Lauren Singer started her blog Trash is for Tossers to document her attempt at a zero-waste lifestyle. With her stories and DIY tutorials, she quickly gained a large international following. Now, she’s brought her philosophy into the real world: Package Free, a Brooklyn-based pop-up shop sells sustainable products without packaging.
Emptying the trash can is an everyday occurrence for most people – but not for Lauren Singer. The 26-year-old Brooklynite has been living a zero-waste lifestyle for four years, chronicling her recycling hacks on the blog Trash is for Tossers.
After developing a huge online following, she recently took her advocacy into the real world with a Williamsburg storefront called Package Free – selling hundreds of items to help people control their waste output. The shift has been enlightening for Singer, who finally gets to interact with her online audience in real life.
“When you’re writing a blog, there’s people following you but they’re really just names and numbers on a screen,” says Singer. “But when you have thousands of people coming into your store, you can tell these are real people that care and are taking action.”
From blog to brick and mortar
The shop was planned as a pop-up to run from May to August, but the runaway success has inspired Singer and her partnering clothing designer Daniel Silverstein to consider expanding the store to a nation-wide concept. Already, they’ve far exceeded their projections and launched an online store to keep up with demand.
Singer stresses there’s no universal starting point to a zero-waste footprint. According to her, the path rather begins with a quick audit of your own trash output. It’s not necessary to go all-in either, every little change counts.
“I never really suggest one particular product to start. My first suggestion is to look at your own life and your garbage can to see what you’re throwing away. From there you’ll see something you can easily phase out,” says Singer.
Some items like plastic water bottles are a no brainer, but most people would be surprised to know how many everyday products have green alternatives. One of the most unique items at Package Free is the stylish skateboard by Bureo. The Chilean initiative sources old fishing nets from the ocean, using the material to press its skate decks.
Waste-free products you’ll actually want
“There’s a preconception about sustainability that it’s exclusionary expensive,“ Singer points out. “The cheapest product in our store is a dollar and there’s nothing over 200 dollars. Sustainability doesn’t mean wasting money, it’s for anyone, regardless of who you are or how much money you make.“
Through her blog, Singer has connected with the leading reusable companies in the industry. To her, the brands she carries aren’t just faceless companies, but friends with which she has long relationships. Some of the more popular products include bamboo toothbrushes, reusable coffee cups, and biodegradable silk dental floss, but they also specialize in harder to find items like package-free make-up.
One of the biggest challenges Singer faces with a zero-waste lifestyle is finding the right clothing. For her 23rd birthday, she was looking for something to wear and reached out to clothing designer Daniel Silverstein, founder of the brand Zero Waste Daniel and a finalist on NBC’s Fashion Star. The pair maintained a friendship after their initial meeting. Like many great ideas, the idea for Package Free was actually conceived in a bar over drinks.
“Daniel was selling his clothes at a marketplace for all types of designers,“ Singer remembers. “He was making sustainable clothes, but the people weren’t really interested in sustainability.” The two partnered up on Package Free. Now, Singer jokingly refers to Silverstein as her “work husband”, with the shelves of their store stocked with clothes like jogger pants and sweatshirts that read “waste’d” and “trash-ey”.
Do it yourself
Buying sustainably crafted clothing is a stretch for most people, but there’s other simple ways to lower your clothing footprint. Buying second-hand or swapping clothes with friends is another way to reduce unnecessary packaging.
One of the best do-it-yourself hacks is to make toothpaste at home, according to Singer. This not only cuts down on packaging waste, but also avoids dangerous chemicals included as foaming agents. In only 30 seconds, you can mix up a batch of your own toothpaste using coconut oil, baking soda, peppermint essential oils, and stevia. It’s a surprisingly easy and rewarding change to implement.
“I think the biggest challenge is the preconception that it’s hard,“ Singer adds. “Nothing about living this lifestyle is difficult, but a lot of people have this preconceived narrative that you lose something. But in my experience all you do is gain.”