Lauren Singer tells us how to live a zero-waste life that’s good for Earth and good for us. (Photo: Instagram)
23-year-old Lauren Singer doesn’t create trash. She makes her own toothpaste, laundry detergent, moisturizer, lip scrub, and smoothie bowls — but nothing that goes into landfills or garbage bins. As a matter of fact, all of the Brooklyn resident’s non-recyclable waste from the past two years fits into a single mason jar. Singer, who graduated from NYU with a degree in environmental science, doesn’t look like your stereotypical “crunchy granola” hippie, with her so-perfect-it-looks-blown-out hair and camera-ready smile, but that’s exactly how she’s going about changing the face of sustainable living and environmental activism: With charismatic suggestions on how to make your own daily life as “zero waste” as possible. A co-worker once likened her to a cross between Martha Stewart and conservationist Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring. She regularly films DIY beauty tutorials on her blog, Trash is for Tossers and has spread the word through TEDxTeen, New York Magazine, Yahoo Finance, and Rachael Ray. “This is how I want to see the world,” she tells Yahoo Beauty. “If someone criticizes me, it doesn’t matter because I’m not doing it for them. If someone thinks I’m weird, it means I’m educating them or making them think in a different way.”
Lauren Singer’s two years of trash (what can’t be recycled or composted) fits into a single mason jar. (Photo: Trash is for Tossers)
As beauty junkies at Yahoo Beauty, we test a lot of beauty products — which typically come with a lot of packaging. Certain parts of their containers and bottles, like pumps, can’t be recycled and will end up in landfills. Singer just came back from a weeklong expedition on the Atlantic Ocean to study the effects of plastic pollution on our oceans, but even for those of us who aren’t doing eco-research and activism, we can make little adjustments to make our footprint on the Earth nearly invisible. And with over 7 billion people (and 8.74 million known species) on Earth, these beauty and lifestyle changes, as advocated by Singer, make a huge difference—and may actually save you money and give you better hair and skin, too. “You don’t need any specific affiliation to care about the environment,” she says. “This lifestyle saves money and keeps me healthy.” Here are her tips on going greener and waste-free.
Lauren Singer streamlined her beauty routine to a few steps. (Photo: Lauren Singer)
Streamline your beauty regimen
“My routine has totally downsized and become minimalistic since I began my ‘zero-waste’ lifestyle. I had a billion products. Now, I wake up, brush my teeth with toothpaste that I make myself, wash my entire body with Meow Meow Tweet’s soap that my friend makes for me package-free, and moisturize my face with a moisturizer that I made myself. That’s essentially my routine. I feel like I just stopped what society told me — that I need so many products. My skin is better, and my hair is the same or even better since I stopped using shampoo. I also use a stainless steel razor for shaving. I’ll recycle the paper used for packaging when I buy new blades. Stainless steel blades are infinitely more recyclable than other kinds. I don’t like nail polish and I prefer the natural nail look anyway.”
Shop locally and without packaging
“You should buy local and handmade beauty products if you can. If there are beauty companies in your area, you should write to them directly and ask if you can pick them up package-free, and many of them would be more than happy to let you come over and pick up their products. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want.
I make almost all of my meals at home, and when I grocery shop, I buy from farmer’s markets, natural food stores, and multicultural food stores, like in Chinatown, which sell food items in bulk and without packaging. You can bring your own reusable bags and mason jars to fill up.”
Lauren Singer making whipped body butter. (Photo: YouTube)
Make your own goods
“I make almost all of my own beauty products, except for Meow Meow Tweet’s soap, which I buy package-free in Brooklyn. I try to stay out of the sun, but shea butter naturally has SPF in it, and you can even add zinc to your moisturizer for extra SPF. I used to believe that I, personally, needed foundation and blush. Recently, I stopped wearing makeup. I’m a really pale person. In the summer, if I have a little color, I’m good. If I put on my moisturizer, which I made myself, I get a little glow. I never wear eye makeup. I’ll probably make my own little bronzer out of cocoa powder. Some people use different kinds of clays and minerals to make their bronzers, and there are tutorials online for that. Coconut oil is one of the best moisturizers; you can use that for your skin or even to condition your hair.”
Spend your money at sustainable companies
“I have a company called The Simply Co. that makes natural detergent —unscented and lavender. The packaging is all made from recycled boxes. I like to hand wash and air dry because I think it’s less aggressive on clothes.
When I dine out, which is only with friends, I can’t control the waste that the restaurant makes, but I can control the place I go to, so I go to places that compost and are committed to reducing waste. If someone gives me a [paper] napkin, I’ll take the napkin home and compost it.”
Shop secondhand for versatile clothes
“For clothes, I shop exclusively secondhand, and I have a really minimal wardrobe. It used to be really all black, but I’ve introduced a grey or two. I do it so that no one knows if you wear something often. I’ve worn a lot of the same clothes for years.”