by Joe Martino
What if you could live without producing any trash? Would you do it? At first you might think this is impossible or very hard, and it may very well be depending on your life situation. But one inspiring girl is not only doing this, but sharing how we can all try doing the same thing as well.
Not long ago we covered a story about a restaurant who hadn’t produced garbage in over 2 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 how could we do that on an individual level and could it be done easily without giving up much of what we love and modern amenities? I came across Lauren Singer’s story and was very inspired by what she had to share. She has gone 2 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. See if you can implement this in your own life, I myself am going to start putting a plan together to make less of an impact as well.
Her Journey To Zero Waste
“How did I go from zero plastic to zero waste?
First, I stopped buying packaged products and began bringing my own bags and jars to fill with bulk products at the supermarket. I stopped buying new clothing, and shopped only secondhand. I continued making all of my own personal care and cleaning products. I downsized significantly by selling, donating, or giving away superfluous things in my life, such as all but one of my six identical spatulas, 10 pairs of jeans that I hadn’t worn since high school, and a trillion decorative items that had no significance to me at all.
Most importantly, I started planning potentially wasteful situations; I began saying “NO” to things like straws in my cocktails at a bars, to plastic or paper bags at stores, and to receipts.
Of course, this transition didn’t happen overnight.
This process took more than a year and required a lot of effort. The most difficult part was taking a hard look at myself, the environmental studies major, the shining beacon of sustainability, and realizing that I didn’t live in a way that aligned with my values.
I realized that while I sincerely cared about a lot of things, I wasn’t embodying my philosophies. Once I accepted that, I allowed myself to change and since then my life has been better every day. Here are just a few of the ways life has improved since I went trash free:
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 farmers 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.
I didn’t start living this lifestyle to make a statement — I began living this way because living a zero-waste life is, to me, the absolutely best way I know how to live a life that aligns with everything I believe in.”
Pass this inspiration on to others who you think could benefit from her tips and story.