainable," this is the woman who will finally get your attention. Read on to hear how she got started with her zero-waste journey and how you can join the effort by reducing your own waste—plus, why you absolutely need to.
When the Waste Connection Clicked
"My goal in life is to create large-scale positive environmental impact. I was inspired by being involved in activism around the oil and gas industry, reading Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring, and realizing that I was so passionate about the environment and sustainability, but that my day-to-day actions weren’t in alignment with that. I would talk about how much I hated the oil and gas industry, but I was subsidizing them every single day, multiple times a day, through consuming single-use plastic products. I felt like such a hypocrite and so I decided to do something about it. I decided to stop using plastic and then trash altogether to live zero-waste in order to align with my daily actions with my values for environmental sustainability." (Related: I Tried Creating Zero Waste for One Week to See How Hard Being Sustainable Really Is)
What She Wishes She Knew at the Start
"People think that when it comes to zero waste, it’s all or nothing, but this isn't the case! Every little change to reduce waste is amazing and positive. Additionally, people think it’s really expensive to reduce waste, but I have saved so much money from buying unpackaged food, secondhand shopping for clothing and even electronics, saying no to new items, repairing things that are worn out, making my own products, and saying ‘no’ to unnecessary and plastic items. Living zero-waste is a really great lifestyle for people who want to save money. So much so, that I saved enough money to quit my job and start my own companies!" (Related: I Survived On $5 of Groceries a Day In NYC—And Didn't Starve)
How Sustainability and Wellness Go Hand-In-Hand
"One of my personal practices is making sure that I have a clean, zero-waste beauty routine. Consumer culture has led us to believe that we need to have lots of products in order to feel our best, but I realized through living zero waste that it's about choosing each product based on how I feel using it. This doesn’t mean sacrificing anything, but rather making different choices about the skincare/beauty products I chose to use. Choosing products that either don’t have packaging at all or have recyclable packaging has been an important aspect of keeping a zero-waste beauty routine." (Here's the difference between clean and natural beauty products.)
"Another thing I make sure to do is eat clean, unprocessed, seasonal, and local foods. Not only do processed foods have too much packaging, but it really wreaks havoc on my body, plus it saves money as stores typically charge a premium for packaged products."
Simple Changes You Can Make Right Now
- Saying no is free and has a big impact. Saying no to single-use bags, utensils, straws, and to-go cups are really easy ways to reduce your waste and it doesn’t take much effort at all. (More here: Small Tweaks That Drastically Help the Environment)
- Look in your trash and see what you're throwing away. This provides a starting point for what you need to eliminate in order to live zero waste. If you throw away a lot of single-use water bottles, then maybe it would be good to invest in a reusable water bottle and a water filter.
- Do one thing at a time. Integrate something small such as using a reusable bag and then move to incorporate the next thing, slow and steady reduces the waste! (See: Eco-Friendly Amazon Buys That Will Help You Reduce Your Waste)
Yes, Sustainability Is *Your* Problem
"Every little bit counts! It’s important to dispel the mindset that someone else will fix the problem of climate change. Realize that every positive change is positive, and even by thinking about reducing waste, you’re already started that process of having a positive impact."