The woman whose trash from the last two years fits inside a mason jar

(Photo: Trash is for Tossers)
(Photo: Trash is for Tossers)
(Photo: Trash is for Tossers)

Between Seamless bags, your Starbucks cup, last night’s dinner remnants, and all the paper towels, it’s hard to go a day without filling up yet another trash bag. So the fact that Lauren Singer, a 23-year-old Brooklynite, can store her trash from the past two years inside a (small) mason jar definitely made us say, “How is that even possible?!”

Turns out Singer, who worked at the Department of Environmental Protection after graduating with an environmental studies degree from NYU, recently launched a successful Kickstarter campaign to start her own all-natural laundry detergent brand and went from hanging on to some garbage to having essentially none at all. Here, she tells us how.

(Photo: Trash is for Tossers)
Singer uses glass containers for ingredients at the grocery store instead of buying pre-packaged items. (Photo: Trash is for Tossers)

What was your catalyst for trying to eliminate trash from your life? I’ve always been passionate about sustainability, which led me to focus on environmental studies at NYU. During my senior year, I noticed that everything in my kitchen was packaged in plastic. I felt like such a hypocrite producing all this waste.

I started Googling and found the blog Zero Waste Home. [The founder] is a wife and mother of two boys, and the four of them live a zero waste lifestyle. I figured that if a family of four could do it, I could, too.

So how did you go about transitioning to a zero waste home? I took baby steps. I finished the plastic-container of peanut butter and recycled it, then next time I wanted peanut butter, I found a place where I could bring my own mason jar and get it freshly ground. I went through that purging and re-evaluating process for everything.

That’s smart. How do you compost? All year long, I keep my compost in a steel bowl or a brown paper bag that someone has left in the recycling room in my building. Then every Saturday, I take the compost to the farmer’s market, where it’s collected.

Got it. So what winds up in the trash jar? It’s filled with things that I’m unsure about, like plastic straws. Even though they’re recyclable, that plastic isn’t really used for much, so I prefer to hang on to them. Tags inside clothes are in there.

mason jar lauren singer
Singer’s single mason jar of trash, mostly containing tags from clothing and few darn plastics she can’t recycle. (Photo: Erwin Caluya)

Do you use some sort of sorcery to survive without lip gloss and tampons? I make my own deodorant, masks, and face oils. As far as makeup, I buy RMS. They’re 100 percent recyclable, and most of the time I reuse the pots for a homemade lip balms or a travel-size of my deodorant. Instead of buying tampons, I use a menstrual cup.

That’s dedication. What about when you go out for a cup of coffee or a drink? I bring my own jar if I’m going to buy coffee. At a bar, I get a beer on tap, and I always make sure to ask for no napkin, no straw, and no coaster. At most restaurants, you can ask for a cloth napkin.

Okay, let’s be real. How much extra time does all of this take you? That’s the first misconception people have about this lifestyle. I am a self-professed lazy person, and living this way actually gives me more time. I used to run to the store every day because I was out of toothpaste or salad dressing. I can’t just pop by a store for what I need anymore, so I’m much more organized about buying it all once a week. It’s been an incredible detox from all that’s unnecessary.

Tell me about Simply Co. and why you’re launching it? People don’t have good choices when it comes to natural household items like detergent. The Simply Co. detergent has three ingredients: baking soda, washing soda, and Castile soap. It’s organic, vegan, and free of synthetic fragrances, and I love the idea of packaging it in glass so it’s refillable. —Molly Gallagher

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