A few years ago, when NYC-based low waste blogger, Lauren Singer, went viral for containing four years of trash in a single mason jar, the internet started to perk up; most of us can’t even fit a lunch’s worth into a jar. While the topics of waste and sustainability aren’t new, suddenly we couldn’t unsee a troubling truth about our consumer habits.
According to Lauren, compared to the average American who produces around 4.5 pounds of trash per day, her low waste lifestyle has saved over 6,000 pounds of trash from going into landfills.
Lauren’s famous jar contains little more than stickers from fruits and a few plastic tags from thrifted clothes. We admire her dedication, but going all-in isn’t the only way to have a meaningful impact. Lauren’s blog, Trash is for Tossers, caters to a balanced middle-ground with simple tips to ease into a low waste lifestyle — and actually keep up with your new habits. We’re sharing a few favorites ahead.
Becoming accountable for your carbon footprint doesn’t require you to quit shopping and start mixing all of your own makeup. There are now eco-conscious green beauty brands like Kjaer Weis and Sappho who produce re-usable makeup pods with minimal packaging. Stores like NYC’s Package Free, founded by Lauren Singer herself, offer daily essentials with nearly no packaging at all. Can’t make it to Manhattan to buy low waste detergent? You can find products by Lauren’s new company The Simply Co. on shelves all over the country.
Equipped with the right tools, making the transition to a low waste lifestyle is a surprisingly enjoyable effort. This salad in a jar hack is cute and convenient, but fundamentally eco-sensitive too. Or maybe you’d rather pop your lunch into a pretty reusable bento box for a stylish, low waste at-desk dining experience. Look around and you’ll find your day-to-day is full of opportunities for an easy eco-upgrade.
No longer a fringe effort reserved for the crunchiest of hippies, low waste living is feeling more and more accessible. Not sure where to start? Here are a few simple ways to embrace a low waste lifestyle, according to the master, Lauren Singer…
8 Ways to Reduce Waste Daily
Ditch The Straw. When you order a drink at a restaurant or bar simply ask them to keep the straw out. That tiny piece of plastic might seem insignificant, but imagine how many straws you’d spare over the course of a year through brunches, lunches, dinners and cocktails. What about over a lifetime? Small things add up, and most of them end up in the ocean or in a landfill. Skip the straw altogether or invest in a chic tempered glass or metal straw.
byo Coffee cup. Calling it quits with your cafe-made coffee habit can help save a ton of waste over time, and frankly, a ton of money too. We understand if you just can’t live without that daily capp from your favorite local spot. Instead, simply bring your own travel tumbler and ditch the paper cups, plastic lids, and cardboard sleeves.
Bring Your Own Bottle. Get yourself a reusable bottle you love and filled her up. Disposable plastic bottles, most of which don’t make it to the recycling bin, make up a massive percent of landfills. By the same logic as rejecting straws, making the small move to having your own water bottle at the gym, the beach, or the office, can add up over time. Our tip: get one you can’t wait to sip from. Not only is this hydrating habit healthy, but it’ll keep you from leaving it places and having to buy a million replacements.
Tote A Tote. Bringing your own bags to the grocery store is a simple way to reduce waste, but make it a point to remember to actually do it. You can also bring cute mesh satchels to buy certain ingredients in bulk. For things you use all the time like oats, lentils, quinoa, skip the pre-packaged version. You’ll save the cumulative waste from re-buying, and save money too because you’re not paying for packaging or branding. Skip the plastic bags when you’re collecting fruits and veggies and throw them into a cute woven sack instead.
Buy A Bamboo Brush. Replace your plastic toothbrush with something just as functional but more eco-friendly, like a bamboo toothbrush. According to Lauren, “over 4.7 billion plastic toothbrushes are used each year. Because they are not recyclable, they end up floating in a landfill forever. By making one simple change from plastic toothbrushes to compostable bamboo ones you are not only doing yourself a favor (bamboo is naturally antimicrobial), but you are also doing the environment a solid because when you are done with the brush you can compost it. Not an ounce of trash is produced.”
Mix Your Own Basics. Most of us go through so many plastic bottles of counter cleaner yearly it’s absurd. Making your own is ridiculously easy and inexpensive, as all it takes is vinegar and water and whatever extra add-in you read about online. Go ahead and keep a commercial bottle on-hand for those deep cleaning days, but for daily wipe ups, this recipe is completely effective — and you probably have most of the ingredients in your pantry already. You can take this approach for other things you buy all the time, like nut butter or nut milk. You can easily make coconut yogurt too.
turn Scraps to stock. If you have fruit of veggie scraps from cooking, put them in a freezer bag and make stock with them later. It’s virtually impossible to mess it up when you follow the basic steps. Use stock to make soup or to help cook and enhance the flavor of your dishes. Try adding stock to sauce, using it when you make grains or just sipping on it plain. Similarly, if you have a bunch of farmers market berries that are about to go bad, transform them into a quick jam or preserve them for your future self. If you have fresh herbs that are wilting, blend them up with some grass-fed butter, roll it into a tube and pop it into the freezer. Slices off discs and use it in your home cooking.
Edit your belongings. This is the most important shift for starting to get serious about low waste living. When we have less, we’re willing to spend on better quality. We’re also aware of what we use, what we need, and what’s simply extra — aka wasteful. Donate your clothes and keep a wardrobe of things you love to shop less. Don’t overload your makeup drawer, it makes you feel like you have to keep up with the sense of abundance. Be mindful of how you live and what you use, and look for little ways to buy less.
What are some ways you reduce waste daily? Share your low waste lifestyle tips with us in the comments!
Thank you for this great article! I will implement some of these ideas/changes immediately (like the bamboo toothbrush & trying out the recommended makeup brands. I already try to buy only cruelty-free & vegan personal care and house cleaning products, but if the makeup containers are reusable, that’s even better!). Thanks again.
I love The Simply Co detergent, however it has been out of stock for months and there is no response from the company or Lauren when asked when it will return. A friend of mine owns a natural beauty shop and has said that she has inquired numerous times about restocking but the company has gone completely silent. 🙁
Thank you for these helpful tips. I’ve been thinking for some time about getting a bamboo toothbrush, but was wondering if there was a way to get it without the plastic packaging it comes in. This has been a constant source of frustration when trying to reduce my trash–making “eco-friendly” purchases that come in plastic or excessive packaging. Any tips for this?
Hi. They have bamboo toothbrushes available on Amazon that use cardboard boxes instead of plastic. Also has charcol bristles.
amazing low waste tips. I try to upcycle as many things as I can. For example, I sometimes use old make up for painting.
I have RA and have to use an electric toothbrush. Do they make replaceable heads out of bamboo? I’d like to go that direction if they do and aren’t too expensive (limited budget dontcha know.)
When making vegetable stock, be careful if you aren’t buying organic vegetables. A lot of the peels have pesticides on them so shouldn’t be used in stock. And onion peels can have mold spores between the layers too.
Four years of tampons would more than fill a mason jar. I appreciate the thought and it is important that we control the waste we create, but lets be realistic and start with the corporations who over-package and the tons of junk mail that inundate our mail boxes…
There’s no waste with a menstrual cup.
Amazing tips thank you so much for sharing with us.
Great article I would love to follow her blog. I am very interested in learning and sharing about practical ways we can all reduce waste starting today, although that little jar is certainly something to aspire toward. I am guessing she is using a demi cup and possibly burning, composting and recycling the rest of her waste as well as limiting or nixing dining out. I have had a lot of success using small cloth bags for the bulk sections at the grocery store for oats, quinoa etc., however, most stores usually require a sticker. I might try taking a photo with my cell phone. I have not been able to find Sonicare style bamboo toothbrush heads, but have had luck with bamboo straws and silverware for dining with takeout or in places that do not have reusables. Thanks for the inspo, and love the little produce bag!
Where did you purchase the bags for oats? I want to bring my own without adding a ton of weight,
Great tips! That’s amazing that she’s managed to create so little waste.
Love your articles!
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